Categories
Bouldering Climbing

Climbing – what is edging? How to learn it, which shoes to use and why it’s a great tool.

Want to send harder routes climbing? Tackle new problems when bouldering? Well, you need to know how to use your lower body, specifically how to edge. If you can place your feet properly, your arms will have less weight to hold, and finding the right position for your feet is half of the game. But what is edging? It’s when you place the side of your foot, either from the big toe down or from the pinky toe down on a narrow step of rock, often not ticker than a finger. Edging is a great tool for any climber or boulderer. It helps you to not only send harder routes but also to preserve energy on long climbs. Read on to learn it, i also added some really helpful videos to get you started, credit goes out to the guys who made them!

Becoming an efficient climber or boulderer means you know how to place your feet. This means not only to put them softly and quietly but also knowing how to make use of small footholds. Most beginners don’t know how to efficiently use and trust their feet, which is usually showing when they try out footwork heavy routes – notice how shaky your legs sometimes get when trying a new route? This is a lack of trust and confidence in your own feet. Give it some training and time, and you will become ultra-confident in your feet, trusting shoes and footholds. That’s when you will become balance and elegant too.

What is edging exactly?

Edging is a type of feet position when climbing. It’s called edging because you place your feet on tiny narrow edges of rock, often thinner than 3 fingers.
Typically you need edging when you try to place your feet on a foothold that’s too small to fit your whole foot. You basically have two options here: You either decide to use the tip of your feet, which is usually the area around your big toe, or you employ the edging technique.

In some scenarios, the big toe makes more sense, typically for pockets and corners. But if the step is narrow and stretched, like a stair, edging can become really valuable. Especially if you are working in a turned position. You can use either the inside edge or the outside edge of your shoe. Inside means, your big toe gives you stability on tiny holds, which is preferable to the outer edge. But the inside edge might face in the wrong direction, depending on where you want to move next, then you should use the outside edge.

How to edge correctly?

As I said, most times, you’ll want to use your inside edge. As it is where the big toe is, it’s stronger and more stable. You can put a lot of pressure on your feet this way, even when the edge is tiny, thanks to the excellent grip on climbing shoe soles. This makes inside edging perfect if you want to go vertically up, preparing the next move and stabilizing yourself after reaching for a new handhold.

The outside edge is better to be employed when you want to traverse a route. As it is naturally weaker, it means you cannot really use it to stabilize yourself or position for vertical movement. Outside edging is therefore usually consisting of small, quick steps.

Both types of edging need you to have a lot of feet and ankle strength to keep your heels up in the air under tension. Otherwise, there won’t be enough pressure on the tiny part of the foot that actually rests on the edge. You’ll also need balance to keep yourself positioned perfectly. All these skills need constant work to be learned.

Things to keep in mind when Edging

Keep these following footwork tips in mind when edging:

1) You should always keep your feet directly under your body’s moment of inertia, which is usually below your core. If you can, try to find footholds that are placed directly under you, even if they might not be as big as another foothold to your right or left. You can maintain your balance much easier this way, and better balance means less force needed to hold yourself. Remember that a lack of balance when climbing will usually be counteracted by employing more force on your arms as you need to hold yourself. Do a pullup if you don’t believe me. If you cannot stay balanced, your arms and endurance will suffer.

2) Once you set place your feet on an edge,e keep them there. Unless you positioned them completely wrong, chances are good that you will save more energy by not fiddling around with the position then you would gain from slightly bettering the positioning. Do drills to learn correctly, placing your feet at the first try.

3) Keep your heels high enough, so that you have enough pressure on the edge. IT might be harder on your calves, but the plus of friction will make it easier for your arms to hold you as you have a stable foothold.

Further tips to improve your edging game.

1) Don’t forget your hips. Most beginners keep their hips at a distance from the wall, as it feels safe. But this actually pushes you away from the wall and puts a lot of stress on your muscles.

2)Bring your hips close to the wall instead. It will not only help you put more weight on the feet and keep your arms straight and relaxed but also minimize the chance of getting peeled off the wall. And it closes your shoulders on your back, which makes the angle you need to pull from to make a powerful move with your arms better suited and more comfortable to grip.

3) Look at the edge – your eyes and brain are a powerful tool. You should analyze potential footholds with some scrutiny, as you will find places to do a quick rest etc. And try not to search only for chalk stains, as there are a lot of good edges that most people will never use with their hands.Doing this, you can preserve a lot of power and arm strength by using edges to find good resting points.

Climbing Shoes – What are the best climbing shoes to edge?

Some shoes work better for edging, and some don’t. Aggressively downturned shoes tend to not do very well on edges, as they don’t have a lot of contact face with the rock. Really soft shoes are not doing good on edges either, as they make it harder to grab the rock with your feets’ edge. If downturned and soft shoes don’t work well, what does then? A really stiff and flat shoe. You can use them perfectly on tiny edges, as they will absorb a lot of pressure, relieving your feet of some of the forces, and giving you a stable foothold.

My conclusion on edging

You need good climbing shoes, but also enough training in terms of foot placement. Once you have these things down, and you can put enough pressure on the edge, it all comes down to rock quality and cleanliness of the route.

Go out, get some good shoes, maybe borrow from your buddies, and head out to a local bouldering rock with an edge. Then work on the technique until your feet burn, rinse, and repeat. Once you become better at edging it’s a game-changer. Every tiny narrow edge will give you new ways to attack old problems, and you will very likely be able to send more challenging routes.

And using a tiny surface to do a powerful move to reach a new crux just feels so good. It’s a feeling of maximum use of the resources. And after all, that’s one of the things climbing, and bouldering is all about right? Solving problems efficiently and effectively with what you have at hands – or in this case, feet.

If you enjoyed this article, read some more about how to climb in cold weather, what your climbing shoes should fit like, and why bouldering is a great way to train rock climbing.
Feel free to also leave a comment if you like!

Categories
Bouldering Climbing

Are climbing gyms profitable?

Climbing gyms are expensive, most charge more than 50$ per month for a monthly membership. And a day pass isn’t cheap either with at least 10$ or more. So, it seems they must be a goldmine, right? I mean, if they have 1000 members, this means 60,000$ per month – WOW that’s a lot of money, and we didn’t even account for day pass sales. Have you ever considered opening a climbing gym? Read on; I’m going to debunk some of these myths. As it turns out, running a climbing gym is a tough and expensive business with some very risky assumptions, huge upfront investments, and monthly costs higher than the yearly salary of many folks. It’s time to take out a pencil and calculator and answer the question: Are climbing gyms profitable after all?

Your own climbing gym – a dream job?

To most of us, owning a profitable climbing gym seems like the ultimate dream job. You hang around at your gym all day, go climbing whenever you like, sip coffee or beer in between while making a ton of money from all the climbers. I’m sure you have done some math as I did before. “There are 100 people here right now, take this times 8 for 8 hours operation per day. Then multiply by 10$ per person, times 30 days per month, and you rake in about 240,000$ per month. Wow, seems like a pretty sweet deal right, I guess I could do that too”.

Reality looks WAY different than that, though, opening a climbing gym needs a hefty sum to invest upfront because of the climbing wall that needs to be custom-built.But since you cannot just build a climbing wall inside any commercial space. A climbing wall typically goes up to 30 ft or higher – finding a building for this usually involves old industrial real estate. This might include further cost for remodeling the interior of the building etc.

After signing a lease, we still need to build the gym, and even afterward bills keep piling as we need to pay staff members continually for example. And i’m not even talking about rental equipment, maintenance, utilities, insurance and upkeep cost of walls and ropes.

How i wrote this post

I’ll analyze some of the costs and profit opportunities when running a climbing gym. I did my research using public posts from rock climbing forums and also asked friends and fellow climbers. They either run gyms or work in gyms about typical cost metrics and averages. Afterward, we’ll run these values through a cost/profit and calculation. The short result: Are climbing gyms profitable? They are, given the number of gyms in populated areas that have been in business for decades. But a profitable climbing gym needs to get down the membership game correctly, as recurring membership is what makes the profits.

