Crack climbing is another variety of rock climbing that is become popular with rock climbers looking for a unique challenge. This form of climbing involves either jamming or fitting your fingers and hands inside the crack and using the power of your legs to propel you up the rock.
Many people love crack climbing because there really are no holds. You must use your body to fill in the void of the crack.
There are different methods for climbing crack the classic style being the “hand jam”. In this method, the hand is placed in a crack where it will fit in the muscles are expanded inside the crack to give you a firm foundation. Most climbers are forced to use hand jamming when no other holds are available on the rocks. This can be a very secure technique if applied properly.
A second method involves a climber twisting and torquing his limbs in a crack and using cross pressures to ascend the rock.
Cracks occur naturally in rock from shifting and natural forces. There are several different kinds of cracks and most correlate with the body part that will fit into them. For example finger cracks may be very shallow and allow only parts of the fingers to actually fit into the crack.
Some cracks are wide enough so that either the hands or the feet can fit into them. Chimneys are cracks with varying degrees of security. Most are much easier to climb and typically you can use your knees and back in varying degrees for support while climbing.
There are several different maneuvers that may be used in crack climbing. With small cracks that are less than 3 1/2 inches senior jamming, hand jamming, faced jamming and fingers in pockets are all maneuvers that will help you climb the rock with your hands. In a finger jam the fingers are inserted with the thumb pointing down and the hand twisted clockwise.
Sometimes in a finger jam, two or three fingers work better than all four and occasionally overlapping your fingers may also help, as it provides a more stable hold. In a hand jam the whole hand is placed in the crack sideways. In fist jams, the whole fist is wedged into the crack, this works with a tighter crack as it may cause for a more secure grip.
In many cases, the last three fingers are stronger than the first three fingers but one should experiment to find the best combination for them.
“Off-Width” cracks are wide, and typically you can fit your shoulders and hips inside these cracks to maneuver upward, you may use either the shoulder roll or the inchworm.
With a shoulder roll, you will put one or both of your shoulders into the crack and lean your back against the wall behind you. As you make shrugging movements, you will bring your shoulder forward, up, then back and down. This will allow the shoulder blades to roll up the rock behind you and at the same time you can walk your feet so that you are propelled upwards.
The inchworm works better on tight chimney cracks where you get at least half of your back against the wall and your feet and hands are forward. You then arch your back bringing your rear end up in pushing with your back and moving the shoulders up.
Crack climbing is a unique experience and offers a different challenge to rock climbers. One should note, however, that the fingers and hands can suffer much strain. Many crack climbers will wrap their hands and fingers with tape to protect them from abrasion and to help support tendons.
Here are some great resources on crack climbing.
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