Lead Climbing, Rappelling and Bouldering Fundamentals

To study climbing, one must begin with understanding the fundamentals of both physics and physiological aspects related to the wonderful, fulfilling sport of ascending a problem whether on rock or ice. While, one must also familiarize oneself with the complete inspection / assessment of equipment and environmental surroundings, one must focus on the fundamentals of rock climbing movement to truly be a ultimate leader.

Table of Contents

Chapter I: A Brief History of Climbing

To Boulder or Not to Boulder

Bouldering History

Traditional vs Sport

Chapter II: Understanding the Fundamentals

Mentally and Physically Balanced Core

The Sacred Triangle

Transitional Climbing Movement

Resting in a Rest Position

Physical Transitional Sequence

Mental Transitional Sequence

Practice Tip: Deliberate Transitions

Chapter III: Bouldering is Training

Four Components of Physical Fitness

Four, Three, Two, One and Go

Nutrition and Hydration

Chapter IV: Learning to be a Leader

Safety as a Priority

Site Assessment and Equipment Inspection

Belaying Partners Safely

Route Finding and Communication

Chapter V: Building Anchor Systems

The Five Fundamental Rules of Anchor Systems

Advanced Belay Systems

Escaping the Belay

Chapter VI: Rappelling to Safety

Rappel Systems

Chapter VII: Rock Climbing Glossary

Chapter One: A Brief History of Climbing

Rock Climbing has just about as many confusing lingo substitutions for commonly used words as the English language when compared to other languages of the world. What is Bouldering? Here are a couple views covering the basics.

To Boulder or Not to Boulder, That is the Question

Bouldering is simply a style of climbing that emphasizes power, strength, and dynamic movements. It focuses on isolating individual moves or typically shorter sequences of moves, unlike traditional climbing or sport climbing, which generally demand more endurance over longer stretches of rock where the difficulty of individual moves may not be as extreme. Bouldering-like routes and the crux moves on leads are referred to as problems because the nature of the sequence is often short, puzzling, and similar to equation-like problems.

However, many ‘whuffos’ and other non-climbers view bouldering as practice and/or easy; however, this is far from the truth. Boulder problems tend to have the most difficult series of moves found in any form of climbing. Bouldering could be compared to the sprinters of track and field. Bursts of power and precision are often the key to sending a problem. Bouldering is also popular by those who prefer to climb without worrying about gear. Bouldering is the cheapest, easy access form of climbing, where only a pair of climbing shoes, a chalk bag and a crash pad is usually used.

Bouldering involves climbing a series of difficult moves on rocks with problems that are usually 10-20 feet high, where ropes are not used. The interest in highballs or problems that are greater than 25-45 feet is rapidly increasing with advertising appeal to the surge in interest for bouldering. Debates are sparking about the lines being blurred between highball bouldering and free-soloing, but rules and standards are relative to certain areas, so check with a local first before attempting that ‘endless’ problem into the clouds.

For many years, bouldering was viewed as only training for climbers, although, in the 1930's and late 1940's, Pierre Allain and his companions enjoyed bouldering for its own sake in Fontainebleau, France (considered by many to be Europe's Mecca of bouldering). The first climber to actually make bouldering his primary specialty (in the mid 1950's) and to advocate its acceptance as a legitimate sport not restricted to a particular area was John Gill, an amateur gymnast who fell in love with the challenge and movement of bouldering.

Bouldering History

Brad Killough’s brief description of the development of bouldering as a training program for those bigger hills is a great representation of how long the idea of isolating specific, difficult moves has been utilized by mountaineers.

Listen to what he wrote, “In France, the first documented attempts at Bouldering may have started in the 1870's. In 1874, Ernest Cezanne created the Club Alpine Francais in Paris. During hiking trips to Fontainebleau, its members discovered the magic of these sandstone boulders. As they fell under the allure of the forest, they realized that Bouldering would be an excellent way to prepare for future alpine expeditions."