I will walk you through some math and estimations in this post, and open a hypothetical gym. I’ll explain my assumptions and why some of them are risky and not necessarily correct. In the end, we will see if a climbing gym is profitable or not, and which assumptions are critical for its profitability. Note that I’ll refer to “you” and “we” in this article, kind of like we are a team planning business start-up.

Some Assumptions about the potential gym.

Assuming we’re not already millionaires, our gym will be a smaller gym, around 5000 sqft. We will need some 35 ft+ high warehouse to have high enough ceilings and with 5000 sqft space. This will give us enough climbing area (around 5000 ft assuming we have four sides with each 70 ft length and can use half of them for climbing walls.) We could probably expand it by installing a platform in the middle of the gym with further climbing walls.

This gym will be small but functional. But as the gym is relatively small, there cannot be more than 20 people climbing on the wall at each time. This is an estimate assuming each route takes up space of 7 ft so that we can have ten routes per climbing wall, with two climbing walls in our gym. Makes 40 active people if you take belayers into account.They usually take turns with the climber. Which means we are somewhat limited in terms of maximum visitors at any given day.

How many active people can a climbing gym accommodate?

I assume 40 people at each given moment can be in the gym actively belaying or climbing. Each climber will stay on average for 2 hours. So we can accommodate 160 people per day. Why? Around 8 hours of operation, with 2 hours staying time, means we have 8 hours / 2 hours = 4 different “sets” of people, with each set consisting of 40 climbers. This means 4*40 = 160 people per day active in the gym. Assuming most people will climb 1-2 times per week, this means we can have around 7/1.5*160 =~ 750 different people climbing per week or around 2000 per month.

This calculation also gives us a maximum limit of how many members we should let join the gym, as anything more than 2000 can become a problem crowd wise. Nobody wants to wait long lines to climb in the gym where they pay a monthly membership.

Upfront cost: Equipment, climbing wall, remodeling of property: ca 250,000$ one time.

Opening a climbing gym will mean you have to invest substantial money upfront. A climbing wall is not going to build itself, and you need specialized staff to build it due to the height of the ceiling. You might need specialized modular panels, which are often building-specific or even completely custom-made (source). The actual climbing walls also require good routes with draws, holds and crash-pads, which need to be planned by professional route setters (source). If you’re going to rent industrial real estate, like an old warehouse, for example, you will also likely need some substantial remodeling.

Otherwise, it won’t be pleasant for visitors. Think bathrooms, amenities, sauna, etc. And if you want to offer yoga and fitness classes, you’ll also need a fully equipped gym. All in all, the cost of remodeling, building the climbing wall, and other fitness-related equipment will likely cost you between 200,000$ and 300,000$, but this depends on your business expertise and experience too.

Pro tip: Saving some money with used gear where it makes sense

You could probably save some money by opting for used fitness gear, as barbells and machines don’t have to be new. Same goes for climbing foot and handholds – although newer is nicer in many cases, as some of the 80s style climbing gym holds were nasty on fingers and palms.
Around 200,000$-300,000$ means an average of 250,000$, split on 4 years = 48 months. We end up with ca. 6000$ per month including some interest as you take a loan.

Recurring cost: Staff, insurance, utilities, rent: ca 45,000$ per month.

Now that we have initial investment down let’s see what a climbing gym costs you per month. The good thing is, less than prime real estate is needed for the site – this means you can get relatively cheap real estate in most cases. Let’s assume you get a good deal for 5$ per square foot, which is a reasonable price for commercial real estate.

Good property costs a lot of rent per month.

It also seems a reasonable number for industrial/commercial estate in an accessible area visible from main streets etc. A typical smaller climbing gym will be at least 5000 sqft, which means at 5$ per sqft you’re looking at a monthly lease of 25,0000$.

As the gym is still a large building, even with 5000 sqft being on the smaller slide of climbing gyms, it’s still a lot of money. And this is at an excellent rental rate. I know that in places like Los Angeles, commercial real estate is more likely to be at 10$/sqft. You’ll also need a warehouse with high enough ceilings. Which means utilities and facility fees will be higher than regular office space due to the cost of upkeep during winter times.

Upkeep will be a monthly recurring thing.

Don’t forget about climate-controlling the building. Sweating people will need air conditioning and heating in winter. But heating a big and tall warehouse in winter becomes expensive quickly.The good thing is that repair costs will be relatively low as climbing walls have a long lifespan, as does fitness equipment.

Furthermore, the climbing walls themselves, as well as the equipment used, are more expensive than most people would expect them to be. Take in costs like cleaning and safety-checks which are low compared to rent, but still ongoing costs.Equipment such as ropes, climbing harnesses and even climbing shoes eventually will break. They will then need to replaced, so it’s only fair to assume a monthly upkeep for these things too.

Thanks to great word-of-mouth marketing, you’ll most likely need no or very low paid marketing.
You’ll also have some staff, but staffing needs per customer are very low for a climbing gym. If you want to keep it cheap, you’ll only need someone at the counter and a person to supervise the climbing area. Both can be optimized by hiring students and having volunteers help out whenever possible. So let’s assume to manage utilities, facility fees, rent, repair, equipment and staff compensations by a healthy 20,000$, which will cover insurance too.

Extraordinary cost: Replacing part of the climbing ball, expand to new equipment and so on: 50,000$ every two years

Let’s say this is around 50,000$. It will include things like buying new climbing walls, expanding parts of the gym, and event costs for special occasions. Lets also split this cost on 24 months as it will likely only occur every two years or so, so it’s around 2,000$ per month.

Total cost per month, including credit payment for the initial investment: 55,000$ including buffer.

Total cost per month, if we add up all the above costs, will be 5,200$ + 45,000$ + 2,000$ = ca 55,000$ with some buffer included. This is your monthly “burn rate”, meaning if you don’t make any revenue, you will accumulate over 50,0000$ of debt per month. Pretty steep right?
Despite the high upfront investment, the recurring costs take up the main portion of the costs. Of the 55,000$ per month, more than half of the cost is from renting large enough real estate, and another considerable part is upkeep, insurance, and staff compensation.

If you can find a good and reasonably priced real estate, it means you drive down that cost.
Same goes for staff compensation: Try to employ students and part-time workers, maybe even pay them with perks and benefits including some fair but lower wage and you have a vast potential to save money here.

Sources of income and how much profit to expect.

Now that we know how much a gym costs us per month. Let’s see how we can generate money from it; after all, it’s a business. When you run a gym, you can have your revenue come from different sources. It’s not only a “day pass only” business. But every climbing gym is a unique business for itself, so it’s hard to find an average “revenue mix”. What is an average revenue mix? It means your income does not come from a single source. Instead, it’s a mix of revenues from different sources with a certain percentage coming from each source.

Some gyms make 80% of their money with day passes and events like kids birthday parties but have almost no members. And then you have hardcore gyms where 90% of the revenue comes from monthly memberships. So, take the following breakdown with a grain of salt. I tried to gather information from anecdotes and experiences of people in the industry both from online forum posts and real life, and then do sensible “guesstimation” to come up with reasonable values.

So let’s break down our sources of income:

  • 50% Memberships makes most revenue by a long shot.
    – 50% “Non-climbing” Yoga and Pilates, spin, CrossFit, etc. bring half the members.
    – 50% Climbing members
    – Amenities like showers and sauna bring members.
  • 10% from having a portable wall to rent out, which makes good money and brings new customers.
  • Competitions lose a lot of money and attract very few memberships.
  • Retail and food loose money, especially shoe sales.
  • Gear retail loses unless you’re running an REI.
  • 5% Youth programs do okay but drive family membership.
  • 15% Day passes pay the desk staff but don’t bring in much.
  • 5% Belay classes make very little.
  • 5% from climbing lessons, which make less than most think.
    – The course setting is expensive if you do it right.
  • 5% from certain special events profit if you have celebrity climbers etc.
  • 5% from summer camps, which do okay usually

Active member numbers – what to assume, how to find the right location for the gym

The number of members in your gym is highly dependent on where you open a gym. Some gyms have 200 members; some have 3000 or more. According to Andy Laakman, who runs a company selling climbing gym software and talks to many gym owners, the average number of members is around 300 (source).

