Categories
Climbing

Can You Belay Someone Heavier than You Top Rope?

Top rope climbing is a fantastic way to build confidence and learn new routes. While lead climbing pushes your limits, it’s top rope where you will learn movement basics. Top rope climbing helps you to train specific techniques to a level where you can rely on them. The short answer to the question: Yes, you absolutely can belay someone heavier than you top rope. Read more about it in detail in this post.

Top rope climbing is a lot safer than lead climbing when it comes to belaying, as you usually never take an uncontrolled fall. That’s why the maximum falling distance is usually not more than 2 feet when doing top rope climbing. But what if you climb with your spouse or friend who is a lot heavier than you? Could a weight difference of 50 lbs or more still mean trouble? I’ll give you some tips and considerations because I faced the same problem with my wife belaying me.

Why can a fall be a problem when you belay someone heaver than you top rope?

A lead climber who is a lot heavier than his or her belayer can be a problem. Because of the weight difference, the weight of the climber can lift the belayer off the ground. When she catches the fall it can make her lose control of the rope.This can also lead to injuries for the belayer. The first anchor will basically just brute force stop her. Both situations can make the belayer lose the rope and safety device, which means the climber takes a fall to the ground. Thankfully, for top rope climbing, this scenario usually does not play out that drastic. The falling distances are not so big when top rope climbing.

With a maximum of only 2-3 feet when taking a fall, exerted forces are not so strong. But even with only 2-3 feet, there can be some painful surprises when the climber falls off, especially with more considerable weight difference or 50lbs or more. Lowering a very heavier climber can pose a problem too. As the bigger weight difference can lead to uncontrolled and fast lowering which is risky and gives the belayer rope burn. It’s good to keep some of the following tips in mind to make belaying someone heavier than you top rope safe and convenient!

Tie yourself to the ground if possible when belaying someone a lot heavier than you top rope!

This is my primary recommendation for those of you belaying climbers who are A LOT heavier than you – think 50lbs or more. If you tie yourself to the ground, it minimizes the problems mentioned above as you cannot move when the climber falls. While the abrupt stop of the fall usually means a more painful fall, this is no problem when top rope climbing. Thank the short falling distances for it.

Wear gloves when belaying some heavy!

This is another excellent tip that can save you a lot of pain. When you lower a heavy climber, this usually happens with higher speed and rope friction, and anything above just some inches becomes painful. Why? The extra speed and weight cause more friction, which means more rope burn than normally. Good belaying- or climbing-gloves can save your skin as they avoid rope burn. And they give you extra control when lowering.

They also make lowering with a device like Petzl’s GriGri (my favorite auto stopping belay device, as it’s dead simple to use and exceptionally safe), where you have only one hand under the device, even safer too. Why? Because they improve grip to the rope while lowering also. If you need suitable gloves, any nice working leather glove that fits well will do. I myself use these black diamond crag gloves, as they’re less than 20$, robust and have fantastic grip. You can also use them for mountaineering and via ferrata.

Get a really comfortable and maybe even padded harness.

Top rope means you will have someone climbing not safe in the route or trying out the route as a project, which means there might be long rests and breaks. Maybe there will even be some closer inspection of crux passages or potential good holds. All these situations typically have the belayer keep the climber arrested for an extended time. And this can be painful as the extra weight of the climbers can make the harness cut into the soft skin of the thighs and hips where the harness rest. So get a nice and padded harness where you feel comfortable sitting in for more extended amounts of time.

Wear a sandbag as extra weight.

Another useful technique for indoor climbing, not so great outdoors as you have to carry around the sandbag. But there are some refillable ones so that you can fill them up at the crag. The extra weight minimizes the weight difference and reduces rope friction and forces exerted when the climber falls. You can clip the sandbag to your material loops with a carabiner.

Stand closer to the wall than normal.

Any distance from the wall means extra distance you will get pulled in case of an uncontrolled fall, which makes a lighter belayer smack into the wall. Reduce that distance to the wall, and it will also make you lift UP instead of INTO the wall. But be careful not to stand too close to the climber while he or her approaches the first anchor, or you will get hit by his feet when he slips during the first feet of the climb.

Keep the reduced rope drag of top rope in mind when lowering – more than 50lbs of weight difference can end in uncontrolled lowering.

When climbing top rope, there is usually not a lot of rope friction braking the lowering. As there is only one anchor point, most of the rope is not touching quickdraws and rock, which means less rope drag. This is especially true for indoor gyms. If the climber is a lot heavier than the belayer, like 50lbs or more, this can lead to a lot of force dragging on the belayer when he opens the safety device for lowering the climber. And it can even lead to uncontrolled rope slippage. Keep this in mind and be extra careful when lowering a heavy climber.

Get a quickdraw that adds friction – it makes arresting a fall and lowering much safer and controlled.

If the belayer and climber weight difference becomes greater than 60lbs, you should get an assisted braking resistor that adds extra friction to the rope. A device like the Edelrid OHM, can be clipped to the first anchor and works great for top rope climbing too.

Can You Belay Someone Heavier than You Top Rope
Edelrids Ohm in action. Image source: Bergzeit

The Ohm is an assisted-braking resistor that you install at the first bolt in the safety chain. If the climber falls or gets lowered, the OHM increases rope friction so that a lighter belayer can hold a heavier partner without being suddenly pulled off the ground and thrown against the wall. When top rope climbing, you can have the climber clip the OHM to the first bolt like she would when lead climbing, and you’re okay to go.It’s an excellent device for lead climbing too, as it makes falls above the first anchor safer also, decreasing the chances of a ground fall.

Conclusion

Belaying someone heavier than you top rope is not a problem if you keep these tips in mind. I doubt, always wear some extra weight and try to tie yourself to the ground, wear gloves, and consider getting an assisted-braking resistor.
Happy climbing, top rope is so much fun for newbie climbers, and make sure to read my other articles about building good top rope anchors and climbing pant selection.

Categories
Climbing Mountaineering

What things should I keep away from climbing ropes?

How can I protect my climbing rope? How to treat your climbing rope right! Climbing ropes are pretty durable and abrasion-resistant. Most of the time, you won’t have to worry about your climbing rope, as it can take beatings and rough treatment. But as it is a textile product, made from chemical compounds, and has ingredients in it like nylon there are some things climbing rope doesn’t like at all. Treat it as if your life depended on it – oh wait, it does. So better make sure to keep these things away from it!

Better safe than sorry: Keep this in mind when handling climbing rope

Some things are bad for it, think of acids, etc. But what about common other substances that you commonly bring when you go outdoors – think of insect repellants, suntan or hand sanitizer? Read on; I’ll do my very best to answer these questions. I’ll also give you a verdict if you should retire the rope immediately or if it is just questionable to use, and should be monitored. Note: In case of doubt, I recommend to retire, as I’d instead buy a new rope than take the risk of a broken rope when climbing.

Avoid at all cost – keep these things away from your rope at all cost

Avoid sharp edges, especially under load. Keep your rope mechanically intact, don’t step on it

Try to never step on your rope. If you have stones etc. on or in your shoe sole, you will accidentally cut the outside mantle of the rope, and your weight will also squeeze and grind the core of the rope. This can cause internal abrasion inside your rope.

No brainers – these chemicals should be avoided around your climbing rope 

Of course, you don’t want to keep your climbing rope next to an acidic substance like car batteries, cleaning detergents or solvents. Car batteries in the back of the trunk next to climbing have caused numerous accidents in the past, where the effect of the car battery leads to the climbing rope dissolving from the inside out. That’s especially bad as you can’t visually inspect these types of material failures beforehand.

Keep rope away from Acids & Alkalis

Any harsh chemical, like compounds with acid, alkalis, bleaching substances or oxidizing agents are harmful for your rope. By the way, urine is containing acid, so don’t pee on your rope for extended periods – should be a no brainer for other reasons too right.

