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Tips For Crack Climbing Techniques

By Paul WalterLast update: 2024-02-27

This is a type of climbing in which the climber follows a crack in the rock. This type of climbing requires the use of specialized climbing techniques. The size of the cracks can vary, from cracks just wide enough for fingers to fit inside, to cracks so wide that the whole body can fit inside with all arms and legs outstretched. In fact, there are many traditional climbing routes that follow rift systems, which provide a natural opportunity for the placement of protective equipment.

Wall crack systems rarely run parallel to each other throughout the crack length; they usually contract inward and open out in different places. Some of the most challenging climbs follow cracks that run through various widths. Even if a crack is uniform in width, it can require a different approach for each individual climber — a crack in the hand for a smaller climber could be a finger fracture for bigger climbers

Summary, crack climbing is a type of climbing with high technical requirements. Below, we provide some tips, which we hope can be of great help to those involved in this extreme sport.

Tips For Crack Climbing Techniques

1. Selecting protective equipment when crack climbing

Tips For Crack Climbing Techniques

Choosing protective gear when in traditional climbing, climbers put on protective gear when climbing the route, instead of installing fixed equipment beforehand. Most of these devices are specifically designed for use in crack systems. The two main types of protection are passive, which has no moving parts, and active, which uses a spring to hold gears in place. In both types, the protective gear is color-coded by size to allow climbers to quickly identify the correct suit for a given location while climbing.

Two common types of passive protection are Nuts and hexes. A bead is a small rectangular piece of metal at the end of a cable, with a loop at the other end for attaching a Carabiner. The nut is placed above a constriction in width that inside a crack. This prevents the device from sliding down or out of the crack when the climber falls. Most nuts are between 3.8 and 50 mm (0.15 and 1.97 in) wide.

"Hexes", similar to nuts, but designed for larger cracks; The most common sizes range from 25 to 65 mm (1.0 to 2.6 in) in width. The irregular shape of the hexagons allows them to be placed in different directions depending on the shape of the crack.

Camming devices have been developed, which are one of the most common forms of protection. Each profiler has three or four cams, a shaft and a trigger. When the trigger is activated, the cam will shrink, allowing it to be placed inside the crack. The trigger is then released, causing the cams to expand outward relative to the walls of the crack. The device is designed to convert the downward pull on the shaft into an outward force through the cams.

2. Fill the void effectively

Tips For Crack Climbing Techniques

Cracking is climbing the gaps between and inside the rock. So, with all those jams, the first tip to pay attention to is that you should try to fill those gaps as efficiently as possible. As a result, it's a good idea to insert as much of the body part as you're stuck inside the crack before you start doing any of the techniques needed to make the jam itself.

Many people start working on jamming dynamics before the body part is fully in the crack. This means they get less of their surface area when they hit the rock. You should only use two fingers on a large fold when you can use all four. This is similar to a hand jam, only half of your hand should be inserted when the crack can penetrate your hand all the way to the wrist. Then take the body part right in there.

3. Use your body as a jammer

The most basic technique used in crack climbing is "jamming," in which the climber presses a body part into the crack so that it exerts force on both walls. This creates the friction needed for the climber to advance. The body part used and its location largely depends on the width of the crack. For example, some cracks are just wide enough that they can get caught when opened by hand. A slightly wider crack may require the hand to curl into a fist to form an effective jam.

When you want to get your body inside the crack, you have to widen the part to fill the gap and make it stick. There are many different ways that this jamming and scaling can be achieved.

Imagine your body is a rack of gears, with lots of pieces of different shapes and sizes. What you do to your body when climbing cracks is the same as what you do with your climbing gear: tuck it into the cracks.

A gear rack comes in many pieces with sizes ranging from the smallest micrometer to the largest cam and Big Bros. Likewise, your body has a ton of different size options to insert into the fissure, from the diameter of your little finger, to the length of your entire body.

Your body also has a lot of twisting and extension mechanisms thanks to the movement in your joints.

There are two ways your body can get stuck, passive and active.

Passive: The jam is created by the contraction forces in the rock that allows part of the body to get inside the slit, facilitating re-adhesion. Jamming works because the constriction becomes too small for the body part to pass through. This jam requires minimal durability so you should try using this jam as a first choice.

Active: jams are created by a series of your movements — by twisting, turning, or extending. A downward force (your weight pulling on the jam) along with this movement of the jam creates external pressure and friction on the crack wall, allowing your jam to stick. The downward force (or pull) is extremely important in making the jam stick.

4. The method of keeping things in line with the crack

Tips For Crack Climbing Techniques

All body parts must be twisted and oriented in such a way that their final position — before you move upwards — is parallel and aligned with the crack.

Climbing a crevice and climbing a ladder are the same thing. The legs of the ladder represent the edges of the crack and each step is a jam. Now, imagine you are climbing a ladder and your limbs and body are parallel to the legs of the ladder. Your elbows should be pointing downwards as this creates the best force to pull you up with your arms. Your knees are pointing upwards as this creates the best force for pushing yourself up with your feet. If your elbows and knees start to twist to the side, this will affect your ability to pull up and down the ladder. You'll start to feel like you're pulling and pushing aside — and the climbing effect will be lost.

The main rules that apply when climbing a crack are that the elbow should be down and the knee should be up. When everything fits the crack, effective jamming will work. If your body parts are out of alignment, you won't be able to pull up and push down effectively.

5. Use "not strength" constructs

With all crack climbing, you use your body's frame (structure) to stay in and on the rock. Joints, ligaments and bones: you are aiming to lock them into the fracture in such a way that you can hang them out using minimal or no muscle/tendon contraction force.

If a body has no soft tissue, it's just a skeleton with ligaments holding the bones together. If you twist, rotate, and extend the bones of the skeleton, you should be able to create shapes that can fit and lock into cracks without any "holding strength" from the muscles and tendons that don't. This is what you are trying to achieve using your body in a crack.

6. More surface area between body and rock (between skin and stone) equals better jam

Your climbing partner made you a jam sandwich. Between two slices of bread is a layer of strawberry jam. They give you a sandwich, but when you bite into it, you find that they haven't spread the jam right to the edge of the bread, so all you get is a decent slice of bread. You see that they just spread the strawberry jam in the middle of the sandwich and hardly any surface area of the strawberry jam touches the bread. Very disappointing. Can you spread the jam right on the edge of the bread to cover it all? You try the sandwich again. This time you will get a delicious strawberry jam and jam sandwich!

Take this strawberry jam sandwich example and apply it to the crack climb. The bread slices represent the cracks and the strawberry jam represents our body jam. When you put jam between the cracked walls, if the surface area of contact between the skin and the ice is minimal when you stick the jam, then like your strawberry jam sandwich, the end product will be very disappointing. However, if you create a lot of surface area in contact with your jam and crack, then like your fully spread strawberry jam sandwich, the taste — of success — will be very sweet.


Crack climbing is an experiential and adventurous sport that requires high technique. Here we provide tips for crack climbing techniques.

Hopefully with these tips, you can participate confidently, reduce pain and injury, and increase enjoyment and success.

"I'm Paul, born in a sea village and fishing is my life, I love to share all about fishing to everybody".

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