For a profitable gym, we need to find a population center where there are not already ten other climbing gyms. And we need enough middle and upper-middle-class individuals, usually between the age of 19-50, which are your typical clientele. They also need to live in a 20 minutes drive radius and should be scattered around that area without high points of concentration.

This makes it easier for one gym to bundle them and harder for the competition to open their gym. If the target demographic were bundled to one area and your gym is not directly located there, it might be easy for competition to open up shop in that area. They could easily steal the main business. Active member numbers break or make your business, as you will find out in the next section. It’s where we calculate how profitable climbing gyms are.

Calculating profitability – it all comes down to how many members your gym attracts.

With our estimations for the income mix and the average member counts, we can calculate our revenue. And we can then deduct the projected costs to see our profitability. We will also estimate when we are debt-free (remember, you need to invest around 200,000$ to 300,000$ upfront). With the calculation, we could also do further things such as liquidity estimation. We need a monthly fee for membership as estimation first.

Let’s assume 60$ per month for membership in our gym. That is a fairly average price for a monthly membership. Given that our hypothetical gym is not huge, but an exceptional rock climbing gym with proper walls and lots of routes, its totally justifiable.

I’ll assume memberships make up 50% of the income, which seems a reasonable value from experiences posted and gathered. We can use this percentage to calculate other income sources in our mix. Just multiply it by 2 (remember 2*50% = 100%). And if we assume a number for best, medium, and worse case active members, we can calculate the membership fees per month.

Worst case scenario: 100 members: You go bankrupt soon.

Let’s start, with the worst-case scenario. Our gym attracts 100 members who pay monthly subscriptions. Our monthly revenue from memberships is thus 100*60$=6,000$. Given that memberships make up around 50% of the income, we can assume that our total revenue is around 12,000$ per month. Sounds like a lot, but with 70,000$ monthly burn rate, you will go quickly out of business.

Break-even scenario: Ca 600 members + Side incomes all maxed out, or 1200 members and no other income sources.

I call this scenario “ramen-profitable”, which means you can pay the bills, pay your credit, and still have between 2000$-3000$ per month to buy some ramen and gas and not sleep inside your gym. You’ll need at least 58,000$ for it, which means 29,000$ (or 50%) should come from members and another 29,000$ from side income streams. You’ll need at least 483 members actively paying 60$ per month (83 x 60$ per month = 29,000$ per month) or around 900 if you don’t rely on the side income streams.

In this scenario, things take a turn for the better. If we can attract around 500 members and have decent other income sources like discussed above, we can break even and at least buy some ramen for ourselves. But you won’t become rich with this scenario, and it will take you four years to become debt-free. There’s also no real margin of error here, if your member numbers drop for some time you will suffer.

Good scenario: 1000+ Members with fully fledged side incomes or 2000 members without side incomes = 120,000$ revenue per month. After cost of 65,0000$ we still profit 55,000$.

Once you reach these numbers, your climbing gym rakes in a lot of money. After paying your cost, you still have around 65,000$ leftover in profits, which is a hefty profit. And at these numbers, you won’t have to worry about a slow month anymore, as you can easily put away some money to have a buffer. One thousand active members should definitely be our goal in terms of member numbers. Keep in mind, though our planned gym has a maximum capacity.

At some point, we will have too many people visiting it per day than the climbing walls can handle without having long lines. So if you keep growing, you will need to put away further liquid capital to be able to fund an expansion gym once you’re large enough. If you look at climbing gyms in business for 10 or more years, you will notice that there is a trend to expand to multiple locations. It’s typically a good sign and means the first gym was profitable enough to warrant an expansion. But that’s a different story, and for now, we can finish our analysis as this scenario means you’re profitable and things go well.

Conclusion

As you saw, opening a climbing gym costs a lot of money upfront, and the upkeep costs are not small as well. Thanks to the large real estate you need, rent will likely be well above 20,000$ per month at least in the U.S. Running a profitable climbing gym is not easy but hard, probably way harder and far costlier than most people think.

If you have access to a profitable and well-run gym should consider yourself lucky.
The best gyms are run by people who excel at both business and customer service skills, as you need to be top-level to be able to sustain a climbing gym profitably. And you’ll likely need to take out another mortgage on your house to open one!

I hope you found this article useful. I wanted to shed some light on why climbing gyms are charging 60$ or more per month for membership. The amount is substantially more than most normal fitness gyms, but as you can see, these fees are definitely warranted and required to make a gym profitable as a business.

Make sure to read on some of my other posts like “Could Alex Honnold have climbed back down?”, “How to train right for endurance in rock climbing”, and “How should climbing pants fit?“.

 

Categories
Bouldering Climbing

How to Find a Rock Climbing Mentor

When I started climbing, I actually started with bouldering in a gym. I didn’t know how to find a rock climbing mentor, and for that meant no outdoor bouldering, let alone rock climbing with a rope and harness. For me it felt like the safest way of starting and made me independent from other people, as I have a busy schedule with frequent late-night work, making long trips to the crags during the week almost impossible.

But at some point, I wanted to go outside and climb real rocks, and when I picked up rock climbing, it became apparent I needed a belaying partner.Thankfully my wife is into rock climbing, so she was the obvious first choice as a belaying partner.After some hairy situations lead climbing some easier routes, with not-so-great first anchors (think of first anchors in 15+ feet), I quickly realized that I needed not only a belaying partner but a mentor as well. Someone with experience and skill to pass on to you and started to also climb with more experienced climbers.

An experienced mentor for outdoor climbing techniques is like a knowledge gold mine, but how to find a rock climbing mentor? Someone willing to share this knowledge, without you being burden to them? Let me share some thoughts with you, as I try always to make climbing a win-win situation for the mentor and me.

What’s a mentor?

A mentor is an experienced climber who is willing to take you under his or her wings, teaching you while you go climbing with them. It can be a paid coach or someone you know personally and who is willing to train you. Mentoring usually starts with you asking someone for advice and might become a regular thing after a while.Don’t be a flake if you make plans to climb with a more experienced climber – or anyone in general!

Where I come from, many experienced climbers love to share their knowledge if you’re respectful and reliable. Some older climber once told me it’s ok to be a newbie but don’t be an asshole. And it stuck with me, as I noticed myself a lot of climbers being incredibly flaky sometimes. So, if you make plans to go climbing with someone SHOW UP, or at least give them a call and notification if you have to cancel upfront. Nothing annoys climbers more than making plans to climb and being stood up in the last minute.

Educate yourself!

There are a ton of people passing on shit for knowledge. Sometimes this sketchy advice is downright dangerous. That’s why you should read up, educate yourself, and learn about climbing. Read blogs, books, and watch how-to-guides. Become critical and ask questions if you feel unsure about something. But make sure to do your best figuring out stuff on your own, as it shows respect for peoples time and resources. Practice what your mentors teach you and train at home, then after training, ask them to evaluate if you’re doing it right. To a potential mentor, this shows willingness and self-reliance, which is an excellent skill to possess not only in climbing but anywhere in life.

If you want a book recommendation, get the Book “Self-coached climber” – it’s the best place to start. I read it, and it has a ton of really valuable knowledge to self assess your climbing. Many actually consider it to be the one book you should read if you try to train for yourself, so definitely have a look at it.

Don’t be a know-it-all.

You should read and educate yourself not to be an annoying know-it-all, but to recognize if someone is passing bullsh*t to you, and politely ask them about it. Never do things you feel uncomfortable with, and if you’re in doubt then ask your mentor why they did it that specific way.

Learn to belay a lead climber and socialize.

If you want to climb with experienced climbers, you need to be able to belay a lead climber. This is usually not negotiable, and many lead climbers are taking this especially serious. Read this excellent reddit thread for more info. If you socialize with the local crew at the gym and show them you’re a competent lead belayer, it won’t be hard to find someone to mentor you. Most experienced climbers love fast learning new talent as it’s a great feeling to help someone new in the sport.