He Continued, "In 1935, a man named Pierre Allain invented the soft soled Climbing Shoe for serious Rock Climbing, which looked a lot like the footwear nowadays but it lacked sticky rubber, which wasn't developed until the 1970's in Spain. Allain wore his shoes that same year, for the first time in the mountains on an ascent of the north face of DRU. Another climber named Pierre Chevalier introduced nylon Climbing Rope about 1943. Fountainebleau Bouldering never caught the attention of most climbers until the beginning of the 1970's. In the early 1980's, the turning point of Bouldering as we know it began to take place and quickly adopted an athlete's logic of climbing. In 1947, Fred Bernik designed the first formal Bouldering circuits at Fountainebleau. These protocols became an end, giving rise to speed and difficulty competitions. Today, a famous boulder problem that most of us know about is in camp 4 Yosemite called Midnight lightning. It was first done by Ron Kauk in 1978. Kauk and Bachar worked on the problem for two months, getting to the lip. Finally, Kauk got to the lip and rocked over to finish the problem, as the others fell silent!”

Brad finish with, “John Gill is considered as the father of Bouldering. He was probably the first person to boulder in the south, bouldering on Stone Mountain in Georgia in 1954, only a year after he had started climbing. In the 1960's, he went Bouldering at Shades Mountain in Alabama and Desoto State Park. He later tried Bouldering in other areas like southern Illinois, western Kentucky, and Missouri. While attending college at Georgia Tech., he tried gymnastics. He got the idea of the use of chalk in climbing from the rings he did as gymnastics.”

Today, many us climbers use John Sherman's, or nicknamed Vermin, V rating scale, or aka Verm scale, to describe boulder problems relative crux and overall problem difficulty. The standard V0 continued where the Yosemite decimal system seemed to stop at 5.9++. V0 is interchangeable with today's description of 5.10; 5th class, difficulty 10. V0- (minus) is interchangeable with 5.9+ and 5.10-. Like many ratings and rating systems, many different opinions will be discussed concerning just what V0 means and how it should be converted into describing the physical realm of route difficulty.

‘Traditional’ vs ‘Sport’

To stay away from ethical side of the sport of climbing, let’s simply start by defining two basic climbing terms. Technical rock climbing or mountaineering can be defined by two major ascending style categories or disciplines that are defined by how a route is climbed. The ‘trad’ or traditional climbing style refers to climbing a route starting on the ground and going up.

The opposite of traditional style is any route that involves the placement of gear from top-down, the use of preplaced anchors like bolted belay stations, or toproping. Many beginner climbers today believe sport climbing is in fact either the name for ‘the sport of climbing’ or a definition limited to bolted routes.

So, trad doesn’t mean using dusty amputee-like hardware for protection and sport doesn’t mean just clipping bolts. Unless you resist using bolted belays and other random forms of fixed protection, mixed routes and many multi-pitch routes that may have been established traditionally are now sport routes after their first ascents. There is no way around this fact as hard as it may be even for me to swallow.

The definition of traditional rock climbing, or trad for short, has mutated like sentence in a circle of whispers, where one person whispers something in the person’s ear sitting next to them, then that individual passes that sentence of something to the next person in the circle until finally the something is whispered to the last individual in the circle. Now, the last person stands and states or writes what was just whispered. With individual interpretation, a new perspective often changes the intent of the initial whisper. This circle of whispers example can just as easily be applied to other aspects of climbing definitions.

Andrew Bisharat wrote about this issue in his June of 2009 Climbing Magazine article, called Tuesday Night Bouldering, “Look at what has happened to the term on-sight… The original ideals, with each exposure, become increasingly meaningless. Originally, as Bachar pointed out, ‘on-sight’ meant doing a route, ground-up and not falling. This was different than ‘on-sight flash,’ which was doing a route first try.”

He continued by further defining how communication errors can occur between climbers, “Now, onsight has come to mean onsight flash, while flash means doing a route first try with beta. I know, it’s confusing at best, dumb at worst. But there are many top sport climbers who, despite good intentions, claim onsights of routes that they, in fact, have flashed, not understanding there is a massive difference between the two. Thus, you can see how everything about the experience flattens as it becomes increasingly diffused.”

Chapter Two: Understanding the Fundamentals

The climbing gym, mountaineering, backcountry rescue industry, like other industries, have individuals and facilities practicing different approaches to teaching climbing. While there are many different aspects of ascending a mountain to focus on or overload and confuse a beginner, a climbing guide or instructor should stress the fundamentals, for these basic concepts, when put into practice, are the very heart of a successful climb.