Keep your rope in a bag and in doubt keep it away from chemicals

To avoid exposure to mechanical damage and the mentioned chemicals, it’s best to store your rope in a rope bag or backpack. That way, you have the first line of defense. You could also just aim to keep it away from unidentified chemicals – a simple rule is to net let something go on the rope where you don’t know if its a problem or not.

Keep dirt away from the rope, wash it if it’s dirty using this method

Always keep your rope as clean as possible; dirt will wear down your rope and shorten its life. Dirt and rock crystals can cause damage to the mantle of the rope. If you wash your rope, put it inside a pillowcase or washing bag, and wash it in the machine (front loader) with cold water. Don’t use hot water! Don’t use harsh detergents, but instead use a mild soap to remove oil and grease. NEVER BLEACH YOUR ROPE. Rinse good and thorough, don’t use softener. After that, dry the rope away from sunlight in the air, do not use a dryer. Sunlight damages your rope, so keep in shadow. Water is no problem for nylon.

Don’t mark your rope with a pen

Felt tipped pens could damage ropes, so don’t start marking your rope. There have been experiments that showed that even markers made for rope marking can damage the rope. UIAA warns to not mark ropes, as their investigation showed that sometimes rope strength was decreased by about 50%. Source: http://theuiaa.org/upload_area/files/1/About_Ageing_of_Climbing_Ropes.pdf

High heat: Don’t cook your rope, keep fire away and never leave your rope in your hot car during summer

High heat is the Nr. 1 enemy of ropes, they all will melt at 428°F (220°C). Campfire, stove, oven, dryer etc., will destroy your rope. Anything above 350°F (150°C), including boiling the rope should be avoided. You should also not keep your rope in your car when you’re finished climbing. Cars can get really hot inside during summer, and the prolonged exposure to heat is known to weaken your rope as it increases material fatigue.

These things are potentially okay for climbing rope, but it’s still better to limit exposure

The following substances are either not tested or have been tested with no effect. If you ask me, it’s still better to keep them away from the rope if possible. But if I sanitize my hands, for example, I wouldn’t worry too much about handling a rope afterward, as it’s no big deal.

Ropes are lab-tested to withstand these chemicals

There have been lab tests that showed that salt water, acetone, benzene, chloroform (why the heck would someone put this on his or her rope?), freon, gasoline, kerosene, motor oil, mineral oil, paints as well as pine oil had had no damaging effect on nylon ropes. It’s still a good idea to keep any chemicals away from your rope. Source: https://www.bluewaterropes.com/faqs/

Insect repellent is not a problem for climbing rope

The laboratory tests also showed that insect repellents containing DEET had no measurable effect on the nylon fibers of the rope.

Sunscreen and hand sanitizer: Probably okay, but don’t drain your rope in it 

There are no specific tests of these substances with their effect on the climbing rope. If your sunscreen or hand sanitizer doesn’t contain the substances above, it should be okay. Hand-sanitizer typically uses alcohol compounds, moisturizers, and fragrance. None of these substances poses a thread. Sunscreen usually contains UV inhibitors like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, then moisturizers, and also fragrance. UIAA doesn’t list them as problematic. But you shouldn’t drain your rope in sanitizer or sunscreen, also because it makes a mess.

Cold temperatures: Can weaken rope temporarily

Cold can make your rope weaker for the duration of the cold. So, don’t worry if your rope freezes during wintertime, but make sure to thaw it before you use it. Never go climbing with a frozen rope, unless it’s rated for ice and winter climbing.

Conclusion: Keep your rope clean and away from chemicals and heat

Climbing ropes are pretty durable as it turns out. Things like sunscreen, insect repellent, and sanitizer should not be a problem for your climbing rope. However, acidic, alkaline, or bleaching chemicals are a problem, so make sure to keep any questionable chemical substance away from your rope. I would also keep it clean from gasoline, fuel, and oil, as these chemicals are not necessarily damaging it but better safe than sorry. 

I also advise you keep your rope in a dry, cool place in a rope bag, away from sunlight. And: Don’t leave your climbing backpack in your car during summer, the heat is increasing material fatigue.

Read my other articles on why to wear a climbing helmet and how to find the right climbing shoe size.

Categories
Bouldering Climbing

How to avoid Arm Pump when Rock Climbing and handle Pumped Arms with these Techniques

As much as I love rock climbing and bouldering, I used to get arm pumps pretty often. And I do try to go to the gym and boulder gym 2-3 times and climb on the weekend outside. But no matter, my arms pumped quickly, so at one point I decided I need to work on this. And with these tips, I do better. So If you get arm pump when rock climbing or bouldering after just a short 3-4 routes for warm-up too, keep reading these tips will change your climbing life. In general, the more you climb and the more often and longer you climb, the better and the less arm pump you will get. There is a clear connection between the amount of training and arm pump, and if you keep training it will get better. But in the short run, there are some really good techniques to keep in mind to help you fight arm pump. In this blog post I’ll focus on these three aspects:

  • You can prepare before climbing to climb without arm pump as long as possible
  • To get rid of arm pump when you’re already climbing and it happens to you
  • Rest and recover from arm pump and when to stop climbing

 

What is arm pump: A quick look at some biophysics

If you’re new to climbing, you may be wondering what arm pump even is and how it affects you as well as the causes. Arm pump feels like a cramp in your forearms with intense tightness and from a biophysical perspective, arm pump is a condition that you will suffer from when you exercise your forearms for a continued amount of time. Its causes are complex but put in easy words: Arm pump comes from lactic acid build up in your forearms when climbing. As the swelling of muscles increases, blood flow decreases as the contraction of the muscles traps blood in the hands and forearms. And because of the decreased blood flow, there is a lactic acid build-up.

How to prepare before bouldering or climbing to avoid arm pump

Warm-up. You’ve got to warm up, this is my number one tip. All the people I know who have regular arm pump issues are not doing correctly and enough warm-up. It’s not enough to just 5  jumping jacks and an easy warm-up route. That’s not a proper warm-up, it’s an insult to your body.

Do a good and long warm up

A good warm-up should consist of 15 minutes of easy movement. It should include at least 5 minutes structured exercises and then 10 or more of doing REALLY easy stuff on the wall. Do traverses, go back and forth across the wall. Climb a ladder, do easy routes with extended arms and focusing on leg word. The goal here is to keep blood flowing into your muscles and activating your central nervous system and tissue. You also want to stretch your tendons and ligaments. Doing this helps you replacing lactic acids building up when doing challenging climbing.

What you notice is that people who spent their day job working their forearms (think carpenters, stonemasons, even construction workers), rarely suffer arm pump when climbing. So warming up and keeping your arms active during your job is key to. Include some bends and stretches every now and then, do some pull-ups while on lunch break. You will thank me for it later. When you’re finished with warm-up do at least 3 easy routes of climbing. Warming up has to be slow and easy. If you rush it, then you’re not benefiting from it. 

Relax while climbing

You need to relax. When you climb you need to calm down. Many people overgrip like crazy and suffer arm pump after the first route of the day. No need to, climbing is fun. If you’re going top route or even lead, climb to a safe height in your first height and do a deliberate (BUT SAFE!!) little fall, to get rid of the adrenaline. Adrenaline makes you overgrip and tighten up, which leads to arm pump immediately. So relax. It’s all good.

Work on finding a good stand and improve balancing, so you hold most of the weight with your legs. This even works in overhangs, if you know how to squeeze footholds with your toes and have good hip technique. Bad technique means lots of arm pump. Good footwork usually helps to reduce arm pump.

How can you tread arm pump while bouldering or climbing 

Even if you’re already climbing, there are things to reduce arm pump when it happens. These 3 methods worked really well for me.

Take a break

Works wonders. Relax and take some deep breaths. Give your arms a well deserved little massage, let them hang down for a while and get the blood moving through them. Blood flow is critical to treat the arm pump when it occurs. It’s never too late to treat it, but the best thing is to listen to your body for the first signs. When you feel your arms tightening up, take a break, and take care of it. After relaxing, do some more gentle warm-up exercises for about 5 minutes. Then continue climbing.