Sweeten up the deal for the mentor!

Most people like to climb with more experienced climbers then them. But if you pick someone older who maybe even has a family, there might be a good chance they don’t always find themselves a partner with time on hands to climb. It won’t take a lot to convince them to climb with you. Yes, you might be inexperienced and ask a lot of questions, but you’re a competent lead belayer and decent human being. Plus three are some other things you can do to make climbing with you attractive. If you own a car, offer to drive, everyone likes to save gas and chill while driving out to the crags. You could also buy a good rope and other gear and suggest to use it.

If your mentor is inclined, you can also offer them to carry the gear while approaching, which might be a nice gesture. Extra hiking training for you, convenient for your mentor.
If you can, bring some food and drink or even bake some cookies, take them out to dinner after climbing, anything really to make them have a good time with you.

Bring stoke – and beers!

If you’re out to climb, make sure to be motivated and stoked and fun to hang around with. Don’t be a mood kill, but rather make sure to lighten the mood up and maybe even bring a beer or two if you and your mentor like to have a few after sending it.

Learn how to clean an anchor.

Cleaning an anchor is important, even for experienced climbers as they need to get their gear back. By learning to do it, you basically offer them to do the time-consuming tasks for them, which is always lovely.

Ask straight.

Go out and ask more experienced climbers. I know a ton of excellent and experienced climbers who invited newbie climbers who were to shy to ask because they felt they were not good enough. Most people actually just enjoy climbing with helpful and friendly people. And there are only so many pro climbers who need to send the hardest routes continuously. The rest of us is perfectly fine with climbing a grade lower than usual if it means to have fun company.

Conclusion

Keep these points in mind, and it will be easy to find a rock climbing mentor. Also, if you have feedback leave me a comment, and make sure to read some of my other guides like my guide to find good rock climbing spots around you, whether to buy climbing shoes or not and my little guide on finger taping.

Categories
Bouldering Climbing

How should climbing pants fit?

Oh here we go again, how should climbing pants fit, or how I say: The endless struggle to find the perfect pair of climbing pants. Most people who start climbing focus way too much on their arms. But in reality, footwork and leg movement is one of the most essential skills in rock climbing and bouldering. The more power and strength you generate with your legs and feet and core, the easier climbing becomes on your arms. Climbers with proper leg technique and excellent mobility in their core have an easier time with endurance. They also experience less arm pump and can send harder routes. But to be really effective, the climbing pants you wear should fit your climbing style.

I discussed the pros and cons of climbing pants in another article, in short: There are no real cons except for the price (if you don’t buy them on a discount). But how should climbing pants fit? Between ultra-tight leggings that look like spiderman, jeans with stretch, cotton pants, and mc-hammer style baggy pants there are vast differences In short, pant fit comes down to your preference and your subjective experience. Nonetheless, there are facts that are objectively important.

Let’s discuss different fitting styles and materials, and I’ll give you some tips and recommendations to make sure you chose the right fit and material for you. There’s much to gain here, as too tight or loose pants can hinder your climbing style and performance. Likewise, pants from the wrong material make you sweat too much or when climbing in cold weather are not insulating enough.

Quick facts about fitting styles and materials of climbing pants

In general, it’s up to you what you wear, but there are some objective points to keep in mind about fit.

1) It comes down to your preference and your subjective experience of how impeding tightness or loose fit feel to you.
2) Tight climbing pants restrict leg movement and maximum leg spreading distance unless they are made from a material with stretch. If climbing pants are too tight, and made from jeans without stretch, that’s a problem. And it doesn’t matter if you’re used to wearing tight pants in this case.
3) Loose climbing pants usually don’t hinder movement, but might get in the way if they are too lose

Same goes for materials, it’s about your own preference but there some objective facts to keep in mind. I’ll write a more in-depth guide about this soon!

1) Pants from synthetic materials are easy to wash and care but might feel shit on your skin.
2) Cotton is durable, but not the best fabric for humid weather, and if it has no stretch material woven in it feels stiff and can hinder your movement
3) Jeans are ultra-durable, but 100% jeans fabric feels like a shell when climbing. Ultra tight skinny jeans are severely impacting your maximum leg movement if no stretch material is blended in.

Let’s have a look at some of the fitting styles in more detail, what they are suitable for, and what their disadvantages are.

Loose fit

This used to be trending some years ago, just look at some of the older climbing videos from the early 2000s. Loose fit has clear advantages, as it does not impact your maximum leg movement and feels comfortable. But it also means more material to drag with you, which becomes an issue if you’re wearing pants made from heavy fabric. Loose-fitting pants from 100% cotton feel like a lot of dead weight, and become even worse when they become humid or wet. And the extra fabric can get stuck to cracks and gear too.

Ever tried edging or cramming a tight corner with your toes while you had 2 feet of climbing pants block a clear view of your shoes? Then your pants are too loose. It definitely makes sense to get baggy pants with a tie around the ankle. This way you can restrict flapping fabric around your foot.

Tight fit (leggings, jeggings, etc.)

Most girls I know climb with yoga pants style climbing pants, and leggings are a trend for boys also today. My wife solely uses tight climbing pants, she swears on them. I tried it once, and it feels really odd at first, but once you get used to it, it’s great. It’s almost as if you climb naked, you feel no weight at all. If tight pants are made from a stretchy material, they’re probably the best choice when it comes to movement freedom. They come with a downside though: If it gets cold, you start to feel it really fast, as most of the tighter climbing pants are not good at insulating.

Same goes for hot weather, climbing in tight leggings makes you sweat a lot. And usual leggings and yoga pants are not durable at all, so if you do crack climbing or routes with tight corners, etc., you will rip through them really fast. There are some options from brands like E9 and Prana, which are made from a more durable fabric thankfully, so if you’re serious about getting tight climbing pants to consider one of these options: Prana Rockland Leggings , an amazing pair of pants for girls. My personal favorite is the E9 Rondo Slim (affiliate link to buy on Amazon) as it is a perfect pant for medium-framed guys. I’ve owned one for years now and while they’re not a strict hardcore alpine pant, they’re insanely good fitting and breathe. They’re technically not leggings but they do fit really slim – slimmer than any other pair of climbing pants I ever owned.

Medium fit: Tighter on the ankles, looser on the thighs

This is what I personally prefer. Medium fit pants give you the right combination of the above styles. They have enough fabric to insulate when it gets cold. And they have reasonable freedom of leg movement as they are usually made from a material containing cotton and some stretchy material blended in. They are shaped to narrow down on the legs and calves, so no material is in the way when you climb cracks, etc.

But medium fitting pants are a bit harder to find the right size, so make sure when you try them on that they are not too tight on the lower legs and wide enough in the hip area. In doubt, go one size bigger than usual, it’s better to err on the larger size. It’s not too tight to restrict movement, but tight enough to make climbing feel streamlined and fluent.

Extra: Short climbing pants

A special category are short climbing pants. These pants are basically shorts which are made from the same material like normal climbing pants. When trying on these types of pants, fitting becomes much easier. Leg movement is usually excellent, as not much fabric is used and the material is stretchy like normal climbing pants. Just be careful to get the waist size right, as many of these climbing shorts come with fixed rubber band holding your waist – if you lose a couple of pounds the pants are not adjustable and might become to big and slip.

Which fit is right for me?

You need to ask yourself whether you feel more comfortable wearing tighter or looser pants. Most people I know who like baggy or loose-fitting clothes in their day to day life also prefer them while climbing. Vice versa with tight-fitting pants. Most girls I know actually love yoga pants or leggings no matter if they’re out climbing or relaxing at home. I suggest to try out three pairs of pants representing the different style and see how they feel.

A good way to test is to do some leg stretches and jumping jacks as well as leg skipping when trying the pants on. Can you quickly move your knee to your chest without the pant interfering? If yes, that’s a sign of proper fit, if not you should get a size bigger or try another model.