Mentally and Physically Balanced Core

Being mentally and physically balanced at the core of oneself is the first fundamental challenge to work at conquering. Each day at the gym or the crag we are faced with the question of, “am I feeling 100 percent today?” Each of us have to individually evaluate our own ability from day-to-day and even hour-by-hour, for our abilities will vary through a work out cycle whether it is week one or an hour into a workout. To begin assessing our abilities during workout programs and days out on the routes, we will be able to eventually evaluate and predict our performance.

A typical workout may start with light stretching and basic cardio. Next, try integrating the practice of balance by utilizing a slack line, balance beam, or yoga stances. Balance comes from the core of your mental and physical wellbeing. Once you have found your center of balance for the day move on to the rest of your workout.

The Sacred Triangle In the late 1980’s, Marcus Floyd began to develop the ‘Climber’s Sacred Triangle’ as a study of climbing movement to help teach his friends and students to focus on rock climbing fundamentals. Look around yourself, triangles are used in many forms to create structural reinforcement whether mechanical or biological. In football, coaches stress stance structure for the front lineman’s balance. In track and field, coaches focus on the starting line stance for a quicker shot of the line. Well, rock climbing fundamentals are very similar to the stances used for wrestling and judo while the movements can mimic dance and hacky-sack transitions. There for, rock climbing can be a very useful cross training tool for developing muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility while helping maintain or improve body composition.

The Climber’s Sacred Triangle was designed as an evaluative aspect of a climber’s training program. While it is simply the study of climbing movements and is based on four basic fundamental rules, when placed into practice can empower even a beginner to feel more confident and graceful the first night at the gym or day out on the rock. (1) The first climbing rule is that all body positions used for implementing climbing technique falls into one of two categories, an ‘open hip stance’ or a ‘closed hip stance.’ An open hip stance is when a climber’s hips are parallel with the climbing surface and considered in the frontal position. The closed hip stance is when the hips are perpendicular to the climbing surface and generally one foot utilizes the outside edge of the front of the shoe. (2) The second climbing rule is to balance with opposite limbs to avoid the barn-door effect. Make sure your feet are wider than the width of your shoulders, the wider the better. If your handhold falls on a line that extends perpendicularly from a point that is equal distance from either foothold, you have a stable triangular pattern of hand-to-foot placement, no matter which hand is on the hold. The center-line of the body automatically offsets the weight of the opposing limb when balancing with opposites. This position is considered a stable triangle and considered a ‘rest position.’ This brings us to our next rule. (3) The third climbing rule is when a climber’s triangle points upward then the climber is in a rest position when the climber adheres to following rule number two. There for, (4) the fourth climbing rule is when a climber’s triangle is upside-down a climber is in ‘physical transition, (transition position).

Let us picture some basic geometric shapes: the square, a right triangle, an upside-down triangle, and an equilateral triangle. The square is a stable geometric shape. When the square is applied as an upright ‘centerline’ stance on a vertical climbing wall surface, the four points become climbing holds and again the square is a stable rest position. But remember, a square, or ‘box stance,’ becomes quickly unstable when a climber removes one of any four points of contact from the climbing surface. This mainly occurs because a climber’s center of gravity resides out away from the rock surface. The steeper the climbing terrain the quicker and more dramatic the ‘barn-door effect’ occurs when removing a handhold point from the box stance. This effect, or unstable right triangle, occurs because the centerline is vertical. If we match hands on the left handhold the climber’s centerline angles to the left from the plumb-line to compensate for the weight of the right triangle. Now, if we remove a foot from the square then we have an upside down right triangle. Either way we look at removing a point from the square stable position we find our climber becomes unstable. So, avoid starting a transition by removing a hand from a square stance.

Let us now breakdown and define the basic components of balance to further understand how to implement the ‘sacred triangle training program’ into a climbing workout. First, there is gravity. The gravitational pull of a large object, such as the Earth, extends straight up and down to form what we will refer to as the ‘plumb-line.’ This plumb-line is a reference line for the center of all climbing movement while the ‘center-line’ is a line that can be imagined to extend through the top of the head, down through the spine, and out the bottom between both legs. While at first they may seem to be the same, a quick put-into-practice method demonstrates how the plumb-line remains vertical while the climber’s center-line changes to match or utilize the angle of the terrain. The triangular structure of a climber’s stance starts with three points of contact. These points must provide balance for the fourth point in transition to the next hold. Many triangular variations can be applied or imagined but to counterbalance your body position, in preparation for moving your fourth limb to the next hold, point of contact, or temporary counter-balanced position, a climber must establish a point that is equal distance from the center of balance and plumb-line to offset the weight of the limb extending to the new, fourth point.