Shake arms, even when on the route, and do the G-Tox method

Another really effective way to get rid of arm pump is the G-Tox Method. Alternate between resting arm hanging to your side and holding it above your head. Cycle 5 seconds each and keep doing this for a minute or two. You can even do it while not climbing but recovering. It’s super effective and beats just hanging and dangling arms, as was shown in some field studies.

Don’t focus on stretches to reduce arm pump when climbing

When it comes to arm pump, plain static stretches are not the best thing to do. If you want to get rid of arm pump when climbing or bouldering, better do some rubbing, shaking and gentle massages. It will help your arms to clear of lactate build up. For pump you will have more success rubbing, kneading or shaking your forearms to help clear the lactate.

Do push-ups

Surprisingly, the push-up is like a silver bullet for arm pump. After you take a break, do 10 to 20 push-ups. If you don’t believe it try it. It will help you. Don’t focus on slow movement, just do them quick and dirty. There is a reason for the effectiveness of push-ups for reducing arm pup too: A push up will transport lactic acid away from your arms into the core due to the way your body moves. It increases blood flow too, which is usually reduced after climbing with arms overhead.Push-ups obviously won’t work when you’re on a big wall trad route, but for bouldering and sport climbing its awesome. Stretches work too.

Run short sprints when resting on the ground

Basically running lines on the ground is more of the stuff that makes push-ups work to reduce climber’s arm pump. Arm pump, like discussed, is caused by too much lactate. And you can get rid of it by increasing blood flow in your muscles. Running around is like cardio and gives you instant blood flow increase because it makes your heart pump faster. Do 5 short sprints of 10 yards with some seconds pause in between and feel the effect immediately.

My secret weapon: Knuckleslides

Another effective trick to get rid of arm pump while climbing is what I call the “knuckleslide”. Never heard of it? I just made up the term, I read about it online, it came from a physiotherapist, and I tried it and can confirm it’s effective. It goes like this

  1. Place one arm in front of you, with elbow and forearm 90-degree bend, so your fingertips point up, and hold it really relaxed. Leave hands half-open, without any tension.
  2. Put the knuckle of the other hand on your wrist. Note: Put the knuckle on the side of your wrist facing you.
  3. Slowly slide down until you reach your elbow. It should take 5 seconds at least

ARC Method

ARC is a climbing training method which is really interesting, read about it some more in detail. For ARC you need to keep climbing for 20 to 40 minutes continuously. You’re not allowed to take any hand-off breaks or go off the wall.

ARC will improve the capillary density of your forearm, this way you increase the oxygen capacity and transports waste products like lactic acid away. It will force you to do traverses etc., to keep climbing for so long. Combine it with techniques like silent feet, extended arms or glue hands. I’ll write an article about these too, so stay tuned.

Should I stop climbing at some point when my arms get too pumped?

There is no real danger from climbing too pumped. But at some point, you will not be precise anymore and might not even be able to grip a hold at all. And yeah, if you can’t grip the wall anymore it probably becomes dangerous and risky. It’s best to stop climbing when you’re too pumped and you’re doing things like unsafe trad routes, highball boulders, etc. But that’s kind of obvious right? Best to stop then, but otherwise, feel free to keep going. The worst thing happens is you lose grip and take a fall. 

Conclusion: Prepare well and treat arm pump and keep climbing longer

Arm pump when climbing sucks, especially if you want to keep going to send your project route or just finish a great day of training. The proper gripping technique, warming up and just being relaxed is vital to avoid arm pump. But even if you feel arm pump occurring, it’s not too late, you can still use the discussed methods to get rid of it!

Read my other articles about quick DIY hangboard setup, why climbing pants are great for training and how to become a stronger climber by doing more bouldering.

Categories
Mountaineering

How To Begin Mountaineering: The Complete Guide

Lots of people on Reddit and climbing forums ask how to get started with mountaineering. I’ve been asked it several times too. There is a ton of info about mountaineering online and offline, but most of it is very specific and detailed. While the focus on one topic is good, I think it’s time for a general guide. I’ll explain when do learn what, what to learn first and what to be careful with. This is all information coming from my personal outdoor and climbing experiences and that of my friends and people i know. I’m no pro, but i do know some coaches and guides and picked their brain for a while now.

How to begin mountaineering? Follow these step-by-step tips to begin mountaineering

  1. Become a backpacker, do multi day hikes.
  2. Try winter camping.
  3. Learn how to rock climb.
  4. Learn scrambling.
  5. Go trekking in foreign countries.
  6. Take a mountaineering class.
  7. Buy mountaineering gear: Crampons, double boots, etc.

Mountaineering takes time and effort to learn, and this guide should put you on the right track with easy to follow steps. Take it slow! Trying to become a pro while not even knowing the basics is super naive, and especially in the area of mountain skills can be super dangerous too. So take it slow and start small.
We’re going to cover the necessary skills, some advice on picking the right course if you want to join a class (and by the way, I highly suggest you to), and tips for finding right mountaineering partners.

The Basics: What is Mountaineering?

Mountaineering is very exposed hiking off marked routes in challenging alpine territory. There are three main areas of skills involved you need to learn to get started with mountaineering.
Mountaineering consists of alpine climbing, hiking and orientation, and general outdoor backpacking skills.
And it can take place on snow, rock ice or glacial ground. We’re going to have a closer look at the individual skills now!

Learn These Essential Skills To Start Mountaineering

If you wonder how to get started with mountaineering, you should to acquire at least necessary skills in these disciplines.

General outdoor skills: Orientation, emergency planning, and map reading

This is your essential skillset. No matter if afternoon hike or expedition, if you wonder how to get started with mountaineering, this is your basepoint. You need to be able to orientate in mountainous terrain and find your way with compass and map. You’ll also need to develop a mindset of emergency planning as much of mountaineering is focused on safety. Always keep a backup plan, and never panic. Learn these skills by packing your boots and roam the woods and hills around your home area, preferably leaving the marked trails and exploring on your own – but make sure you start in an area where you have a safety net, aka a Park surrounded by roads or railways. You don’t want to wander off in rural Alaska and disappear unless you’re already proficient at orientation.

Hiking and backpacking

Mountaineering comes down to dangerous hiking on big mountains with weird and challenging terrain. So get used to dragging a heavy backpack with gear on hills for hours. This way, your body’s ability to withstand discomfort and pain is increased, and you become used to the idea of doing this for days on end.
You’ll also want to practice building tents, shelter and things like outdoor cooking, fireplace building, etc. As you will need to master them at high altitudes, it’s worth your while to practice in easy mode.

Go camping in the winter

Start backpacking and hiking in summer, but then evolve into winter camping. Start with easy nights out, sleeping by your car. This way, you have a safety net, if you start your feet freezing, you can always rely on the warmth of your vehicle to avoid a disaster. If you feel comfortable enough, go and hike for 30 minutes in an area with cell phone coverage, then spend a night in the snow. This way, you can still return back to civilization if things go terribly wrong, 30 minutes are always doable, and you have the safety of your cellphone in case of emergency. DO NOT go out and remote in winter if you haven’t done this safe style of winter camping at least a couple of times.

Learn to climb, belay and rappel

Learn climbing, read my article about climbing training and my guide for climbing preparation. A mountaineer needs climbing skills, so you need to practice them. Start Toprope and indoor, work your way to outdoor lead climbing and traditional climbing. Read our guide for different styles of climbing. You should also practice belaying and rappelling on some smaller rocks first until you become proficient.

Scramble, climb and do via Ferrata

Once you are comfortable with hiking, you want to start scrambling. Hiking a marked path on steep routes and tackle summits is useful to build up endurance and power, but finding your own way over steep ledges and rock fields is super important. It will teach you to read maps and plan your approach. Route finding is crucial for mountaineers, and you need to be able to do it while tired, exhausted, soaking wet, and cold.
When mountaineering most of the terrain is technically challenging and exposed. So you need to develop a head for heights and get used to climbing via ferratas. Get some experience with hiking class 3 and 4 terrain. If you don’t know about the british terrain grading system, class 3 and 4 is the hardest level of terrain that can still be approached without wearing a harness and safety belay. Read more about it here.

