Fig. 9-4. "Resting" on an outstretched arm

In general, select holds based on solidness, convenience, and size. A visual inspection will often tell all you need to know. But if you doubt the soundness of a hold, test it with a kick, or with a blow from the heel of the hand. You can also push or pull on it. Keep alert to the consequences if the hold fails during testing: be sure it won't fall on people below, and be sure your stance is secure so you yourself won't fall. Remember that the hold must be useful in the context of the route. A large firm hold is useless if it leads away from the planned route and puts you into a position where you can't move to the next hold. A smaller but more conveniently placed hold may be a better choice.

Footholds should be comfortably spaced when ever possible. High steps are strenuous and make balance awkward, while steps close together waste energy without providing much upward progress.

Handholds at about head height provide a good stance and often are not as fatiguing as handholds above the head. They also let you lean away from the rock to view other potential hand- and footholds. Often, however, you won't have much choice in the matter, because the nature and difficulty of the rock may dictate where the holds are.

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