To prepare for a climb or workout, try taking a few minutes to hone in on your center of balance. Visualize yourself climbing while simply standing in a single spot. Imagine climbing up a route, or more specifically, visualize the route you are getting ready to climb. One option is to move your hands and feet to mimic the actual climbing moves on the vertical route. If you are not balanced on the ground while practicing the moves you may need to rethink the sequence of the moves. The next option is to stand on one foot and extend your other foot out to your side. Close your eyes and feel the shift in your center-line as your leg extends further away from the plumb-line. To help counterbalance, it is natural for one to extend an arm to compensate for the weight difference. Now try this while standing on your other foot. Extend your foot to the side, out in front of you, and now behind you. One of these two basic pre-climb, warm-up procedures should be implemented before every climb for mental and physical preparation for success.

Next, to stay with the fundamentals, let us focus on only a steep,

overhanging wall and opposite limbs as the main two points of contact. For example, hold on with your left hand and place a majority of your weight on your right foot while now extending your left leg out to counterbalance your extending right arm. Depending on how steep the terrain, the left foot may not be touching a point of contact but rather balancing out suspended at a 45 degree angle from your center line. Practice this movement on a steep overhang that has a series of jugs running straight up the wall. Only use this straight line of holds for your two opposite points of contact while you now reach up with your right hand and counterbalance out with your lower body. By moving your left foot out to any point of simple toe contact creates a wider base to your point-of-contact-triangle, therefore a stable counterbalance and fulcrum for moving to the next handhold. With this principle well ingrained into muscle memory, you are ready for transitions.

Transitional Climbing Movement

Once you have began to understand and implement the ‘sacred triangle of balance’ into your climbing than you are prepared to study transition, which occurs multiple times, both physically and mentally, during even the shortest of routes. Whether one is climbing a ladder, a rock, or a mountain, climbing movement can be broken down into the two major stance categories of rest stances and transitional stances, while climbing transition can be further described by dividing it into separate physical and mental studies.

Resting in a Rest Position

A rest stance, for a rock climber, includes any stances where the triangulation of three points is formed to make a stable triangle with a wide base. As I mentioned earlier, to form a stable rest stance, make sure your foot holds are further out as-wide-as possible or at least wider than the width of your shoulders. Now, your handhold, or third point on the triangle, must fall on the center line that extends perpendicularly upward from a point that is equal distance from either foothold. This stable triangular pattern of hand-to-foot placement is a common rule of thumb. This position is considered a stable triangle and often called a ‘rest position.’ This is the time to temporarily rest mentally and physically.

Rest positions will vary between many degrees of comfort, but to rest your fingers, arms, and calves, my suggestion is to keep them moving. Contracting and resting the muscle helps with blood flow and allows for the maximum removal of the toxin called ‘lactic acid.’ If you need a short rest at a good stance position, start by switch hands on the hold. Fold your hand over the hold or wrap your arm around the hold if possible. Other parts of the body can be used to allow for a stable triangulation of three points of contact. Try resting your ankles down on a ledge by turning your foot sideways to allow your calf muscles rest or use a ‘knee-bar’ if an ‘undercling’ is present. Take long and deep breaths to rest your mind and remember t o enjoy the feeling of the present.

Physical Transitional Sequence

A transitional stance is any stance that does not fit into the rest stance description or, more simply put, any time the sacred triangle of three points of contact is upside-down or equal to or greater than a right triangle. When a triangle is in the shape of a right triangle or upside-down it is not going to be as stable as an equilateral triangle, there for, if your three points of contact form a triangle that is upside-down, relative to the plumb-line and the centerline then you are in transition.