Another useful test is to squat down wearing the pants. Then see if the pant is feeling uncomfortable or restraining while sitting in a full squat. If it does, get a size bigger and or try another model. If you can do these exercise comfortably, try some movements like flagging, etc. if you’re in a store with a climbing wall, and if the pant still feels right, you might have a candidate to buy.

Conclusion

In conclusion, you should find out which fit you prefer. Then try on some different models using the method described above. If you’re unsure which fit is best for you, try different fits and compare how they feel. Make sure also to take the material into account. If you liked this post or have some recommendations, feel free to comment and make sure to read some of the other gear-related posts. Some interesting posts are how climbing shoes should fit, and why wearing a helmet is always a good idea. This article about how to quickly build a hang board setup to train climbing at home effectively is also worth reading.

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
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
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!

Categories
Bouldering Climbing

Training for Rock Climbing: A Guide for People with a Full Time Job and Career

Climbing and bouldering are hyped right now. Everyone is training with a system now, and new disciplines, methods, and programs pop up almost daily. This being said, some of the applications can overwhelm and between the forest of campus board training, grip strength, moon board, endurance, ancap core, and recreational training stretching and technique, tactics and yoga it’s easy to lose track. There are tons of ways of training for rock climbing, and it’s almost too much at this point. Especially when you’re over 30, just started climbing and maybe have a family and full time career. So better make good use of the little time you have at hand and read this guide for basic training for rock climbing, where i explain some methods to keep in mind. My article on training for rock climbing consists of a systematic approach and is based on six different parts, that all need some attention. Follow these guidelines and you will evolve into a strong and well rounded climber in no time!

Note that this is an overview, but i included links to further reading and watching material. That way this article stays lean and teaches you the concepts, but for details you can refer to these other resources.

1. The usual not so great approach

Most people take the easy route of picking some part of the training regime they like and do that part over and over until they progress and send harder routes. Sounds like gambling, and it kind of is as working on your strengths and ignoring weaknesses is not the best method to improve.
Training is like balancing and configuring any complex system: If you do it right, it can be measured, and progress is inevitable. But you need a sound system.
Today I’m discussing different training methods and how they can help you to become a better climber even if you’re over 30 and still a beginner.

2. The smart approach: essential training for rock climbing consists of 6 different parts

1. Climbing and bouldering
2. Grip strengths
3. Climbing endurance
4. Campus board training
5. Agility and flexibility
6. Balance and Recreation

When we talk about these methods, we will use the term climbing both for rock climbing and bouldering as the techniques apply to both disciplines.
In the long run, your training methods need to be balanced. When you’re a beginner, you need to focus on different aspects than someone who is sending 8+ routes.
Beginner: 4-5c, focus only on climbing and bouldering and don’t even worry about the other aspects
Advanced: 6a-7b, work in some Agility, balance and grip strength
Serious: 7c+, focus on grip strength and involve campus board training

2.1 Climbing and bouldering

This includes anything and everything you do on the wall or a rock, indoors and outdoors. It’s THE most crucial part of the training, as the hardest part of becoming a good climber is learning to be efficient. We’re gonna differentiate between “learning to climb” and conditioning.

2.1.1 Learning to climb

Involves anything you use your brain for, such as
– learning new moves
– climbing under pressure
– redpoint approaches
– trying hard boulder problems in a gym by solving a problem
It also includes tactics to control the fear of falling, and when you work on these skills, you will become better in conquering challenging routes. If you’re looking for some awesome videos from a pro checkout https://trainingforclimbing.com/, Erics site is a great resource to tap in!

2.1.2 Conditioning

Conditioning training is focused on single aspects of climbing like
– improving blood flow in your forearms leading to higher climbing endurance
– working on your ability to send complex boulder problems

2.1.3 Transferring gym skills to outdoor climbing

Most of the training takes place indoors these days, especially if you live in cold climate zones. And while the movement itself is similar, climbing outdoor is a different beast as it overwhelms beginners both with abundance of holds and grips and lack of them as well. So you need to work on your mental ability to transfer the skills learned indoors to the outside world.
The best way to progress is to search for boulder rocks outdoor and send those with training partners with a progressive and positive attitude. Judge each other and give advice on how to approach.

Essential training for rock climbing
Still the best way to get better at climbing: Actual climbing. It doesn’t matter if it’s indoors our outdoors.

2.2 Training the grip strength

The exercise machine of choice for grip power is the hangboard (also called training board). In addition to climbing and bouldering, hanging on the exercise board handles according to the training principle of specificity is the best way to increase the strength in your fingers. There are lot’s of training methods. but this is a good guide on how to do hangboard training.

2.3 Climbing specific endurance training

Endurance in climbing sports, in contrast to many other sports, is limited to mostly static movements of forearms and core/leg muscles.
This is different from cardiovascular endurance training, like jogging or racing bike driving. Unfortunately, these training forms do not contribute directly to improved climbing performance. They may even have adverse effects in the worst case. Training for rock climbing does not necessarily involve long sessions of endurance training.
In some cases though, endurance training for climbers can make sense when used with good targeting. Examples are very long climbs or boulders.

2.4 Hangboard

The campus or hangboard is a slightly overhanging wooden board on which, at regular intervals, wooden strips are attached. At this one performs different exercise, which lead to enormous strength gains. It is used to train different climber-specific abilities specifically.

my diy campus board
This DIY setup for hangboards is under 100$ and flexible. Check out my article about it!

Unfortunately, this training device also offers great injury potential, especially when your body ages. Therefore, this type of training is reserved for athletes, who climb in the upper ninth grade and harder. In these athletes, the band and tendon apparatus for the high intensity of this training is the earliest ready.
If you’re interested in campus board training, check out my guide on how to build one for less than 100$ without drilling holes in your walls.

2.5 Agility

Agility helps you get your power to the wall. This is even more important when over the age of 30. It is no coincidence that Adam Ondra is known for the heaviest routes in the world and his enviable mobility at the same time.
Training flexibility also makes it harder to climb and maintain a healthy body. Because what you do not use or train you lose. And over time, the lack of agility not only limits the climbing performance but also leads to all sorts of ailments.
Optimally as a separate unit, follow this approach for agility training:
– 2x a week is enough, not more than 7x
– Fast progress means fast loss of achievements, so keep doing it
– 15 minutes per unit are already enough
– Train legs and hips as they are crucial for climbing and bouldering
– Try to do it separate from other climbing or AFTER climbing training (Less prone to injuries that way)
How? Just look at stretching routines for climbers, mobilization exercises and yoga.

2.6 Stabilization and balance training

Stabilization and balancing training are the buzz words of the climbing training in recent years. There have been many books and more magazine articles about it.
But what does it mean?

Stability and balance are vital to stay healthy and to be able to climb, boulder, and train for a long time.
The most common problems from climbing are rounded back and congestion complaints, such as the climbers elbow or a shoulder impingement. Usually, the training consists of strengthening the opposing muscles (antagonists) and stretching the over-pronounced muscles.
Additionally or alternatively, gymnastic rings are also an excellent training tool for a climbing program. Many of the exercises on the sling trainer can also be performed on the rings.More advanced exercises, such as muscle-ups or dips, can be trained.
Yoga combines elements of the training approaches mobility and stabilization or antagonist training. However, one should listen to his body in pain because yoga is not the same as yoga. Sometimes more specific exercises are necessary.

3.1 Objectives when training for rock climbing

Climbing training always has a goal. The goal is also a key to motivation because specific climbing training is exhausting and sometimes very monotonous.
For a  broad approach with good results, you should set the goals in annual or seasonal pyramids, which are becoming more and more demanding. This will enhance your skills in the difficulties you have already encountered while optimally working towards the next level of performance. Wide-ranging climbing training leads to what is commonly referred to as a good climber or boulderer. The most prominent example of this is Adam Ondra, who has built up the most impressive pyramid in climbing history from an early age: He is strong and flexible and has remarkable technique and route reading skills.

