Traditional Climbing Techniques for Crack Climbing

Traditional Climbing Techniques for Crack Climbing

Are you looking to perfect your crack climbing skills? In this article, we will dive into the world of traditional climbing techniques specifically tailored for crack climbing. Whether you’re a beginner looking to learn the basics or an experienced climber wanting to refine your skills, this guide will provide you with valuable insights and tips to help you become a more efficient and effective crack climber. Let’s explore the fundamentals of crack climbing and discover how you can elevate your climbing game.

Introduction to Crack Climbing

Crack climbing is a popular form of rock climbing that involves ascending a rock face by using cracks and crevices as hand and foot holds. This technique requires a different set of skills compared to face climbing, as climbers must navigate the cracks using various traditional climbing techniques.

What is Crack Climbing?

Crack climbing involves inserting hands, feet, and other body parts into the cracks and crevices of the rock face to make upward progress. The cracks can vary in size, ranging from thin finger cracks to wide chimney cracks. Climbers often use specialized equipment such as camming devices, nuts, and hexes to protect themselves and make upward progress.

Types of Crack Climbs

There are several types of crack climbs, including:

  • Finger cracks: Narrow cracks that require precise hand and finger placements.
  • Hand cracks: Wide enough for a climber’s hand to fit comfortably.
  • Offwidth cracks: Wide cracks that are too wide for a climber’s hands but too narrow to chimney climb.
  • Chimney cracks: Wide enough for a climber’s entire body to fit inside, requiring a combination of bridging and stemming techniques.

Importance of Traditional Climbing Techniques

Traditional climbing techniques are essential for crack climbing because they allow climbers to safely navigate the cracks and protect themselves using removable gear. These techniques include:

  • Jamming: Inserting hands and feet into the crack in a twisting motion to create friction and secure placements.
  • Liebacks: Using the edge of a crack as a handhold while pushing against the opposite wall with the feet.
  • Bridging: Using both walls of a wide crack to create a stable position.
  • Stacking: Inserting multiple body parts into a crack to create secure placements.

By mastering these traditional climbing techniques, climbers can effectively navigate crack climbs and enjoy the unique challenges and rewards that crack climbing has to offer.

Traditional Climbing Gear for Crack Climbing

Crack climbing is a unique style of climbing that requires specific gear to protect the climber as they ascend the crack. Traditional climbing gear for crack climbing includes cams, nuts, hexes, tricams, slings, and runners.

Cams and Nuts

Cams and nuts are two of the most commonly used pieces of gear for crack climbing. Cams are spring-loaded devices that expand when placed in a crack, providing a secure anchor point for the climber. Nuts, on the other hand, are passive protection that is wedged into the crack to create a solid anchor. Both cams and nuts come in various sizes to fit different crack widths.

Hexes and Tricams

Hexes and tricams are another type of passive protection commonly used in crack climbing. Hexes are hexagonal-shaped pieces of metal that can be wedged into a crack to create a secure anchor. Tricams, on the other hand, have a unique design that allows them to be placed in a variety of crack sizes and orientations, making them versatile pieces of gear for crack climbing.

Slings and Runners

Slings and runners are essential for extending the reach of your gear placements in crack climbing. Slings are pieces of webbing that can be attached to cams, nuts, hexes, or tricams to extend their reach and reduce rope drag. Runners are longer pieces of webbing that can be used to create anchor points or extend the reach of multiple gear placements in a crack.

In conclusion, traditional climbing gear for crack climbing includes cams, nuts, hexes, tricams, slings, and runners. Having the right gear and knowing how to use it effectively is crucial for a successful and safe crack climbing experience.

Techniques for Hand Jamming

Crack climbing is a unique form of climbing that requires specific techniques to successfully navigate the cracks in the rock. Hand jamming is a crucial skill to master in crack climbing, as it allows climbers to securely wedge their hands into the crack to support their weight and make upward progress.