To verbally describe and specify how a climber should physically transition from a rest stance to another rest stance one should first consider the terrain, with all of its wonderful, random variety of textural formations, decide what kind of technique to perform, and determine how the next set of sequential moves will play out for the climber. To keep it simple, consider the three points of the rest stance. Your top point or handhold should be utilized by the hand that is not going to a new hold. For this transition the climber will be reaching with the left hand and traversing to the left. Start by determining the distance of your reach. If you can reach the new hold without throwing the stable rest stance off balance, take hold of the new left handhold. Now, determine the distance of your next foothold on your left. To start the transition, consider whether you need to push against or pull on your handholds. You need to be able to take one hundred percent of your body weight off of your left foot if you can easily reach your next left foothold. Next, transition you centerline of gravity as far left as you need to softly reach the new foot hold. Once you move your left foot you can now move your right hand were your left hand was previously located and continue to slide left your centerline to offset the weight of your right foot. Move your right foot to the hold that your left was previously placed. The left traverse transition set is now complete if you have returned to a rest stance. For practice, move back to your right, repeating the movements in a reverse fashion and focus on the triangular pattern of your points of contact. To continue to challenge yourself, try skipping to the next foot hold by bypassing the one you previously used during your last traverse to the left. In order to reach this further foothold you may need to bend your knees a bit, lowering your ‘center of gravity,’ and exaggerate the angle of your centerline from the vertical plumb-line. You may need to even extend a right hand out to your right to offset the weight of your lower left limb or utilize a ‘sidecling’ to help manage the transfer of weight. For more extreme traverse transitions a climber may need to place a flat palm onto the wall surface and use a sidecling with the other hand to create a temporary transitional triangle, keep the body slightly off of the rock surface, and manage the transfer of the center or gravity. Many different types of transitions can be taken advantage of on the typical climbing route. Continue to focus on understanding these basic fundamentals while your new transitional challenges push you further than you thought physically possible.

Mental Transitional Sequence

Mental transitions fall under the second division of transition and can be a much greater challenge for some climbers than the physical aspect of the route. Whether you are on a long route, short problem, highball, or multi-pitch, you will need to manage the stress of the present rock climbing reality. To be head strong, focus on your goals and be definite about what those goals encompass.

Arno Ilgner, the author of The Rock Warrior's Way: Mental Training for Climbers, gives his perspective on how a climber can approach the mental aspects of moving forward when confronted by challenging transitions. Here are some of his tips:

Practice Tip: Deliberate Transitions

Mr. Ilgner writes, “Incorporate effective transitions to create deliberateness in your climbing. Begin on moderate routes and increment up to routes that are at your limit. Pick a climb and divide it into decisions point, places where you have rest stances and protection.”

He continued with, “A route has many transitions. Each transition is a kind of decision point. You transition from preparation to action at these points. A typical decision point is when you are stopped at a stance with protection. Each decision point contains a transition where you stop preparing and begin acting. Knowing what takes place in transition helps you make it more deliberate and complete. There are three steps in effective transitions. First, you let go of the old. Second, you allow yourself to “be” in the neutral zone. Third, you embrace the new. Let’s apply this process to a decision point on a route. At a rest stance you assess and plan. This is your preparation. Once you’ve finished preparing you get ready to act, but you haven’t acted yet. You are in transition.” This is considered the mental transition. This act of mental transition is comprised of four components, which include:

(1) First, at rest stances a climber should perform a thorough preparation that includes identifying the next stance where you have protection, assessing the fall consequence, creating your plan of action (how you’ll sequential climb the next section), and weighing the fall consequence against your experience with such consequences.

(2) Second, a climber should go through the mental transition by letting go of preparation and saying to oneself, “Done.” This is a deliberate mental confirmation that you have finished preparing.

(3) Third, try entering the neutral zone by focusing attention on your body. Do this by heightening your state of arousal. Take a couple breaths, exhale strongly, and shake your face to get rid of any tunnel vision. It is also helpful to blink your eyes a few times. This heightened state lets you know you will let go of the comfortable rest stance and begin the exertion of climbing. You have let go but have not engaged yet. This neutral zone should be about the length of time that it takes to do two or three breaths.

(4) Fourth, embrace climbing by saying, “Go.” Do this an instant before committing and then climb to your next stance.

This fundamental four part step of mental preparation is a very important key for climbers pushing the envelope of their physical limit. Many climbers believe they should simply climb straight through routes without stopping, as if rest stances are taboo. Well, consider Mr. Ilgner’s suggestion the next time you find yourself on a ‘runout.’