3.2 The “well rounded climber” – a short profile of haves

– Broad skill set about sport climbing, bouldering, alpine climbing, trad climbing
– Experienced on various rocks, such as lime, granite, sandstone, conglomerate
– Clear strengths, but no pronounced weaknesses, such as overhang climbing or finger holes
– Sets great goals and achieves them via suitable intermediate goals

4. The Training Principle of Specificity

This principle states that the more specific training is attuned to the goal, the more effective it will be. However, on the horizon of a long-term, continually improving climbing life, an athlete usually benefits more from an extensive climbing training. There are more routes, boulders, and opportunities open than working on isolated skills.
The ultimate goal of climbing training is to be able to climb routes and boulders of different requirements on an individually high level. It is quite natural to take the step into a new level of difficulty in an area that suits you, such as: B. athletic overhang climbing or inguinal climbing.
Building on this, the skills are developed with continuous training and exercise in the new degree, in order to actually master this in different requirement constellations.

5. Training plan for climbing and bouldering

Based on the information in this article and the training principles for climbing training, a training plan can be put together.

5.1 Who needs a training plan?

This is difficult to answer in general. One starting point could be that your own performance fluctuates strongly over the year and can not be sustained. Another angle is the amount of activity needed to increase performance. If these are very diverse and tactically the colder seasons are selected for vheavy rock projects, a training plan makes perfect sense.

5.2 A few cornerstones for a climbing training plan to be successful:

Goal-oriented: A training plan has a goal. This is usually a new grade or route. But it is also possible to prioritize a weakness or a single aspect, such as aerobic endurance.
Measurable: The most exciting measure is, of course, the climbed grade, but this depends on a variety of factors. Therefore, some metrics are defined where you can read off the improvements over time. These include, for example, finger power, pull-ups, and agility.
Workouts are planned according to the training principles and goals and weaknesses. In terms of content, the graph above shows the relationship between training content and grades.
Depending on the desired timing and number of power highs, a form of periodization should be used. You can choose between classical and non-linear periodization. There should be one or two rest periods lasting several weeks during the year so that the nervous system can recover from continuous stress and heal minor injuries.
You should record training and days spent outdoors in a training diary. Especially for the tracking of progress and injuries, the training diary is helpful to be able to identify patterns afterward.

6. Professional Coaches

So far, a professional training in climbing sport was only open to professional athletes and members of performance groups. This is changing increasingly lately. In other sports, it is common practice to use regular coaching lessons, while in rock climbing and bouldering this is slow to spread. Points of contact are the teams of climbing and bouldering halls, but here the quality varies.

7. Conclusion

Climbing when you’re not 20 anymore needs special focus, and i hope you can learn something from this guide. Most important takeaway: Keep your measurement of success objective, make notes and focus on incremental improvement. That’s what basic training for rock climbing is all about.

Maker sure to also read some of  my other guides on bouldering training, endurance training and how to build your own hangboard setup cheap and quick for your home.

Categories
Bouldering Climbing

Portable Hangboard Setup: How to build your own quick and cheap, without drilling your walls

This article has an amazon affiliate link. If you buy the board from amazon via the link i get a small fee – the product costs the same for you, but Amazon makes less. It’s a fair way to help me run this site and get some server money.

This one I wanted to write about for a long time. I’m going to show you a dirt cheap and easy way to build a do it yourself DIY portable hangboard setup. No carpentry skills needed, it’s so easy anyone can do it. It’s way easier than most manuals guide you will find on the internet, and it will not involve any drastic changes to your house or home. That means this portable hangboard setup works without drilling your apartment walls. And it’s going to cost less than 100$ and will take only 15 minutes. You will only need a screwdriver, although an electric drill makes it easier, and I’ll show you some pictures. I will also explain to you why this way of training is great for people with busy lives and how it can improve your climbing.

My Setup – less than 100$ and easy to build:
As i get the question again and again: The hangboard i used for this guide is the Metolius Foundry.
It is cheap (50$), works well for beginners and advanced climbers, and doesn’t weigh a lot. You can get it at Amazon for under 55$.
metolius foundry hangboard

 

I also use a pullup bar like this: Pullup bar from amazon. It costs under 50$.

pull up bar

Busy live =  less time for climbing outside

Climbing in the gym or outside is great. I try to spend as much time outside or there as possible. But sometimes I just don’t have time to drive to the gym and where I live it rains a lot too. If I just want to work on my grip strength and finger technique, I use my own portable trainingboard construction.

Why quick campus board training is great

I’m pretty busy and having a family and wife means I usually have not a lot of free time during the week to train. I found that being able to squeeze in 5 to 10 minutes of finger training and grip exercises for climbing is a great way to maintain an OK level of fitness and if you do it continually you will Improve greatly. Don’t trust me? Let me explain and do some math: If you’re a regular climber and go climbing 2 times a week, climbing 10 routes per session with each session having maybe 3 painful holds and moves you get 2x10x3 = 60 moves that actually push you in the sense of training.


You get stronger by progressive overload, and this is the same for climbing and grip strength and power moves too. Let’s say each move takes around 1 to 2 seconds, then this makes for about 2 minutes of “hard moves training time” per week. But with two climbing sessions, your total time is probably at least 4 hours. 

Hangboard or campus board training

With hangboard training, ff you squeeze in 5 minutes warmup and 3 minutes of hard moves on the campus board  4 times a week, then this takes around half an hour each week and yields you 12 minutes of hard training time. That’s a good ratio, and granted you don’t get the outdoor sensation and friendship and leg and technical training but even without, it’s still a damn good amount of workout to keep you fit, and you can do it between dinner and TV at your own schedule at home. A portable hangboard also gives you flexibility as you can move it around in your house and it’s cheap. Win-win!

My setup: Quick, easy and self made

Of you follow my portable hangboard setup, this training device will cost you less than 100 bucks one-time investment. You can even take it with you on business trips if you drive per car. That’s a definite win in my book. When I bought the campus board, I was kind of hesitant – drilling holes in my dry wood walls didn’t excite me. But then I came up with a different solution. It’s a simple construction made from a campus board, a piece of wood, 4 hanger screws. That way don’t need to start messing around with wood cutting etc., this construction works between your door frames, and you won’t even need to drill holes in the wall. The trick: We’re gonna use a pull-up bar. You can order them on Amazon or any fitness shop. 

The hack: Just mount your favorite fingerboard to a wooden plate and hang it to a pull up bar

A simple 2×8 and some screws won’t cost you a lot, and it does not even take a long time to assemble it. It’s perfect to build on  a rainy afternoon and will give you hours of fun and improved grip for years. The idea is cheap and simple: You mount your favorite campus board to a wooden foundation. Then you use four large handle screws and drill them into the top of the wooden board. Now you can hang this construction to a pulldown bar – or any kind of handle that’s sturdy enough to hold your weight.

Voila done. No need to invest money in a climbing wall, etc., as long as you can live with the fact that your feet are swinging free when you practice. But for me, it wasn’t a problem – I wanted to train grip strength and not feet strength when I use this kind of portable hangboard setup.

The good part: this setup still gives you all the benefits of campus training

Lots of people focus on campus too much or dismiss it altogether. But if you use it right its a super powerful way to develop grip strength like crazy. And you can still practice technique and leg work in the gym or on real rock. Campus boards are such a big thing and have lots of tradition that most gyms have some sort of them installed. There are some caveats, though… 

Don’t go too crazy too fast

As with everything climbing and bouldering related you don’t want to overdo it. Five to ten minutes a day are more than enough to stay fit and. That way, the board training supports your other training regime and will improve finger and forearm strength. It can give you power for difficult moves and endurance to stay calm when you’re in uncomfortable holding positions. 

When to start with finger training 

Don’t start until you have at least a year of climbing experience, because your ligaments and tendons should be adapted to regular climbing. If you have finger injuries, you should also let them heal up entirely and take it easy too. You should also train until you feel your shoulder is taking on too much work, in that case, your fingers are exhausted, and you should pause training to rest. I will probably write another guide about campus board training soon! 