Work on endurance and strength

Go running regularly, and hit the gym. You don’t need to be a powerlifter, but you need to have the heart, lung, and muscular strength to carry a pack through steep terrain in high altitudes for long hours. And running and strength training will give you the needed power and endurance to keep doing it for hours on end.

Train and hike in caloric deficit

Get used to the sensation of low blood sugar and hunger. While planning a mountaineering tour should not involve purposely going on a caloric deficit, weather changes, accidents, and emergency can quickly put you in a position where you need to be able to keep calm and going even when running on fumes. Developing a feeling for this and resilience is something you can and should try in a controlled environment. You can be an excellent trail runner, but it’s a different story to scramble down a ridge on foot if you’re on low blood sugar and shivering from cold rain while wearing a 50 lbs backpack and have been hiking for 6 hours already.

These experiences you should acquire before you start specific mountaineering training

These things you should master first and collect knowledge:
– Hike for longer than 10 hours with a pack in one day
– Experience blisters and pain during hikes
– The feeling of becoming lost, including rising panic
– Become cold and wet during a storm or rainfall and continue walking
– Become cold in winter, and/or soaked in freezing rain
– Be in the mountains and experience how fast weather can change, witness a thunderstorm in the mountains from a safe point (Thunderstorms can be extremely dangerous above treelines)
– Do more than one via Ferrata and climb and scramble steep terrain with the potential of accidents
– Go on a backpacking trip longer than 3 days for three times
– Learn to belay and rappelling
– Be confident in lead climbing french grade 4/5 sport climbing routes in bad weather, know basic knots

Once you have the experience – take a course

There are tons of videos on YouTube about this topic, but a video goes only so far. You need to try these skills out in a guided environment. It’s best to find a course over a week, as it teaches you efficiently and gives enough time to practice and build confidence. There is a lot that could go wrong when mountaineering, and learning from a pro goes a long way. Don’t even worry about gear yet. Do a course first, then decide which equipment to buy. Best courses usually end with a guided tour at the end to try out the newly acquired skills in the wild.

What a Good Mountaineering Beginners Class Should Teach You

A good course should cover the following skills to prepare you for mountaineering. If you take or book a course, make sure to check the contents of the package you buy, and compare it to the list. If you can find tick off most of these points, that’s a good sign. Keep in mind to only book courses from accredited professionals!

Safety and protection techniques for snow and ice

  • How to use an ice ax
  • Using and setting up crampons
  • Self-arresting
  • Building anchors in snow and Ice
  • Safe traverse of glaciers including crevasse reading and glacial terrain
  • Spotting hazards and dangers on a glacier
  • Planning a route through a glaciers
  • Crevasse rescue
  • Ice climbing in alpine terrain
  • Multi-pitch climbing

Planning and orientation

  • Navigation in the mountains
  • Finding effective routes
  • Intro to tools like GPS Navigation systems, compass, barometer
  • Using topographical maps, triangulations and getting bearings from a map
  • Following a course and bearing while roped up
  • Finding a bearing without plans and map

Accident and emergency response

  • How to evacuate when emergencies happen
  • How to travel safely on rocky alpine terrain
  • Short-roping basics
  • Protection against rocks
  • Building anchors on rocks and natural features
  • Rappelling in alpine terrain
how to get started with mountaineering
A good course should include glacier traversal techniques

Beginners Gear For Starting Mountaineering

If you’re serious about mountaineering, you will need gear for both winter camping and of course rock climbing. Get these very basics first, before you buy more sophisticated gear:

Harness for mountaineering

You can use any rock climbing harness for mountaineering, but it needs to have enough room and size, so it even fits when you’re wearing insulating winter pants and jacket. It should also be comfortable, as you’re going to wear it for possibly hours on end
If you want a good all-round harness under 60$, I use a Petzl Corax, and it works really well on rock climbing, via Ferrata and mountaineering. Plus it’s really comfortable.

Crampons

You definitely will need crampons at one point. 12 point semi-rigid ones will work well, and as they have enough flexibility, they will work well on all-mountain types. This is important as glacier walks are different from ice climbing.

Mountaineering boots

A typical modern mountaineering boot has a hard plastic outer body and a soft inner boot. It might seem overkill and too technical, but once you have wet or damp feet, you need the inner boot to be removable to dry and warm it up in your sleeping bag while at basecamp or biwaque.

Ice ax

A lifesaver. These aggressive and curved ice tools are not only used when ice climbing, but also for all sorts of tasks when mountaineering. The standard ice ax is the piolet shape. Its length ranges from 60 to 100cm. And you can use to get stable on steeply sloped approaches and even to arrest yourself when sliding or falling. Plus you can use it to punch steps into snow and ice or even as a makeshift pivot when you drill it into ice.

How To Find A Good Partner For Mountaineering When You Just Get Started

Everything is better together. In the case of mountaineering (and climbing for that matter), this is especially true. A partner in the mountains can be your safety net, and there have been many stories of people who had their partner rescue their lives in case of accidents. Climbing alone where you belay yourself is also an advanced skill you shouldn’t even think about as a beginner.

Where To Search For Mountaineering Partners

But how to find a right and reliable mountaineering partner? Mountaineering is not only climbing, you don’t just spend 2 hours on the crag together, but probably days on days, in cold and terrible weather if you go for multi-day tours.
The first option is to join a club. There are tons of clubs, in North America alone you have the American Alpine Club and Alpine Club of Canada as well as the Sierra Club.
Google is your friend, so type in your region or area and mountaineering or climbing club, and you will find some results. After you finished a course, you can then join a trip organized by the club and see if you find friendly people there.
You could also team up with a friend a do a course together. However, it’s a better idea to partner up with a person more experienced than you if possible – that way, you can learn and get better.

Be a Good Team Member To Find a Mountaineering Partner

By the way, if you join a club and go on a trip with them don’t be an a**. Be respectful, bring good vibes, and help to keep them in the group. Prepare well and show that you’re motivated by taking action and responsibilities over like doing tasks when setting up camp etc.
It’s all about being a constructive member of a team here. After all, if you should end up in a situation where your lives depend on each other, it’s good to know someone will have your back.

What a Mountaineering Partner Should Bring to The Table

You joined a club, maybe even went on a couple of trips with them. And you made some friends, but now you’re planning your first trip alone, and you need to decide who to bring as a partner. Of course, a partner should be someone you feel comfortable spending days out in the wild with, so the very basic human interaction should feel natural, which means you probably need to be on the same wavelength. It’s also no harm to pick someone you feel comfortable having a more extended discussion than 3 sentences with – although this is optional if you’re more the silent type yourself.
But there are some other things you should keep in mind, after all, you’re not just planning a camping trip. Mountaineering can leave you to end up in a situation where your life depends on your partner. So make sure this person is

a) Someone with sufficient attention to detail.

Drilling ice screws, building anchors, etc. is stuff you don’t want to mess up. Sloppy work here means you die in the worst case.

b) Understands safety measures and redundancy.

I’ve personally met many climbers who were not aware of the implications of their actions. Leaving out redundancy measures when it comes to arresting, belaying and anchor building can be fatal. And the point of redundancy is not to be used all the time but rather to be a backup. If someone argues with you about a redundant measure with the argument “never happened to me, I don’t see the point” this is a surefire sign of him not understanding this concept. Ditch him as a partner!

how to get started with mountaineering
Every team member should share the valuea about safety and redundancy

c) Takes responsibility for his actions.

If you screw up, you accept the blame. It’s that easy. There is neither room nor time to argument about these things when you’re on a mountaineering trip. A good partner understands it.

d) Is a problem solver.

The last thing you need on difficult approaches is someone starting arguments about simple stuff. Your partner should be someone who solves problems instead of creating new ones.

e) Keeps a level head.

