Friday, April 6, 2012

Monkey tries to hold on

"So is this a side-pull or what?"

If you're a regular indoor climber, this should be a familiar scenario.

You're making the plunge, trying your hands on that route a grade higher than your current comfort zone. You psyche yourself up, even though on the back of your mind you know you're probably not going to make it. You start making your ascent thinking "This is not so bad", and then it hits you.

"I'm supposed to touch this with my HAND?"

Disclaimer: This post focuses on indoor holds mainly.

We all know that there're designated footholds on the climbing walls. Those tiny little fuckers that peer right into your soul as you struggle up the route, taunting you, mocking you, judging you, reminding you that you're better off at home scoffing pie instead.

"I only deserve to climb the fridge shelves"
(Photo by Kevin McShane)

But then there're times when you know for fact that it's a handhold. There's nothing else on the wall to use, and unless some arse-wipe has powdered the hold in chalk to trick you, there's little doubt that your hand goes there. Just fuck knows how...

And I'm not talking about shallow crimps or slopers or monos here. I'm talking that bastardised version of a crater-face hold, but Bruce Willis blew up the asteroid before it landed; I'm talking about that bowling ball someone sliced in half and glued to the wall.

Now if you're nerdy / geeky (which is which again?) like me, you've probably gone about relieving your frustration with a YouTube searched of "how to use handholds". Fat use that was, right? Worse yet, you ended up on the Roxxx channel teaser, and had to relieve a new kind of frustration.

You dirty perv

Well here's the deal. YouTube doesn't hold the answer to how to use those lousy handholds, I do -

It was within you all along.

Now pay me money for your enlightenment.

There're no cheap and quick way to get better at using those ungodly handholds reserved for gods and geckos, you just have to try it out. If someone else had managed to use it, then so can you, eventually. Expert climbers may have stronger finger tendons than you do, but other than that, the only advantage they've got over you is better technique.

Climbers don't get secret invitations when they reach a certain grade of climbing, to some secret lab in some secret location by some secret agent to have their finger tips coated with Spiderman juice. They have fingers mostly like yours and mine.

Even if they did, they'd kick you out for dressing like Will Smith dressed as MC Hammer.

Considering majority of the time, you're using the handholds to keep yourself on the wall rather than to pull yourself up - appropriate usage of the tricky handholds is mostly about knowing what you're trying to use it for. Grabbing an under-cling top side to pull yourself upward for instance is just plainly your own fault.

So go through this mental checklist before giving up.

  1. Have you actually felt around the hold properly?

    Guys, this should be easy - picture every climbing hold as a boobie (sounds wrong singular), unless you don't like boobies - which is cool, although I don't think the alternative analogy works too well visually...

    Instead of assuming every hold is a jug and lunge wildly towards it. Try and keep your movement static and controlled, and give each hold a proper feel around. Since you can rarely see the top side of the hold, you need to use your other senses to find the good edge, and no that does not include spider-sense.

  2. Have you looked at it properly?

    Ok, climbing hold manufacturers can be real dicks, but it's for your own good cuz if they only make jugs and crimps, you'll be fucked outdoors.

    Sometimes the holds just don't have a positive edge on top (ok, this could be the route setter's dick move), but if you actually look at the hold, you may just find an edge / grove / dimple somewhere for your thumb. It's a secret pincher! Use it like one and suddenly the top side is just positive enough for use.

    "They look like jugs but I'm better off pinching them."
  3. Are you holding it the right way?

    First of all, for the beginners amongst us - many rookies trip up on using directional pulls by treating them like a normal hold. I've seen massive under-pull jugs being used as a hanging pinch; I've seen climbers completely skipping an easy directional hold and went for much harder and powerful moves to get to the next 'normal hold'.

    Stop that shit!

    Directional pulls indoor are often indications of a large arm-span moves coming up, especially under-pulls. By compromising the way you use the hold, you're limiting yourself from very obvious movements from the get go. Also you're reducing the number of techniques in your utility belt for your future climbs. The sooner you accept directional holds, the sooner you'll become Batman.

    For the slightly more experienced - have you considered switching the position of your hand during a move on the wall?

    Climbing holds are static things, you're not. Something that you can pull on initially can easily be turned into something you push against when your body position has changed. Think outside the box.

    I attempted a 7a route recently at my local gym, and if you watch the video of my feeble attempt and subsequent failure - paying particular attention to what I did at the 3:53 mark:

    You'll see that after pulling myself up with a two fingers pocket, I took my fingers out and reversed direction to use the same pocket as an under-pull, giving me more upward reach. Granted I pumped out and fell after trying to grab the next nipple hold too quickly (men don't wait around when nipples are out) - I wouldn't even have gotten that far without changing direction of the pocket on the first place.

    So be smart about what you can do with your hands.

    Smart side-pulling there.
  4. Do you need to squeeze it that hard?

    This is another rookie mistake. An easy hold can become a right nightmare when you're nervous using it and squeeze tight onto it with your dear life.

    Beginner climbers have a tendency have gripping handholds too hard, and it doesn't matter whether they're holding it the right way and using their feet to push upwards - they sure as hell had no intention of going easy on that hold.

    I'll squeeze this florescent-yellow hold till it bleeds tasty tasty lemon juice!

    The problem may not be immediate, but bad habits can migrate to higher level of your climbing career, if it didn't outright stop you from pushing the grades.

    It doesn't make sense to pinch and squeeze your handholds any harder than necessarily to keep you on the wall. The pinching and squeezing aren't going to send you higher up the route nor grades. In fact, pinching a hold too hard actually reduces the sensitivity of your fingers so you don't know how secure it really is; AND in some cases actually push your fingers off the hold pincer style.

    Again, think about why you're applying what force onto the hold, and apply adequate amount. Anymore are either detrimental or plain wasteful.

  5. How did someone else use it?

    We all learn from our peers and heroes in our daily lives, climbing is no different. I can't believe I just wasted my time writing what you already knew... and then wasting more time writing about how you already knew... and wasting yet more time... ahhhh!! Fuck this meta shit!!!

    Seriously though, sometimes, you're just too dumb to figure out how to use a hold until you've seen someone do it. I know I was.

    Again, seeing someone do it doesn't mean you can use it straight the way, but try you must. You're not going to develop gecko grip overnight, but knowing that someone else can do it - means you can as well in theory. Unless you're a pirate.

    In which case may I suggest dry-tooling?

Ahh... my favourite part of blogging, the moment between deciding I've had enough and conclude the post; and the moment I realise the massive brain fart I've dumped onto the Internet and nobody wants to smell it.

Well what else did you want from the Internet? Bacon?

Monkey Holds his Fart in for the Big One.

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