Chapter Three: Bouldering is Training

Physical fitness is comprised of four components: cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength/endurance, flexibility and body composition. The Physical Readiness Test (PRT) that the Navy administers twice annually is comprised partially of a 1.5 mile run, which measures cardiovascular endurance, second: pull-ups, push-ups and sit-ups to measure muscular strength, a sit and reach to measure flexibility, and the basic height and weight ratios to measure body composition.

The Four Components of Physical Fitness

During a typical day of training it is essential to incorporate all four elements of physical fitness. Let us assume there is a beginner climber that wants to start training for an event and asks for some direction to prepare. Without a doubt, start off by assessing a brief background summery of the student’s experiences with training workouts. This enables you as a coach to know the ‘verbiage’ level and tone to start speaking when communicating instructions to your climber. Then, ask what current sports he or she is participating. As a coach, you want to balance out the intensity of some workouts with the idea that your climber still needs to be functional at their game tomorrow evening. Do not overwork the calves the night before a sprinters big race. Next, get a timeline, or event deadline, so you can coordinate the appropriate steps of your climbers training phases to correspond with their need for rest before the goal event date. Finally it is time to start discussing your training program which starts off with focusing on aerobic endurance for the largest period of time and ends with a suitable period of rest.

Four, Three, Two, One and Go

The four fundamental elements of rock climbing training, like many sports, is broken down into four individual phases. These four phases correspond to the four components for physical fitness. Rock climbers specifically want to follow this four step training phase to help prevent injury and maximize strength. The four training phases can be visualized as a pyramid structured plan that starts with a firm, wide foundation that allows a climber to safely build strength while preventing overstressing connective tissues.

(1) Aerobic Endurance: the foundation from which to build from is the first of two endurance phases. Aerobic endurance, aka ‘cardio’, is used to begin every workout during the first three phases.

(2) Anaerobic Endurance: is the second longest phase of training for maximum strength. Anaerobic simply means without oxygen. This phase focuses on steeper climbing terrain and use of a weight vest.

(3) Muscular Strength: is the third phase and focuses on building power which should only be initialized after completing the first and second phases and focuses on short bursts of energy and long rests.

(4) Rest: is not completely unrelated to the first two phases of training, for resting should be occurring throughout your entire training program, it just varies by the amount of rest needed during each phase.

Nutrition and Hydration

Nutrition and hydration is an important part of the training program for a climber’s body need protein for muscular growth, antioxidants to help the body’s immune system fight off the release of toxins into the body after a typical workout, and plenty of H2O to keep all the parts well lubricated.

Chapter Four: Learning to be a Leader

Safety as a Priority

Before starting to climb a route, or any adventure, we must all recognize and respect that the priorities of safety involve the safety of human life as the main, numero uno priority. So there for, (1) priority number one is your safety comes first. If you are not safe than there is a good chance that other climbers are not safe, whether affected directly or indirectly from your ignorance. Also, if you are injured you cannot effectively aid in others safety. (2) Priority number two is the safety of others. If your belayer is not safe from falling hazards and is knocked unconscious then you are out a belayer. You are not safe if others are not safe. (3) Priority number three is the safety of the environment. Remain as green as possible by climbing clean, hauling out your waste, and treading lightly on plant life.

Site Assessment and Equipment Inspection

To follow the single most important priority of being safe means one needs to inspect equipment before, during, and after every use. Then continue by assessing the trail during the approach, reviewing the route to determine if you have the correct equipment, food, water, and knowledge to climb such a route. Looking around the cliff area where you intend to climb or place an anchor system, checking the weather reports, and asking yourself the question “is there any environmental hazards?” are all important aspects of keeping all climbers safe during any adventure.

What do we look for when inspecting equipment? Start by assessing the overall condition. Does it look like the hardware has moisture damage or a change in color due to chemical or sunlight? Look closer and start at a single point on each piece of gear and be very methodical about you visual and physical inspection. Continue, inch-by-inch along the material and look at threads, the weave of the material, and specifically points that will have the greatest amount of wear or stress during normal use. After you determine an item passes your inspection, use some kind of identification marker that tells you have finished your inspection. You may what to go a step further for group activities and identify when the inspection was performed, any conditions that were observed, places to pay attention to during use or next inspections, and dates of placement into use or removal from use.