Yes, there are situations where panic is usual, but try to find someone who is calm and quiet. You can assess this by observing how a person reacts when belaying others, build anchors, arrest himself, etc. Is he calm and focused? Or does he fumble around, gets nervous, etc. Being tense and hectic can also mean he is inexperienced, in this case, you should also think twice about bringing him along – unless you feel confident enough to take a beginner. Beginners should not bring other beginners!

Conclusion

I covered the most important steps on how to get started with mountaineering in this article. We had a look at the different skills needed, now it’s time to go out and practice. Read my guide for climbing preparation, building up climbing endurance, what to keep in mind and why to wear helmets and feel free to comment! Would love to get feedback as always.

Pic source: Either mine or unsplash.

 

Categories
Bouldering Climbing

How do you tape your fingers for rock climbing? The best methods for joint and skin protection

Oh, the good old fingers. While there are some parts of the body which take a while to notice as important, every beginner knows that fingers are essential immediately — no feeling like hurting fingers and broken skin from a long climbing session after a break. As fingers are so important, nut how do you tape your fingers for rock climbing and how to do it properly? There are two main reasons to tape: First is skin protection, second is the protection of the tendons and pulleys, aka structural stability. While skin protection is something, most beginners immediately feel, pulley and joint protection is something that might become important once you have been climbing for a while. I’ll show you the best methods here.

Tendon and finger injuries heal slow and should be avoided if possible!

But don’t underestimate this! Tendon and pulley injuries take a long time to heal, and while the proper gripping technique is critical to avoid damage, knowing how to tape against these injuries is also important. Skin flappers are also really painful and take days to heal properly, so it’s good to have some backup plans when you feel cuts and abrasions on your fingers.

I’m going to explain the reasoning behind taping, show you some methods to do it right, and give recommendations of good tape. After reading this article, you’ll be a theoretical pro in the art of taping – time to go out and practice!

Finger taping for skin protection

Most beginners use finger tape to protect against skin injury. When you start climbing or bouldering your skin is not used to abrasions. Climbing also puts a lot of pressure on your skin when you grip holds. If you climb outside on volcanic stone or limestone, this is even worse, but also inside the gym taping is useful.

The idea is to make a second layer of skin with tape to protect your actual skin from ripping apart. Usually, you do it at the end of a long and hard climbing session when your skin is becoming raw and torn down. Using tape this way can save you from days of pain with large flapping injuries.

There is a huge problem with tape though: It decreases friction, and you won’t have the same amount of feeling when gripping a hold. This means climbing will become harder as you have not the same gripping power when you wear tape. And it makes slipping even easier, especially when you are sweating a lot. So be prepared to slip and have a less reliable grip on slopers and difficult holds. The proper taping technique can reduce friction loss, we will explain this later.

Don’t overdo tape

If you overdo it with tape, you will also very likely never acclimate your skin to climbing. Fact is: Climbing is hard on your skin, and if you keep climbing without tape, your hands will eventually adapt, and harden up. But if you continuously tape up, this process takes longer or is stopped altogether.

My advice is that you instead use tape when there is no other way around skin injury, but don’t start taping with the first little hint of pain. Alternatively, you should control your grip and hand placement, as well as body positioning. You will be surprised how much less pressure and grip power you need if you position your weight correctly. This will also make you a more effective and efficient climber, so it’s a win-win.

So, while this process hurts, it will give your climbing more efficiency and precision in the long run. Another option is to tape your hand while you work on project routes and remove it for the final send attempt.Once you start bleeding from open cuts or abrasions, you should definitely stop the bleeding first and then tape. It’s super gross for other people to grab bloody holds.

Best way to treat skin wounds with finger taping

Best way to treat a wound with tape is taping the back of the open finger first, then wrapping the open cut or abrasion by overlapping tape and then wrapping the tape to an anchor to the closest joint to the wound. This way, the tape is stable and won’t fall off too easy.This is not an iron shell though, so it will come off eventually and one point your session is just finished, so go home and heal up.

Get some good skincare and rest! When you do crack climbing, you can also wear tape like a glove so wrap your wrist and hand multiple times. This way jamming your hand inside the crack for a stable resting and hold position is not becoming too painful, and your wrist and finger knuckles are protected.

How do you tape your fingers for rock climbing
Flappers are painful, but can be avoided with proper taping. Just listen to your skin, and when it starts to hurt start taping.

2. Finger taping for injury prevention

The other thing you can use taping for is to protect your finger against injuries.Each finger has two main tendons. One flexing the middle part and one flexing the fingertip. Think about the anatomy of a finger: You have the skeleton of your finger, then there are tendons running underneath, and there are muscles. These three are allowing you to flex the finger.

How do you tape your fingers for rock climbing
Anatomy of your fingers

Pulleys are tissue sheaths used to keep tendons, muscles, and bones in your finger close together. The tendons in your finger are supported by pulleys, ligament-like structures, holding the tendons close to the finger. A pulley is designed to stop the tendon from bowstringing. If you crimp your fingers, then they are bending, and there’s a lot of stress on them as the tendons will be tempted to do a bowstring motion, making them pop out from the skeleton – not good.

Tendons are your biological tape

If the tendon is kind of like the interior biological tape keeping the whole package of muscles and bones together, then the pulley stops this tape from moving too much. Now if you’re crimping a lot as most climbers do you’ll start to feel a bit of soreness in your finger for doing it too much, and that is a sign that the pulley is becoming a bit inflamed and sore so we’re going to use exterior tape to help keep that package together and stop the tendon from bowstringing.

And you want to avoid a ruptured pulley from too much force, as then your tendon bowstrings when you crimp. This kind of injury is relatively new in the field of medicine, beginning to really show up in the 80s among rock climbers. The pulley destroying force is strongest around the second finger joints, which makes sense as this is the point where maximum forces occur when you crimp a hold.

Proper gripping technique is key

It’s even worse when you fall off a foothold because this leads to uncontrolled contraction of the hand to counterbalance the lost foothold. And that’s when finger injuries typically happen, aka ruptured pulleys. Most commonly, this occurs during power moves or when you avoid a fall at all cost, and it likely happens to middle and ring finger, as these are mostly under pressure when crimping. There are even studies that show that stress on this second finger joint is 30% higher when crimping compared to openhand holding. Proper gripping technique is super important.

So you want to protect the pulleys around this area. And tape protects these pulleys during movements by supporting their work and thus decreasing force on them.

Methods of finger taping to use

I’m going to show you three different ways of how to tape your fingers to prevent pulley damage now. A Video says more than many words, this one shows the 3 methods discussed. Watch in slow motion and you will have perfect taping in no time.

 

Ring method

For this method just grab some climbing tape and don’t worry – this is the easiest way to taping. It protects the two main pulleys that usually get injured. Lay the tape over the finger like a ring, shown in the picture. We use the middle finger in the photo as it’s one of the fingers that usually gets injured. Keep your finger slightly bent while applying the tape around it.

Then pull the tape with a little bit of tension while you start wrapping around the finger like a wedding ring. Slowly move the tape up the finger, so you have overlapping strips, while you keep the finger slightly bend. Just don’t pull the tape too tightly, as you don’t want to suppress blood flow or bandage the finger. Tension should be just enough to fasten the tape in place, one good indicator is if you can feel the tape supporting your finger a little bit when you crimp or flex the finger.

How do you tape your fingers for rock climbing
Step 1 – Ring method – start under your joint. Pic from https://everythingaboutclimbing.com/taping-fingers-for-climbing/

 

How do you tape your fingers for rock climbing
Step 2 – Ring Method – Keep tape nice and tight Pic from https://everythingaboutclimbing.com/taping-fingers-for-climbing/
How do you tape your fingers for rock climbing
Step 3 – Ring Method – Wrap around 2-3 times. Pic from https://everythingaboutclimbing.com/taping-fingers-for-climbing/

X Method

This method tapes both pulleys, front and back of a joint. The theory is that if one pulley is sore and damaged the other one will very likely be hurt and damaged too so better tape them both. You will use one piece of tape to tape both pulleys basically. Fix some tape around the first pulley in front of the joint, pull it tight and then wrap it around in a full pass and come back across the joint until you reach the other area behind the joint. Now continue, wrap one complete pass around, and cross back to where you came from.

