Climbers use most footholds by employing one of two techniques, edging or smearing. On many holds, either technique will work, and the one to use depends on your own preference and type of footwear. We'll take up a third technique, called the foot jam, in a later section.
In edging, the edge of the boot or rock shoe is placed over the hold (fig. 9-5a). You can use either the inside or outside edge, but the inside is usually preferred for greater ease and security. The ideal point of contact may vary, but generally it's between the ball of the foot and the end of the big toe. Keeping the heel higher than the toes provides greater precision, but lowering the heel is a more restful position. Using the actual toe of the boot or rock shoe ("toeing in") may be very tiring. With practice, you will become proficient using progressively smaller footholds.
In smearing, the foot points more uphill, with the sole "smeared" over the hold (fig. 9-5b). The technique of smearing works best with rock shoes or flexible boots. On lower-angle rock, you may not need an actual hold, but will only have to achieve enough friction between sole and rock. On steeper terrain, smear the front of the foot over a hold, and see how even tiny irregularities in the rock can provide significant friction and security.
Fatigue, often aggravated by anxiety, can lead to troublesome vibrations in the muscles of the leg, known as "sewing-machine leg." The best way to stop it is to try to relax your mind and to change leg position, either by moving on, lowering the heel, or straightening the leg.
In using footholds, optimize the direction of u (J
force on the hold. Flexing the ankle may increase the surface area of contact between sole and rock, giving maximum friction. Leaning away from the rock can create inward as well as downward force on the hold, increasing security.
Decide the best way to use a hold before you put your foot on it. Then maintain your position on the hold. Although it's sometimes necessary to reposition the foot into a better relationship to the hold, avoid thrashing and repeated repositioning to try to find something better. This wastes time and energy and may cause you to slip off altogether. On marginal footholds it may be mandatory to maintain the position exactly, as any movement or rotation could cause the foot to slip off. Keeping your foot in position can take a lot of concentration and skill as you move up on the hold and step above with the other foot.
With the large footholds called buckets, place only as much of your foot as necessary on the hold (fig. 9-6). Putting your foot too far into the bucket can sometimes force the lower leg outward, making for an out-of-balance stance.
Generally avoid using your knees, which are susceptible to injury and offer little stability. Nevertheless, even experienced climbers occasionally use a knee to avoid an especially high or awkward step. The main considerations are to avoid injury from pebbles and sharp crystals, and to avoid becoming trapped on your knees, unable to rise to your feet. This can be a big problem if you find yourself beneath an overhanging bulge with insufficient space to easily stand up.
may be able to use the thumb in opposition on a minor rugosity (fig. 9-7a). On a very narrow hold or a small pocket in the rock, you can stack fingers on top of each other to increase pressure on the hold (fig. 9-7b).
The most common handhold is the cling hold (fig. 9-7c). Large cling holds allow the entire hand to be cupped over the hold, while smaller variations (fig. 9-7e) may allow room for only the fingertips. Keeping fingers close together provides a stronger grip on the hold. If the hold is not large enough for all fingers to be placed on it, at least curl the other ones, which permits the fingers in use to get the most force from the muscle/tendon system (fig. 9-7f). When using cling holds, be aware that certain hand configurations put extreme stress on the fingers and may lead to injury (fig. 9-7e). (Other types of handholds will be discussed later in this chapter.)
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