Tech Tips


Know Where You’re Headed

Before you launch that onsite attempt, take a moment to preview the route: “Sequence” the moves, notice where the route runs and ends, and double-check for other climbers that may be close as you ascend the line. Remember –

  • Lead routes can change quickdraw lines mid-route, and auto belay routes can intersect sections of top rope or lead routes.
  • Always check the route placard to ensure you are on the rope dedicated to the correct anchor number.
  • The climber on the wall first always has the right of way, including in the boulder area.


Avoid Your Lead Climber’s Fall Zone

One of the most common belayer injuries is a collision when the leader falls low on the route. Stay out of your climber’s fall zones!

  • Don’t stand directly under the first or second clip!
  • Stay close to the wall, but on the opposite side of the climber’s line.
  • Take weight differences into account. If the belayer is lighter, be prepared to be pulled upward.
  • Plan for where the fall will conclude.


The Foot Switch
A climber switches feet on a foot hold
It’s not uncommon to need to switch feet on a single foot chip while climbing. There are several ways to accomplish a foot switch: practice and improve your technique!

The Hop – unweight one toe with an upward hop,
quickly replace with the other toe. While this places
force on the arms and is less precise, it works.

The Smedge – Rotate the weighted foot to the
outside to make space on the hold, then quickly roll
the edge of the other shoe onto the exposed surface
of the chip.

    Knee Bars

    A climber using a knee bar

    Kneebars can be one of the most useful moves in climbing, for both boulderers and roped climbers alike. By camming your foot and the top of your knee or thigh between two surfaces, you can rest your upper body, or help climb through a section without using as much upper body strength as you would have otherwise.


    A climber switches feet on a foot hold

    Instead of looking for footholds, smearing allows you to use any part of a surface as a foothold. When smearing your feet, keep your heels low and commit weight into your foot. This will increase the surface area of your shoe’s sticky climbing rubber onto the wall and ensure you don’t slip.

    The Drop Knee

    A climber dropping their knee for balance

    The drop knee is when a climber rotates their hips towards the wall and lowers the corresponding knee. The other foot should rest against a hold for support.

    Drop knees lower your center of gravity and can relieve pressure on your hands. They can help you reach a hold that seems too far, provide stability to help balance, and most importantly: they make you look cool!

    Toe Hooks

    A climber hooking a toe around a hold before the next move

    Toe hooks aren’t the most intuitive climbing technique but can be an invaluable tool in every climber’s arsenal. Rather than using the bottom of your shoe, toe hooking requires you to use the top of your toes or foot on a climbing surface to balance or pull.

    A toe hook is typically used to maintain body tension while making a move. Toe hooks are not always necessary, but when properly used can greatly improve your efficiency as a climber.

    Climbing flagging their leg to maintain balance
    Russ flags his right leg under his left so that he is in a static and balanced position. He can now easily reach his next hold, rather than stabbing for it before he falls.

    Sometimes, it’s actually easier to make a move when you leave one foot off the wall. This technique is called flagging and is a tool which should be in every climber’s arsenal.

    Generally speaking, this technique is helpful when you’re using holds that are all on the same side of your body. By using your free hanging foot to counterbalance, you can gain more reach, prevent a barndoor, and create a stable position to reach your next hold.

    A volume is an extension of the wall and can be used in the same way.
    Volumes create new and unique wall aspects on otherwise familiar territory. Although volumes frequently have holds attached to them, volumes are also considered “on” at the Alaska Rock Gym. This means no matter the route or problem you’re climbing, you can use the gray surface of any volume while climbing.

    Footwork should utilize “smearing” to make more surface on the volume usable. Remember when smearing, low heals will increase surface area contact on volumes.

    Open handed grips can make volume edges work like big slopers.


    Lead Falls & Rope Rest

    Dynamic ropes need time to recover after absorbing the forces from a lead fall. Get the most out of your rope and postpone the dreaded “core shot” by letting it rest between burns. Flipping which end the climber ties into after working a route and taking hard falls, or even after every couple of routes, is a good way to disperse wear and extend the life of your rope. In addition, letting your rope rest has been shown to reduce impact forces in drop tests.

    For more on taking care of your rope, check out the video from Mammut below.

    Match Your Rope To Your Belay Device

    A belay device is always used in tandem with a climbing rope, and each device out there has an optimal range of rope widths it can handle. Most tube-like belay devices can accommodate a pretty wide spectrum of rope, but brake assisted belay devices work best within a narrower range.

    • The Black Diamond ATC can handle ropes from 7.7mm to 11mm in diameter.
    • The Petzl Grigri and Grigri+ work best with ropes 8.9mm to 10.5mm in diameter.
    HMS Carabiners

    Ever wonder why there are so many carabiner shapes and sizes? If you belay with a tubular style belay device (like a Black Diamond ATC) you should be using an “HMS” style carabiner.

    • What does “HMS” mean? Halbmastwurf sicherung loosely translates as “munter hitch belay carabiner”.
    • These types of carabiners are pear shaped and designed to have rope running over their more rounded edges.
    • Using a small anchor style locker to belay wears out the rope significantly faster than the larger, rounded HMS carabiner.



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