What you have now looks like an X because the tape crosses over in the middle of the joint. Repeat this two or three times. You now have the full range of motion, it’s not restricting, and bot pulleys are secured, and the tape supports them when you crimp or flex.

How do you tape your fingers for rock climbing
Step 1 – X Method. Pic from https://everythingaboutclimbing.com/taping-fingers-for-climbing/
How do you tape your fingers for rock climbing
Step 2 – X Method. Pic from https://everythingaboutclimbing.com/taping-fingers-for-climbing/
Step 3 – X Method. Pic from https://everythingaboutclimbing.com/taping-fingers-for-climbing/
How do you tape your fingers for rock climbing
Step 4 – X Method. Pic from https://everythingaboutclimbing.com/taping-fingers-for-climbing/
How do you tape your fingers for rock climbing
Step 5 – X Method. Pic from https://everythingaboutclimbing.com/taping-fingers-for-climbing/

 

H method

The H method is the newest, and it’s also called the shuffle method because it was first described by Isabel shuffle in 2007 in the Journal of hand biomechanics. It is essentially a modified X method as it also assumes both pulleys to be sore when one starts to hurt.

Get a piece of tape and rip it in the middle, so it has two little legs like in the picture. It’s actually a wide piece of tape that you kind of split down the middle on each side. Wrap it around your finger, lay the middle of the H over the joint and this does work a lot better if you have a wider tape. Start with the front pulley first and use the little leg here and come around the top. If it gets in the way, you can just move it to the side, then come around the top of the finger. Strap down and secure it. Then use the other leg only to do half a pass and finish that pulley off.

Start on the back pulley again moving around the finger, move tape which is in the way to the side and secure it. Then go the opposite direction with the other piece of tape. Work it around, and you will still have the full range of motion here because the knuckle of your finger is not taped up. But you can see when you crimp or flex the finger that you’ve got a lot of support on the pulley and on the back of your finger. Both pulleys are secured now and again if you crimp or flex the finger you should really feel the tape giving support.

How do you tape your fingers for rock climbing
Step 1 – H Method
How do you tape your fingers for rock climbing
Step 2 – H Method
How do you tape your fingers for rock climbing
Step 3 – H Method
How do you tape your fingers for rock climbing
Step 4 – H Method
How do you tape your fingers for rock climbing
Step 5 – H Method

Which method to use?

From a scientific point of view, the H method is best because Studies have shown with ultrasound measurement have shown that this method tapes up the tendon and the bone extremely close together. So theoretically it’s the most efficient way to keep things together, followed by the X method and the ring method which is the least effective.But if you remember, it’s not just the job of tape to keep the tendon and the bone as close as possible but rather to stop bowstringing and transfer forces from pulleys to another structure. All three methods successfully do it and alleviate pressure on the pulleys and your fingers.

X Method – easy to make and best to use

I’ve used the ring method before I’ve used the X method and I’ve used the H method, and i like them all. Most times, I use the X method because it is easy to tape. The H method is a pain in the butt to tape sometimes, as it is more complicated. Whichever way you prefer, they all work, just make sure to tape proper, not too tight but tight enough.

Tape Recommendations – These Tapes Were Tested By US

So now that you know why climbers tape their fingers, some recommendations for tape brands are in order. I tested several types of tape in the past, and this is my personal experience. In my book, Metolius Climbing Tape works really good and i use it often. If i don’t use Metolius, i use Evolv Magic Finger Tape.

It’s very sticky and still easy to roll and use. Even when used in multi-pitch crack climbing as a glove it will hold. While it’s a little difficult to split and rip, it still works nicely for individual finger taping. Be careful if you have lots of hairs, this tape sticks to them. Price is also low. Another brand I can recommend is Leukotape, which is pretty expensive but even stickier as Metolius while also being very durable.

6. Conclusion

Wow, a lot of information in one article. Takeaways: Taping is suitable for skin protection both for fingers and the whole hand when crack climbing, but don’t overdo it – you want your fingers to harden up. Taping is also great to prevent finger joint injuries, use any of the three methods I explained. Buy some Metolius or Leukoplast Tape if you want good tape and keep in mind that proper climbing technique decreases the risk of injuries and skin problems. Learn proper gripping technique too!

And if you liked this article make sure to subscribe and check out my other articles on climbing gear, proper toprope anchors and bouldering preparation.

Photo/Videos from Youtube, Other Websites, Unsplash, Grass Roots Physical Therapy or selfmade.

Categories
Reviews

La Sportiva Tarantulace Climbing Shoe Review: Best beginner climbing shoes and perfect allrounder?

Conventional wisdom has it that climbing shoes either hurt and are made for performance or they are comfortable but lack edging and pointiness for pockets. While this is true in general, there are some shoes that promise qualities for both beginners and pros that look  for a versatile all round shoe. La Sportivas Tarantulace is such a shoe. Described by the manufacturer as a “super-comfortable, high-performance solution for any climber looking for one shoe to do it all” this is a pretty big mouthful of marketing terms. Bold statements right? Time to do a La Sportiva Tarantulace climbing shoe review.

Let’s see if these shoes live up to their hype, and many testers think these are comfortable all rounders with good performance qualities, so i put mine to the test and had them on for the better part of this seasons, be it outside on the rock or inside the gym.

My verdict?

These pair of shoes are living up to their name! I also had some friends who are beginners test them and one of our coaches had them on too, and we all agree: For most climbing these are very durable, comfortable shoes that have great performance even for advanced climbersPros might feel they’re are a bit too soft and flat, but for their price, these shoes are hard to beat. Certain areas are only so-so, but that’s a small price to pay for a real all-rounder shoe.

 

 

Specs

  • Weight: 7.7 oz (per shoe)
  • Shape: Flat (comfort)
    Construction: Slip Lasted
    Last : WRN 45 This means the last has a round toe
  • Fit: Arched with low asymmetry.
  • Upper: Leather / Synthetic Leather
  • Lining: unlined
  • Midsole: 1.8 mm LaspoFlex
  • Sole: 5.0 mm FriXion® RS­
  • Sizes: 33-44 including half sizes
  • Color: Blue

Performance

Edging  

These shoes perform well on edges. But they are not ultimate weapons. There will be sections, when you have tiny edges or undefined lines where these shoes have only OK edge grip. It’s still ok, but just keep in mind that you pay a slight price for the comfort. So if you need ultimate edging they’re not for you.

 

la sportiva tarantulace climbing shoe review
La Sportivas proven and true loops on the hook. Awesome to carry the Tarantulaces.

Pockets 

The Tarantulaces are not really pointy shoes, and they are also rather flat and not very stiff either. So unsurprisingly they do not perform really great in pockets. Most of us found them to be ok, but if they have limitations in one regard, than it’s this. Due to the rounded toe it’s kind of hard to slam them into narrow pockets, and where we climb this has been an issue sometimes (Frankenjura)

The stiffness allows you to trust your toes when you can fit them, but the TCs aren’t the pointiest of shoes. The relatively rounded toe doesn’t lend itself to small or narrow pockets, although you have to get onto some pretty specific terrain before it really becomes a problem.

Heel Hooks 

The Tarantulaces are pretty good for heel hooks. Like all La Sportivas now they have a big wide stripe of extra rubber on their back heel, and it works just great. Allthough they’re not super stiff, heel hooks work great, while not being super precise.

la sportiva tarantulace climbing shoe review
Typical La Sportiva Heel Rubber: Good for precise heel hooking.

Toe Hooks 

Tarantulaces are no shoe for competition or hardcore boulder problems, so toe hookes work only so-so. There is some extra rubber in the front, but this is definitely not the speciality of this shoe. You can probably squeeze out some stabilizing hooks every now and then, but no extreme rooftop climbing.