When you are doing a site assessment you want to determine possible hazards. If something seems like a hazard by common sense then there is a good chance the situation is worse than it appears. A trained eye will pick up on suspect cracks in a rock face, textural tell-tell-signs of rotten, loose, frozen or wet rock. Look down at the ground for obvious rock chunks that have fallen in the past month or year. The rock edges that came in contact with the wall surface during the fall or were it was attached at one time will appear to be a different color then that of the rock surface which is normally exposed to the different elements. Limbs of tree may be broken of even under some sections of boulders. Can you tell if the area is frequented by other adventurers? I f people are climbing on the rock regularly then there is a better chance that the loose rock may be removed in a quicker than natural fashion. Now, look up at the cliff. Can you see areas of light color, patches of possible rock absence, or obvious ready to fall on your head blocks that protrude from the cliff face like a snapping turtle that has not released its biting grip from grandpa’s overall. Sections of rock can flake off like large pancakes and flying saucers, while other block may pull out like pegs in a storage board while you are trying to make a move. Rock seems to be most fragile just after a good winter freeze. The water has expanded inside the cracks and forced the rock apart. Needless to say, a helmet is a great piece of equipment to add to any climbing situation to make it safer, not matter what the season. Next, look down at the top edge of the cliff and determine how secure the materials are under your feet. Watch for are any loose rocks that you could accidentally push off onto your friendly belayer. Small gravel can be dangerous to footing. If you are not careful, one slip and down you may fall.

Weather related site assessment is just as important as existing physical conditions, for whether the weather changes, or not, hazards related to weather can affect environments well downhill from the area of the initial event. Consider that you are attempting a multi-pitch that leads up a dihedral that has been formed by past runoff water that came down from hundreds of feet up. Now, remember if you checked the weather in nearby counties for which shed their water runoff to the climb or canyon you are about to explore. In the mountains, the weather can change very quickly due to the extreme vertical surfaces. Be prepared to be humbled by the mountain and mother-nature. We cannot always control or even know everything that is going to happen, but we can control the way we prepare and react to such situation.

Belaying Partners Safely

Route Finding and Communication

Chapter Five: Building Anchor Systems

Directional anchors can be easily established if one follows the three safety priorities and five fundamental rules of building any anchor systems. To better understand directional anchor systems let us start by discussing the five fundamental rules to follow and check when configuring any anchor system. (1) The first rule of building any anchor system is that one must use a minimum of two primary anchors. (2) The second rule states that any anchor system must utilize doubled secondary points. (3) Rule number three states that primary anchors must be equalized. (4) The fourth rule describes the angle that the secondary forms between the two furthest apart primary anchor points. The secondary angle must be acute, or no greater than 90 degrees. (5) The fifth rule to follow when establishing and inspecting anchor systems is that the system must be a sufficient directional anchor.

All anchors are directional anchors. Anchor systems, unlike single placement during a lead climb, must be bomb proof, multi-direction, easily accommodate multiple climbers and the perfect directional point from which to belay comfortably the next climber.

Advanced Belay Systems

Escaping the Belay

Chapter VI: Rappelling to Safety

Chapter Seven: Rock Climbing Glossary

Rock Climbing is a challenging and physically-demanding sport if you choose to push the envelope. Climbers need to commit to a physical training pyramid to prepare the body and mind over a series of weeks for any goal. The following includes different climbing maneuvers to practice during rock or mountain training.

Upper Body Techniques

Bump: is the act of using an intermediate handhold during a transition without changing much the body position.

Campus: to climb using only the arms; a method of training grip, contact coordination, and upper body strength.

Crimp: using a hand grip in which the first knuckle is extended, allowing the fingertips to rest on a small ledge while the second knuckle is flexed.

Gaston: to grip a handhold that is above and to the side of the body with the hand in a thumbs down position. This is a potentially dangerous body position because of the stress placed on the rotator cuff of the shoulder.

Lock Off: to grip a single handhold with enough strength to allow the other hand to shift to a new handhold.

Latch: is successfully grip a hold; a skill that is dependent on contact strength, accuracy, and timing.

Slap: to touch a handhold but fail to latch it; Technique often used to measure length of reach.

Match: to bring both hands to the same handhold.

Side Pull: a hold that is oriented to the side of the body and cannot be pulled in a downward direction.

