5 Tips for 5 Cracks with Mason Earle

Article by Mason Earle / Photo by Jon Vickers

November in Utah. This means a lot of things to different people- school, anticipation for snow, and thanksgiving. For me it has always meant crack climbing season. I have always been inspired by the linear purity of cracks; the passage formed by a perfect split in a wall of stone. In-between the pain and grunting, crack climbing offers fleeting moments of joy: a perfect finger lock, reaching that thank-god hand-jam, when your knee fits perfectly in an offwidth, and so on. Weather you’re heading to Zion, Indian Creek, or even Little Cottonwood Canyon, the crisp fall temps make November the perfect time for a crack fix. Here are five crack climbing tips to try out this fall…

Fingers

The next time you find yourself underneath a finger crack, trade your sloppy fitting crack shoes out for something that can edge well. Finger cracks are too small to fit your feet into, so instead look for edges and footholds on the face, and pods in the crack. Having shoes that can stand on a small foothold when there is no other option can make all the difference.

Mason using his ‘sporty’ shoes to smear and edge against the rachet crack at Sandy.
Thin cracks are very stressful on the fingers and toes and a sport shoe will allow you to use even the smallest of foot holds as a break from the pain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thin Hands

Thin hands can be incredibly pumpy. To avoid getting apocalyptically pumped try to alternate between thumbs up, and thumbs down jamming. Thumbs-down thin-hand-jams can be great and secure, especially for placing gear or a leaning crack, but when you move upwards they eventually have to be switched to thumbs-up. For upward progress, try using only thumbs-up hand-jams, making smaller moves, never reaching higher than eye level.

A thumbs down jam can be a great way to rest or place gear in tight hands cracks. In non-splitters this technique can allow you to get a more secure jam in pods or the like.
If possible, make upward movement using the thumbs up hand position unless the crack leans. When the crack leans it is typical to climb with one hand thumb down and the other thumb up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hands

The glory size. (Almost) everybody loves a good hand crack. This is generally the easiest crack size and a good starting point for new crack climbers. There aren’t too many special tricks for hand cracks once you know how to jam, but make sure you have a comfortable pair of real-leather climbing shoes (slipper or lace).

While velcro shoes can work for cracks and may even be your go to for finger cracks. However, hand size crack can take a deeper foot and having a slipper or lace shoe can slip in and out of the crack more smoothly
Try reinforcing your crack slippers with Seam Seal to increase the life of the shoe. Be aware you will limit the shoes ability to stretch once you have done this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fists

Fist cracks can be really insecure and painful. This is the easiest size to get gobies, so unless you have Kevlar skin, you’ll want to tape your hands. For fist cracks, it’s crucial to put a wrap of tape around the thumb. This, in combination with a tape glove, will help save your skin.

Here Mason demonstrates one technique for protecting the thumb for fist cracks.
While every climbing would agree in good coverage for fist cracks, everyone’s hand is shaped differently so experiment with different methods until you find what works best for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Offwidth

Wide cracks are scary, and they hurt. They can also be intensely gratifying. The next time you find yourself hyperventilating in an offwidth, take a moment to look around you. Are there any handholds? Footholds? A hidden side-pull in the crack? It’s easy to get tunnel vision when crack climbing, especially in offwidths. Even a credit card crimp can serve as a rest from arm barring and stacking. Always be on the lookout for face-holds and features.

Try to avoid tunnel vision when fighting through offwidths. It is often a relief to use face holds to get a rest or even make some upward progress, but be careful not to loose your position in the crack because you never know when you are going to run out of face holds and wish you were back in the maw.

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Wanna Learn more about how to climb cracks? Check out the Momentum Climbing School’s crack climbing classes and clinics on our website by clicking HERE.

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