Where to hang the board

Wherever you want. I like to have my portable hangboard mine in the basement but thanks to the pull-up bar you can move it wherever you have door frames. Think about chalk though, you might not want it in your living room if you don’t like chalky furniture. You should also pick a door with enough height, so you don’t touch the ground. Room clearance is usually not a problem because the door itself needs room in front of and behind so your goos too go here.

How to build this setup

You can build this setup with any Hangboard, but i do love THIS board. It’s nice on your skin, cheap and has holds for any level of strength, i can only recommend it!

  1. Wooden 2×8 board
  2. Screws for wood
  3. 6 Hangers with screw
  4. A trainingboard (Metolius for example)
  5. A pull-up bar for your doorframe

How to build it

  1. Buy a cheap training board made from polymer or wood, like Metolius brand or similar
  2. Buy a 2×8 wooden board, cut, so it’s length is slightly wider than your doorframe 
  3. Buy a cheap doorframe pull-up bar
  4. Get 6 screw-in hangers 
  5. Place the screw in hooks on top of the 2×8 board like shown in the picture, drill  holes slightly smaller than the diameter of the screw and then screw the hangers into the wooden board 
  6. Use screws that came with training board and attached it to the 2×8
  7. Hang pull-up bar into the doorframe 
  8. Hang your new training device from the handle of the pull-up bar. The wooden board is slightly wider than the doorframe, and this stabilizes the campus board from swinging

Note: The pull-up bar can withstand your weight easily.

my diy campus board
Backside
my diy campus board
Top where screws go in
my diy campus board
Regular mounting screws

 

Conclusion

Hope you like this idea, and I’m sure your own portable hangboard will work as good for you as it did for me.
I enjoy using it and can only recommend this setup.
For more hacks like this, climbing training and tips, make sure to subscribe for my newsletters –  I promise no spam! 

Categories
Bouldering Climbing

How to Clean Climbing and Bouldering Shoes

Climbers, if I’m completely honest, we don’t have a reputation of being the cleanest, most well-groomed people on the planet. We spend days to weeks living out of a car or a tent, next to a mountain someplace, eating on the cheap to spend all our time doing what we love – climbing. I’ve put together the easiest and quickest guide to keep your climbing shoes clean.

So, how to clean climbing shoes? There are two methods of cleaning climbing shoes, machine or hand wash. Follow the detailed steps below to clean your climbing shoes and get rid of stench and dirt. This guide will not only help you keep your shoes clean, but also get rid of the smell and help to make your shoes last longer.

Guide to Hand Washing & Cleaning Rock Climbing and Bouldering Shoes

Things You’ll Need 

What Why How to use
Large bucket or tub Holds the water to clean the climbing shoes Use any household bucket or tub, can use sink too
Mild detergent for clothes A mild detergent will clean your rock climbing shoes spotless Don’t use too strong detergent; it can damage your shoes
A small, soft brush (toothbrush) You use it to remove stains and dust Don’t use a brush with steel brushes; it will destroy the rubber of your rock climbing shoe
Handwarm water Warm water removes dust and stains easier than cold water Don’t use HOT water – it will damage the material of the climbing shoe! 35 Degree Celsius or 95 Degree Fahrenheit is enough

Detailed Steps

Step 1: Fill a Tub With Water

Fill the tub or sink with warm water. It should be around 30-35 degrees Celsius (or between 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit). This temperate will make it easy to remove any dirt, dust, and debris. Don’t use hot water, it will destroy the rubber on the sole, and cold water won’t work good!

Step 2: Use Mild Detergent in the Water

A mild detergent helps to remove sweat and dirt. If you use no detergent at all, it will be hard to remove sweat and residues as the water itself doesn’t go into the cracks and niches of your shoes enough. Don’t use harsh chemicals or strong detergent, as they will damage the soles of your shoes and upper liner. Strong chemicals can also make the leather wear down faster or even damage it.

Step 3: Brush off Dust Before Shoes Get Wet

Use the small brush to brush the dust from the shoe BEFORE you actually let the shoes get wet. This way, you avoid working in small particles of chalk and dust into the shoes by turning them into mud and paste… Brush over the shoes gently, and blow some air over the shoes with your lips to remove any dust particles.

Step 4: Turn Shoes Upside Down and Pad Them to Remove Debris and Small Rocks

Then turn the shoes upside down and pad them lightly on the toe box to make sure little crumbles of chalk, rocks, and stone fall out on the bottom opening.

Step 5: Gently Scrub Outside of Shoes

Wet the shoes a little, then use the small brush and scrub the outside. Make sure to include the upper, tongue, and sole. The brush is perfect for removing stains that are hard to remove otherwise. Don’t press too hard with the brush though, be gentle, your goal is not to remove the soles or damage the material but get the shoes clean!

Cleaning the sole is important too, make sure to dip the shoes into the lukewarm water, it will make the dirt come off easily by loosening it. Make sure to submerge and soak them totally; this way, you remove germs and bacteria that promote bad smell.

Step 6: Clean The Shoes From The Inside

Use your small brush to scrub your shoes on the inside gently. But wash the scrub before you clean the inside, as your scrub will be dirty from the outside scrubbing you did before! It’s important to try and clean the hard to reach places in the toe box and upper of the shoe, and if you cannot reach a corner, use your fingers to clean and rub the area. Dunk the shoes into the warm soapy water after cleaning them, multiple times if needed, to remove any brown and colored water. The soapy water will remove the loosened dirt particles!

Step 7: Rinse your Rock Climbing or Bouldering Shoes with Lukewarm Fresh Water

Drain out your sink or tub and rinse it thoroughly, then refill with lukewarm fresh water. Now place your rock climbing or bouldering shoes in the tub and move them around, up and down, sideways and turn them around. You want to swish them around a little bit, so water can get into any opening and hole and completely remove any soap leftovers. Do this at least 2-3 times, until there is no soap and dirty water coming out of the shoes anymore.

Step 8: Completely Dry the Shoes

Shake the shoes to remove any leftover water. Then use a clean towel to wick and wipe the shoes, soaking in as much moisture as possible. I found that the best way to dry climbing shoes is to open laces and velcro as far as possible, and then place them somewhere with a light breeze in a warm room. Stuff them with some newspaper or clean paper towel to accelerate the drying process. Don’t let them sit in direct sunlight; the UV rays are going to damage the material. In winter, it’s best to put them somewhere near a radiator but not directly on top of it. Let the shoes dry completely and don’t wear them before they are completely dry!

Guide to Machine Washing & Cleaning Rock Climbing and Bouldering Shoes

Make sure to use this method ONLY on synthetic climbing or bouldering shoes. Leather shoes will be ruined if you machine wash them!

Things You’ll Need 

What Why How to use
Machine Washer Cleans the shoes Machines with delicate or synthetic setting work best
Mild detergent for clothes A mild detergent will clean your rock climbing shoes spotless Don’t use too strong detergent; it can damage your shoes
A small, soft brush (toothbrush) You use it to remove stains and dust before throwing the shoes into the machine Don’t use a brush with steel brushes; it will destroy the rubber of your rock climbing shoe

Detailed Steps

Step 1: Brush off Dust Before Shoes Get Wet

This is the same as for handwashing. Use a small brush to brush the dust from the shoe BEFORE you actually let the shoes get wet. This way, you avoid working in small particles of chalk and dust into the shoes by turning them into mud and paste… Brush over the shoes gently, and blow some air over the shoes with your lips to remove any dust particles.

Step 2: Turn Shoes Upside Down and Pad Them to Remove Debris and Small Rocks

Then turn the shoes upside down and pad them lightly on the toe box to make sure little crumbles of chalk, rocks, and stone fall out on the bottom opening.

Step 3: Set Your Washing Machine to a Gentle Washing Cycle

If your washing machine has a program for synthetics or delicates, use this program. Synthetic climbing shoes can take a wash, but don’t set your washing machine to anything above 1000 rpm. I’ve found that 500-800 rpm works best with a temperature of 30-40 °C (85 to 100 °F)

Step 4: Add Some Mild Washing Detergent. Don’t Use Bleach

As with hand washing, you only want to use a very mild detergent. Synthetic detergent works good, and it will kill smell and bacteria. I cannot stress this enough: Don’t machine wash shoes with leather! Set the machine washer to a synthetic or delicate cycle, if possible!