Sensitivity 

Due to their flexible sole and soft material these shoes are pretty sensitive, and that’s why they perform good in this regard.I could even wear socks inside them and still have OKAY feeling, during some winter sessions. No matter what you do feel is always great.

Precision 

Another great area for the Trarantulaces.Given their flexibility and comfort they are pretty precise. Edging works well, toe precision is good to a point where you can toe down small edges and they will always give you this nice feeling of trust. As said already, the toe is not super pointy, but effective enough for mid to small footholds.

la sportiva tarantulace climbing shoe review
The Tarantulaces toe is not overly pointy, but does OKAY for most pockets and corners.

Smearing 

The Tarantulaces work super nice for smearing. As they’re so flexible you get super grip on slick terrain, better than most stiff counterparts. They’re like suction cups, as one of my friends described them. And as they’re soft you get a great level of feedback on smears too. What you lose in edging power you definitely gain in smearing abilities.

Cracks 

Crack climbing works well with the Tarantulaces, but they’re not super stiff. So don’t expect wonders. They do a pretty decent job in thin finger cracks due to their low profile, as you can jam them inside the crack pretty good.
I wouldn’t recommend them for multi-pitch crack climbing, as they have no real ankle support for wider cracks, but they do pretty well on your daily crack needs!

la sportiva tarantulace climbing shoe review
The Tarantulace  is more or less flat, but that does not mean it’s a bad shoe. In fact it makes them awesome for slabs and smearing, because they are also really soft.

Steepness (Slab to Slightly Overhung)

The Tarantulaces work pretty good on slab routes due to superior smearing qualities. You can also get vertical and slightly overhaning with them, but if you need to doe hard toedowns on steep footholds or power toe hooks in harcore overhung roofs they start to limit. But anything moderately overhung, even boulders, work good.

 

Sizing & Fit

I have fairly wide feet, and La Sportivas are usually a great fit. The Tarantulaces are made in the wider side, so if you have super narrow feet they might have little too much real estate.

My friend who has wide feet said: “I really like that they are so wide, makes them so comfortable”

I size them exactly my European street size would be. For me, being a 42, this is a 9 US street shoe size. And with this size i can touc hthe end of the shoe, and my feet are pretty flat. Hits the spot for me, as i can wear them all day long  – i sometimes even keep them on when i belay.

Good thing about the La Sportiva heel form is that they fit lots of different feet and sizes. And the lacing works super convenient too. they never opened up on me by accident.

Durability

Yup, like a true allrounder you can abuse these shoes. Even if you take them through the wringer multiple times, they will continue to point and edge well. And the smearing works super good, even after a fullseason of slab climbing. Since i wear mine for belaying sometime too, they have seen all kinds of wide terrain and rock abuse.

The outer synthetic leather works great, and mine have seen some deal of abuse due to hectic footwork and changing weather conditions, i.e. mud and water too. They still shine!

The FriXion® RS­ rubber is a good blend of performance and durability. It’s probably more on the softer side, which makes it great for smearing, but still holds up pretty well. Overall they are maybe a bit less durable than super stiff shoes with the more stiffer mixtures, but i haven’t really felt this in reality.

There have been some users reporting ripped lace holes, but it never happened to me or my friends. And from what i heard they should also be pretty easy to resole too, so if you really use the sole up get a new sole and voila, they’re almost like new!

la sportiva tarantulace climbing shoe review
Looking good even after a season of climbing. The La Sportiva Tarantulace is a durable shoe.

Comfort

Wow, well comfort is one of the reasons you buy the Tarantulaces. If you go climbing for a whole day, you basically want climbing shoes which feel like sneakers. It really sucks to have hurt feet after only 3 or 4 routes, and that’s why even advanced climbers go with comfort shoes.

When it comes to comfort, these shoes are the shit. When you finish a long pitch, you will probably not even take these shoes off, as they’re so comfortable. I sometimes forget i am wearing them, and start belaying my friends and realize i’m still wearing them.

If you ask me, their comfort is one of their bigges benefits, and as long as their performance is enough for my day to day climbing i will happily wear this type of shoes 90% of the time.

la sportiva tarantulace climbing shoe review
Nice and easy lacing means the shoe has a precise fit.

Price / Value

Unlike most of La Sportiva’s top shoes, these shoes are aimed for beginners too, and that’s why they are a bargain of around 70$.

For this price, their value is almost unreal, a beginner shoe that can be worn even when you advance, does great on any slabs, performs good in overhangs and feels super comfortable.

Final Thoughts

If you’re just beginning to climb, or are a seasoned pro, these shoes can be your daily driver. They perform on most routes, are very nice to wear, are durable and cheap. For the price it’s also hard to find another option that is as versatile as these.

If you’re trying to send your hardcore project route, then this shoe might be not your best fit, but for good performance with top-of-the-line comfort these are very high on my list.

When it comes down to just getting your climbing in, me and my friends have always been glad we bough them, and we have been rocking them inside the boulder gym, climbing gym, outdoor pitches, boulder problems in winter and summer. A great all-rounder!

For more climbing articles like how to get better bouldering, and how to train more effectively keep on reading!

 

Categories
Bouldering Climbing

Cold Weather Climbing – 20 tips how to stay warm when climbing in cold weather

We all know the problem, summer season is way too short for most of us living in northern climate zones. And when September ends, days get cooler and you might be able to sneak in a good session in October, but wait until November and thats over. Rain and cold are sneaking up on you, making belaying and climbing a challenge. Everyone who climbed outside with temperatures below the 40s can probably agree with me, climbing in cold weather is tough.

Add some wind and you’ve got a recipe for numb hands and feet, plus the cold rock doesn’t make it any easier.
But the cold has some nice side effects too, friction on some rocks becomes better when temperatures are cold. And there are virtually zero crowds – this is especially true if you live in places with lots of climbing routes on relatively small area, which tend to be overcrowded in summer.

But how do you stay warm and comfortable, or at least keep cold to a bearable level and stay safe, when the days get shorter and the temperatures drop?
Get ready for a load of information, and while some of these tips may sound funny or odd, they are field proven and work.

Combine these two approaches for staying warm when climbing in cold weather

A) Body heat and insulation: Anything clothing and exercise related falls into this category. Eating and warming up as well. This is the base of staying warm.
B) External heat sources: Warmers, hot Liquids and exposure to Sun falls under this category. These are optional, and while they can make a difference, they won’t work too well if you neglect A.

1. Layering

Layering is key. Air insulates, and the best way to keep warm air around your core is to have multiple layers of clothes. You need 3 layers to stay warm, a base layer a mid layer and a nice warm outer shell like a down jacket.

As your head loses most of the heat you should also always wear a beanie, headband or hat. And sometimes a hood on top of the beanie works wonders to keep heat from evaporating from your neck – a spot which looses lots of heat when you’re exercising outside.

Warm socks are also a no-brainer. How to deal with tight climbing shoes? Get a comfortable pair one size bigger for the cold time of the year and wear your socks, it makes a ton of difference. Trust me,, its better to have little less feeling due to socks than numb toes from freezing.

Another layer most forget is the mid layer, aka underpants. It can be leggings or a pantyhose but what i prefer are leg warmers or knee pads. It’s an incredible difference when your legs stay warm as they are such a big organ and tend to lose more heat than you think. Don’t forget to put on some nice puffy pants once you start belaying – that way you stay warm while inactive.

Your number one priority should be adequate clothing, as it keeps not only your core warm but also your hands and feet. Cold hands and feet are usually a sign of your body trying to increase your core temperature by reducing blood flow to the extremities as a counter measure.

 

Snowy rocks mean no crowds.