Cross-Over: Bring one arm across the other as you reach for a new hold.

Under-cling: A hold which is oriented in a downward direction. Opposition can be created by pulling upward and maintaining body tension through the feet.

Lower Body Techniques

Back-step: Placing a foot behind the body with the foot on its outside edge, allowing the hip to roll inward, closer to the wall.

Drop-knee: Similar to the back-step, but the knee is rotated inside and downward allowing the foot to push sideways or toe hook on a hold that is too high to back-step.

Flag: An extended leg that counterbalances the body and prevents the center of mass from barn-dooring.

Hand-Foot Match: To place a foot on the same hold as a hand.

Heel Hook: Rest the heel on a hold, thereby taking some weight off of the arms, usually employed on steep or overhanging terrain.

Knee Bar: A resting position achieved by caming the top of the knee and a foot between two holds.

Frog Step: A frontal body position in which both legs are extended simultaneously to reach higher handholds.

Knee-Bar: A rest position that can be useful when climbing steep or overhanging terrain, achieved by camming the upper thigh and foot against two holds.

Rock On: To shift body weight from one foot to the other.

High Step: Lift up a leg to reach a high foot hold.

Step-Through: To step sideways in front of the leg that you are standing, usually in a traverse.

Swap Feet: To exchange feet on the same hold.

Smear: Placing the foot directly on the rock where there are no obvious holds and gaining purchase solely from the friction between the shoe and rock (no pun intended).

Full Body Techniques

Barn-Door: The tendency of the body to swing outward away from the wall on steep terrain when the center of gravity is not centered between points of contact.

Dyno: A dynamic movement to reach a distant hold where momentum is required to propel the body.

Hip Roll: Rotating the hips from a frontal position to face sideways, bringing the hip closer to the wall. Used in conjunction with a back-step, the Hip Roll can be used to maintain body tension on overhanging routes by putting the leg in a more biomechanically effective position to push off of the foothold.

Lay Back: To support the body by creating opposition between pulling arms and pushing feet.

Mantle: A hand-foot match in which the body rocks on to a ledge similar to the motion you would use to get out of a swimming pool.

Turnout: To extend the hips and draw the body closer to the rock in a frontal position.

Twist Lock: A transitional movement in which the body is twisted towards the hold being locked off, allowing the locking off arm to straighten and bringing the reaching shoulder higher and closer to the wall extending its reach.

Stem: To support the body using opposition created by pressing the hands and/or feet outward in opposite directions.

Rock Features and Route Description

Arete: A protruding corner of rock.

Belay Station: is a suggested point on a route to hold and manage a rope for a climber.

Big Wall: A multi-pitch climb that typically takes more than a day to complete for the average climber.

Chimney: A crack wide enough to fit your entire body in.

Crux: The hardest move on a route.

Dihedral: An inside corner formed by two intersecting rock faces.

Feature: The unique aspect of the rock that allow for unusual climbing (i.e. holds, cracks etc.); At indoor gyms, people refer to features as the permanent textures or holds in the wall itself as opposed to holds which are bolted on and can be moved around the create routes and boulder problems; very large hold that can be moved to change forced climbing movements

Flash: On-sight with beta.

Ground-Up: is climbing a route from the bottom to the top without the placement of prior fixed protection.

Jugs: Big, deep holds.

Mono: A small pocket that will fit only one finger.

Nubbins: Small holds that may make decent footholds, but are often too small to use as handholds.

Off-Width: An awkward sized crack that is too big for decent hand and foot jams, but too small for your entire body.

On-Sight: to lead climb from ground up (bottom to top) without falling. Not used for sport routes.

On-Sight Flash: to lead a route from ground up on the first attempt without falling.

Pink Point: Leading a sport climb with preplaced quick draws hanging from points of protection from start to finish without falling.

Pitch: is a suggested section of a route that is a distance between two different possible belay positions, normally less than a single rope length.

Red-Point: Leading a sport climb from bottom to top without falling.

Sloper: A hold without a definite ledge, typically requiring an open grip and subtle shifts in hand and/or body position to achieve maximum friction.

Sport Climb: any climb that utilizes preplaced protection.

References include, but are not limited to: Climbing Magazine, Rock & Ice, various stories and Public Knowledge