Step 5: Rinse your Rock Climbing or Bouldering Shoes with Lukewarm Fresh Water

Like when hand washing, after the washing machine is finished, give the shoes another round of cold water rinsing – sometimes a machine leaves some residues!

Step 6: Completely Dry the Shoes – NO Hot Dryer

NEVER use a hot dryer for climbing shoes, it will destroy your sticky soles and damage the rubber! You need to dry them by hand and air! Shake the shoes to remove any leftover water. Then use a clean towel to wick and wipe the shoes, soaking in as much moisture as possible. I found that the best way to dry climbing shoes is to open laces and velcro as far as possible, and then place them somewhere with a light breeze in a warm room. Stuff them with some newspaper or clean paper towel to accelerate the drying process. Don’t let them sit in direct sunlight; the UV rays are going to damage the material. In winter, it’s best to put them somewhere near a radiator but not directly on top of it. Let the shoes dry completely and don’t wear them before they are completely dry!

Guide to Cleaning Your Rock Climbing and Bouldering Shoes When You Are Outdoors or Camping

Sometimes you are not around buckets full of hot water detergent, like when you are outside camping or on the move, but your shoes are dirty.

Things You’ll Need 

What Why How to use
Rubbing Alcohol Cleans the shoes from bacteria Be careful with leather; it can work but make sure to use a little bit on a small portion of the leather and try
A brush or towel Used to wipe off dust and stains Don’t use a too hard brush

Detailed Steps

Step 1: Mix Rubbing Alcohol

Take some rubbing alcohol and dilute with a tiny bit of water. Use a toothbrush to brush away at the outer part of the shoe. Not too hard, just enough to clean away any of the dirt.

Step 2: Brush The Climbing or Bouldering Shoes

Gently brush at the areas which are discolored from sweat or dirt. Brush the rubber parts too, use a paper towel if needed (cleaning away the grime will keep the rubber sticky).

Step 3: Use a Bottle to Keep The Alcohol Mix And Spray The Shoes

Next, put some rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle, and then lightly spray the inside of the shoes.

Step 4: Dry The Shoes

Hang the shoes and leave them to air dry.

The Reason Why Climbing and Bouldering Shoes Smell

A large reason why climbing shoes stink so badly is due to bacteria that thrive on eating dead skin cells. As you wear your shoes, dead skin will fall off and be left behind inside your shoe. As you sweat, this whole situation gets worse. Getting rid of as much of the dead skin as you can, you should get rid of most of the smell.

Time to take care of those gnarly feet.

Get a pumice stone, an exfoliation kit, or a go out to the woodshop and get a file. Scrub away at all the hard parts of your foot skin. The dead skin you remove, the less dead skin that will naturally fall away and end up in your climbing shoes. And remember, skin sheds more when it’s dry, so keep those feet moisturized. And it’s a good idea to follow these bonus tips to avoid dirty and smelling shoes in the first place!

Tips To Prevent Dirty and Smelling Climbing and Bouldering Shoes

If you want to avoid dirty and smelly rock climbing and bouldering shoes, we collected some easy to follow tips. If you obey these rules, you will have to wash your climbing and bouldering shoes less often!

Basically, the reason for climbing shoes becoming so disgusting is due to moisture and bacteria. Go climbing in a cold-weather destination, somewhere like New Zealand—then go to Tonsai or Thakhek. New Zealand shoes will smell like roses in comparison.  Bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments.

Of course, the best way to avoid needing to clean your climbing shoes is keeping them as fresh as possible, for as long as possible. This, we do from the very beginning, from the first time we wear our shoes. What we need to do to achieve this goal is, first of all, to keep our shoes clean, to prevent moisture, and to dry the moisture out as soon as it inevitably arises. This can be done in a few ways.

Tip 1: Wash Your Feet More Often!

If you’ve been walking around all day in a pair of vans, they’re probably going to stink like crazy as it is. Don’t keep this cycle rolling by going directly from sweaty street shoes into your climbing shoes. This will just transfer all that dead skin, all the bacteria, and build-up, and you’ll now have it in both pairs of shoes.

Instead, if heading to the climbing gym, duck into the bathrooms and wash and dry your feet before going into your climbing shoes. If you take the socks route, bring a fresh pair, so you’re going into the climbing shoes with clean, dry socks.

If you’re climbing outside and not going for socks, you obviously can’t wash your feet before climbing. Wear clean socks on the day with your approach shoes, and before putting on your climbing shoes, let your sock-free feet dry out for a while.

Between climbs, don’t stand around in the dirt. Try to keep your feet as clean and dry as is reasonably possible. This is especially important if you don’t wear socks, as bacteria can enter shoes easily then.

Tip 2: Dry Shoes Smell Less and are Cleaner

One of the best ways to keep your shoe stink-free for longer takes place immediately after you’ve finished climbing.

Do not—and I repeat—do not put your climbing shoes into your bag when they are sweaty or even slightly damp. They need to be aired out to dry naturally, immediately. The best way to do this is to just hang them on the outside of your bag with a carabiner instead of putting them inside. Sure, this can get you some strange looks and wrinkled noses from other commuters on the train or the bus, but it beats the demonic smell that results from leaving them in your bag.

If you must be a polite and considerate citizen, and you must put your shoes in your bag for the ride home, make sure you take them out to air dry first thing. Don’t forget. If you do forget, I pity the poor fool that opens your bag after those shoes have been in there over the weekend…

Fungi and bacteria all love some warmth and moisture, and that’s why you should always make sure to enter climbing shoes with dry feet.

Tip 3: Store Rock Climbing & Bouldering Shoes in an Open Container or Space

You should always store your rock climbing shoes in an open space. Tight spaces are not good for climbing shoes, as they won’t let your shoes dry out. As they keep them wet and moist, they will promote bacteria growth, which makes your shoes smelly. Let the shoes dry out in an open space; it will minimize bacteria and fungi growth!

Tip 4: Take Shoes Off Between Your Climbs

Don’t walk around with your climbing shoes between climbs. If you belay or rest, take the shoes off. It’s good for your feet and shoes. This way, your shoes will be dry and smell better.

Tip 5: Use Some Baking Soda or Air Fresheners

Baking soda sprinkled on the inside of the shoes while washing the shoes will work wonders to remove smell and keep the shoes crisp. And the baking soda is not damaging the material! Air fresheners can be a good idea too, just put them into the shoes overnight, and you’re good to go!

Tip 6: Wear Thin and Clean Socks

Now an obvious way to avoid odor and to keep shoes clean is to wear clean socks. This goes for all shoes, not just climbing shoes. Socks absorb the sweat and collect the dead skin cells that your feet will shed. Instead of all this sticky, bacteria-filled sweat being absorbed by your shoes, it’ll mostly go into your socks.

As long as your socks are clean, only clean stuff goes into your climbing shoes.

Having said that, this one is hard for me to recommend because I don’t often do this myself. I’ll do it only in the winter when my toes can’t deal with the cold— but when I do, I get far less sensitivity in the feet. I like to really feel what’s going on down there, and socks prevent this. But give it a try yourself, if you don’t notice a difference, rock the socks— your shoes will thank you.

Related Questions

First, clean the rubber soles of dirt, oil, sands, and chalk. You can use a dry towel or some rubbing alcohol. After that, the sole will be really sticky again!
Climbing and bouldering shoes can get wet, but you should try to dry them completely afterward! Keep in mind; leather can get stiff when shoes become wet!

Conclusion

Again, prevention is by far the best way to keep your climbing shoes in top shape. It takes a little effort, but doing this from the beginning will make your climbing shoes last much longer, they will be more comfortable, and you will get far less judgmental looks from people on public transport. By the way, clean sneakers are a good idea too! Unsure how climbing shoes should fit? Check out my guide!

Read more about why you should get some climbing shoes, and if you need some new ones, here are the best models for 2020, we reviewed them.