 

2. Add and remove layers to avoid sweating

Avoiding to sweat is key to staying warm. So make sure to get rid of too much clothes while you actually climb to avoid soaking in sweat, and put on another extra layer while you’re belaying and staying still. Belaying is your enemy when climbing in cold weather, and this is even worse if there is wind blowing. So make sure to put on some extra layers when you’re belaying. The principle of staying dry in order to stay warm is old outdoor knowledge, and it comes down to basic thermodynamics. When your body is wet, heat transport is increased and this leads to rapid cooling. And by the way, that’s why you get cold so fast when you’re swimming in cold water.

3. Chemical Warmer Packs

If things get really freezing there is a nice trick i use: I heat my chalk bag with chemical warmers. You can get them at any supply store or even online at amazon. Just throw one in you chalk bag. Frozen rock makes your fingers cold really quick, and this way you are sure that your cold and numb fingers get a nice breeze of warm and comfy chalk every time you dunk in. This is very important for the first routes, as numb fingers when beginning a route can stop any sending in the tracks.
They sell them for your body too, and if you’re sensitive to cold get one warmer pack for your chest too. A warm chest means warm blood flow and will definitely keep your feet and hands from becoming numb fast. But be careful to leave a layer of clothes between the warmer pack and your skin to avoid burns.

4. Calisthenics

Warm up for at least 10 minutes with an extra layer of cloth, until you just start to break sweat.
The penguin exercise is great for warming up, as you rub your sides of the torso with your arms really quick, increasing flow of blood and increasing heat.

Don’t just focus on your hands – cold hands BEFORE climbing usually mean your body temperature as whole is too low. It’s okay if your hands get cold from touching the rock while on the climb, but you should always feel warm and comfortable beforehand. Never start a climb with numb and cold hands – instead do jumping jacks and some push-ups to get the blood flowing.
And then shed the extra layer of clothing before you start.

5.Numb out early to have better circulation later on

If it’s frozen solid outside, you will quickly notice that your fingers numb at out at some point no matter what you do to avoid it. And when they warm up they will hurt like crazy, this is called screaming barfies. It’s cause by warm blood entering your fingers, making the tissue swell up and this puts pressure on the nerves. This hurts like a *****, but it’s good as it means you are regaining temperature and bloodflow, and it usually happens only once in the beginning.

It might make sense to try and get this sensation out of they way as early as possible because when it’s over you will have the benefit of good blodflow and further numbing will feel less painful when reheating.

6. Climb and belay in the sun

Wintersun has not much energy compared to the summersun, but it’s still a good idea to stick with the sun exposed routes in winter. You will be pleasantly surprised how much of a difference it makes if you’re belaying in shade or in sunlight, even in winter. A nice side effect: You can focus on the your project routes that are way to hot during summer after all. And the rock is warming up in the sun too, making it easier to avoid finger numbing from cold rock.

7. Keep the right temperature all the time

This is close related to 2. Like said before, moisture from sweating should be something you avoid like the plague. So better strip the outer layers when the approach to the route includes a steep ascent or some brushes to find your way through. If you cannot avoid sweating, at least bring a second shirt or layer of choice and change into it when you arrive. But don’t change to soon, or you might “aftermath” sweat into the new layer – it takes some time after exercise until your body actually stops perspirating.

8. Insulated Clothing

Toss your summer clothes when climbing in cold weather. It’s winter time and you need a warm down jacket. Stick with a down jacket( at least 600 fill power) and a hood when its below 40 degree. A hood keeps your neck from losing heat, and a down jacket is nice and toasty. If it’s raining you can either get a synthetic down jacket or cover your down jacket with a rain cover. You definitely need to keep down dry, as they lose their insulating effect when wet. Gloves can be a nice addition too, especially when the approach is long.

9. Drink hot tea, cocoa or coffee

Bring a gas stove and make a soup, tea or coffee if possible. Hot cocoa is nice too, and the added sugar and fat give you some calories to burn and stay warm. It’s also a nice psychological effect: A warm gas stove, with a cozy flame is always a comforting sight in the crisp cold of winter. Don’t overdo it with the caffeine by the way, as it acts as a natural blood flow inhibitor, and caffeine jitters can be especially annoying when lead climbing, as most people are prone to adrenaline rushes when leading anyway.

10. Eat, Eat, Eat

If it’s cold your body needs more energy. If you spend hour after hour outside, you must feed your body enough fuel, so bring plenty of good snacks like dry nuts&fruits, apples and bananas and maybe some energy bars or even a sandwich.

A good breakfast with hearty foot is also something you can do: Avocado, nuts, peanut butter eggs and bacon, they all work well. Just make sure you don’t overfill and become sleepy before you go climbing.

Nice side effect: There is no nicer way to eat than outside, in a cold sunny forest or natural scenery with your best friends while having a hot cup of tea.

12. Instead of taking turns each route, climb longer and then take turns

Instead of climbing and belaying and taking turns, you can consider to block your climbing and belaying time. That way you avoid to warm um after getting cold in loops, but rather warm up once, finish all your climbs and then belay. This way you minimize needed resting.

Climbing in cold weather
Instead taking turns, keep climbing for more than one route

13. Make  a fire, but be careful with the rock

If it’S really cold, make a fire. It’s a great way to warm up between climbs and is a cozy sight at any rockwall during winter time. But be careful, if it’s way below 30 degree, try to be super careful with the rock. The problem is: Cold rock is more brittle than warm rock, so if it has been snowing for some days you should probably avoid having a fire close to the wall as this destroys the climb forever. NEVER use torches or tarps to keep the rock warm or dry, as it ruins the route forever. Instead rather head to the climbing gym and work on some power moves.

14. Keep gloves on when belaying

Exposing your hands to cold wind and rope is a surefire way to numb out. So invest some money in good insulated leather gloves, not only does it keep your hands warm, but they also look good and protect from rope burn.

15. Rest while climbing with arms down the side

While sending it, make sure to take rests every once in a while. Let your arms hang down to the side of the body when resting, as this makes blood flow easier. The worst position is arms above head, as this actually forces blood to flow out of them.

16. Once you go numb, use your eyes

In a situations where your appendages go numb make it a habit to visually confirm that your placement of feet is good and spot on. Just because you cannot feel it, does not mean it’s not a good position for your feet!

17. Use your arm pits and breath when resting to warm up your hands and fingers

Just stick your hands under your armpits when resting, they will warm up this way. Another trick when climbing in cold weather is to form a cave with your hands and breath into them for 3-4 breaths, this gives them a little short burst of heat and feeling if they start to go numb. I’ve been doing this while surfing for years and it worked super great for climbing too.

18. Keep your climbing shoes in front of your belly, just on layer above skin while belaying

By keeping your pair of climbing shoes close to your body they stay nice and warm, so when it’s your turn to climb your shoes are soft and warm and ready to rock. And warm shoes will keep your feet warmer too. Just make sure you don’t put the directly to your skin as this will cool your skin down when the shoes are cold.

19. Follow this preparation before and while climbing

This is my goto recipe, and if you follow this approach you will not become cold.
1. Before you start driving, open up two hand warmers so they’ll be warm by the time you get to the parking.
2. Once you park, put the hand warmers in your climbing shoes and put your climbing shoes underneath all your layers, right up against your belly.
3. Tuck all your layers into your pants and then hike out to the rock or boulders. 4. Do 50 jumping jacks.
5. Put the shoes on one at a time, and blow hot air into them, put ’em on as fast as you can to keep the heat inside.
6. Fill a beanie with 4 hand warmers, in between attempts stuff your hands and feet into the beanie.

20. Keep some hand warmers in your shoes

Just keep hand warmers in your shoes, one per shoe. This will keep the shoes warm and soft. As the hand warmers stay warm for hours, this strategy works super well even when outside for hours on end.

Conclusion
That’s it guys. These 20 methods work super good for staying warm when climbing in cold weather. Definitely check your local mountain supply store for discounts on down jackets and winter gloves.
But with these tips you will probably never have to suffer excess cold when climbing outside during the winter months or in cold weather. Here are some more tips for climbing endurance and my article of the differences between indoor and outdoor bouldering..
Stay warm and fuzzy!