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“What can I teach them today?” When building a route, this is often the first question I ask myself. As a routesetter, it’s my responsibility to set something that aids in the progression of the climbers at Climb So iLL. Sometimes I choose a general theme such as, “Let’s have them trust their feet.” At other times, it’s a specific move like a heel hook or drop-knee.

There’s no such thing as a bad hold.

I see climbers look at large slopers or small crimps and say, “These holds are too bad,” or “It’s too hard,” without even trying them. Based on this observation, my goals when setting this route were to:

  1. set an accessible route with holds that have a reputation for only being on advanced routes.
  2. focus on body positioning and weighting feet more than overall strength.
  3. use positive feet to allow the climber to focus on the intricacies of the hand holds.

The section of the gym that I chose for this route begins with a dead-vertical wall and moves into a slab section before finishing with a vertical dihedral section. In order to execute the above goals, I set the route in somewhat of a zig-zag pattern in order to force the climber to shift their body weight, track their feet onto bigger and better holds, and learn how to press holds away rather than pull their body up – a technique also known as a mantle.

If you observe the route from the ground (route-reading), you’ll notice that the smallest holds are paired with the largest feet. Likewise, the largest holds are paired with the smallest feet. Both of these combinations are more comfortable than pairing small holds with even smaller feet. This battles the misconception that small crimps and large slopers are “bad holds” and make for a difficult route.

Find friction. Get low. Move slow.

My ability to use large, sloping, friction-dependent holds while climbing is almost always attributed to finding friction, getting low, and moving slow.

  1. Find Friction: Move slowly to a sloper when you can. Search for a spot that feels like you have the most skin-to-hold contact. What may look like the most obvious spot may not actually give you the most friction.
  2. Get Low: Once the sweet spot is found, shift as much weight onto your feet and as far underneath the hold as possible.
  3. Move Slow: Oftentimes with slopers, there isn’t much to grab onto. If you move too quickly, correcting mistakes and maintaining friction is much harder.

Use these three strategies the next time you encounter slopey holds on a nemesis project. This route on the Tulip Wall will help fine-tune your technique.

Miles West

Author Miles West

Miles West is an instructor and the acting head routesetter at Climb So iLL. His teaching specialties include bouldering, basic climbing technique, and route reading. Look for Miles’ routes and boulder problems throughout the gym.

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