Proper Hand Jamming Technique

To execute a proper hand jam, climbers should first identify a crack that is the appropriate size for their hand. Once a suitable crack is found, the climber should insert their hand into the crack with the palm facing outward and the thumb tucked in towards the palm. The fingers should be curled slightly, creating a solid fist-like shape that can be wedged securely into the crack.

Creating Solid Hand Jams

Creating solid hand jams requires climbers to actively engage their muscles and apply pressure to the crack. By squeezing the hand into the crack and pressing against the sides of the crack with the fingers and thumb, climbers can create a secure and stable hand jam that will support their weight as they move upward. It is important to maintain a firm grip and continuously adjust the position of the hand to ensure a secure hold.

Relieving Pressure on the Hands

Crack climbing can put a significant amount of pressure on the hands, leading to fatigue and discomfort. To relieve pressure on the hands while hand jamming, climbers can use various techniques such as rotating the hand slightly to distribute the weight more evenly, adjusting the angle of the hand to find a more comfortable position, or periodically switching hands to give each hand a break. Additionally, climbers can use tape or gloves to protect their hands and provide additional support while hand jamming.

By mastering the proper hand jamming technique, creating solid hand jams, and effectively relieving pressure on the hands, climbers can improve their crack climbing skills and tackle challenging crack routes with confidence.

Footwork and Body Positioning

In traditional crack climbing, proper footwork and body positioning are essential for successfully navigating the crack. When it comes to footwork, climbers often use a technique called smearing, where they press the sole of their shoe against the rock face to gain traction. This allows climbers to move efficiently up the crack without slipping.

Smearing on Cracks

Smearing on cracks involves finding small edges or features on the crack to place your feet on. By carefully positioning your feet and applying pressure, you can create friction that helps keep you in place as you climb. This technique requires good balance and precision to avoid slipping.

Using Toe Jams

Another common technique in crack climbing is using toe jams. This involves wedging the toes of your climbing shoes into the crack to create a solid hold. By twisting and rotating your foot, you can secure it in place and push yourself up the crack. Toe jams are especially useful in thin cracks where footholds are scarce.

Utilizing Body Position for Balance

Proper body positioning is key to maintaining balance while crack climbing. By keeping your body close to the crack and using your arms and legs to create tension, you can distribute your weight effectively and prevent swinging or barn dooring. It’s important to stay mindful of your body position and make adjustments as needed to stay stable on the rock.

Building Solid Gear Placements

When it comes to traditional crack climbing, building solid gear placements is crucial for a safe and successful ascent. To do this, climbers must assess the crack size and shape, test gear placements, and always back up their placements for added security.

Assessing Crack Size and Shape

Before placing any gear, climbers should carefully assess the crack size and shape. Different cracks require different types of protection, such as cams, nuts, or hexes. Climbers should also consider the angle of the crack and any potential flaring or irregularities that may affect the placement of gear.

Testing Gear Placement

Once a suitable piece of gear has been selected, climbers should test the placement before committing to it. This can be done by gently pulling on the gear to ensure it is secure and will hold a fall. Climbers should also check for any signs of rock quality or potential rockfall hazards that may affect the gear placement.

Backing Up Placements

To ensure maximum safety, climbers should always back up their gear placements. This can be done by placing additional gear above or below the primary placement, creating a redundant system that can hold a fall in case the primary placement fails. Climbers should also periodically check and adjust their gear placements as they progress up the crack.

By following these steps and building solid gear placements, climbers can increase their safety and confidence while traditional crack climbing.


In conclusion, traditional climbing techniques for crack climbing are essential skills for any aspiring climber looking to tackle challenging crack routes. By mastering the art of hand jams, fist jams, and foot jams, climbers can navigate cracks with confidence and efficiency. Additionally, understanding the importance of gear placement and anchor building is crucial for a safe and successful climb. With practice and dedication, climbers can improve their crack climbing abilities and take on increasingly difficult routes. Remember to always prioritize safety and technique while enjoying the thrill of crack climbing.