17 CLEVER HACKS AND TIPS
TO STREAMLINE YOUR CLIMBING
Words and Photos by Abby Cooper
When it comes to climbing, efficiency and speed make a big difference in both safety and enjoyment. Applying some tools of the trade can help you achieve both of these. With the advice of top-notch climbers, Abby Cooper rounds up some of the best climbing hacks that’ll make your rock world operate a little smoother.
If you are a climber, you have likely spent quality time in uncomfortable positions and compromising head spaces. That’s part of the struggle that mountain people seem to crave. And while we learn a lot through that struggle, there are a number of ways you can streamline your climbing.
Climbing hacks come in all forms – through observation, self-reflection, learning the hard way, tips passed down from guides and from a newbie’s fresh set of eyes. Collecting these hacks takes time, so we’ve made your job easier by rounding up 17 of the best here.
1/ Bring a Tarp: A simple tarp can drastically improve your climbing experience for multiple reasons. Standing on a tarp while setting up and belaying ensures that your rope stays clean and dry (which will prolong its life). Putting your shoes on while standing on the tarp also keeps them clean and dry before starting a route. A tarp is a dream to have in a First Aid situation or to use as a makeshift shelter if unfavourable weather finds you. It might seem annoying on a multi-pitch to pack a tarp, but it’s not a bad idea to have it on hand “just in case”, especially if you’re committing to a time-consuming route.
2/ Buy a Bi-Coloured Rope: Have you heard of bi-coloured rope? It might just change your life, especially when it comes to rappelling. What makes bi-coloured rope so awesome is that it changes colour or pattern at the halfway point so that it’s easy to find the middle. Some ropes are marked in the middle with a black line, but this can rub off over time. If you are going to mark the middle of your rope, make sure you use a climbing rope specific marker as a regular marker can compromise the integrity of your rope.
3/ Invest in an Autoblocking ATC: Rock and snow guides alike praise the Petzl Reverso. This small, lightweight piece of gear can be used for belaying or rappelling on a variety of ropes. With training, it can be used to assist in rescue scenarios and be left unmanned, which is a big advantage. Black Diamond makes a similar ATC called the Guide.
4/ Mark Your Gear: Colour coding your gear to mark it as “yours” is easily achieved with duct tape or nail polish. Both can disappear with time, so be sure to reapply as needed. If you want to take it a step further you can match your gear to its size or use. For example, when setting up an anchor with a master point, colour coordinate your long webbing and locking carabiner, and use another colour for a shorter set. This gives you a quick visual on what you need to grab in a pinch and know that the gear is already matched for use. This comes in handy when planning, on the rock, and also when collecting your gear at the end of the day. Plus you look awesome – style points.
ON THE ROUTE
5/ Don’t Be Short: Take a couple extra draws as “just-in-casers.” The added weight far outweighs the headache of being one or two short.
6/ Pack Your Puffy: It might be hot on the rock, but one thing you can count on when climbing is a bit of downtime. Be prepared with a lightweight puffy. If you invest in an Arc’teryx Nuclei Jacket or the MEC Uplink Jacket you won’t be disappointed. Keep your valuable or “pretty” gear in a small stuff sack to keep it safe from abrasive climbing gear.
7/ Warm Frozen Digits: Putting a hand warmer in your chalk bag is a real treat for your paws when it’s chilly out.
8/ Streamline the “Pass Off”: When cleaning a route, put a 120-cm sling around your shoulder to collect gear and give it back to your partner. This keeps it separate from your own gear and is easy to pass off.
9/ Tie the Knot: You’ve probably heard it before, but whatever you do, don’t forget to tie a knot at the end of your rope when rappelling. It’s simple and easy, but make a mental note of double-checking for this potentially life-saving step.
10/ Tie the Knot AGAIN: Why not use a prusik to back up your rappel? No excuses, friends – you can fashion a prusik in under 30 seconds, so use it.
11/ Organize Your Rack: How you do this is up to you, but it can be very efficient to rack your smalls at the front and bigs near the back of your harness. It’s easier to see the big stuff; it’s not so easy to see over the big stuff to search for something small. Re-rack properly at the end of the day so that you can start your next climb on the right foot.
12/ Pack Your Shoes Last: When you take off your shoes for the last time, put them at the very top of your pack. This makes it nearly impossible to forget to take them out and let them air out. You’ll be thankful that your backpack and belongings don’t completely reek the next time you climb.
13/ Practice on a Top Rope: Modest moves can save energy so that you’re ready for the big dynos. A combination of small, methodical body adjustments can give you a whole new reach on something. Don’t be afraid to fidget and reach instead of wishing you had a bigger span. A great way to practice this is by top-roping a pitch you’d like to lead. Top rope gives you the security to test your skills without the pressure of leading.
14/ Embrace the Natural Breaks: You might be crushing it leading up to a crux, but a bit more time on that shelf or hallelujah hold will give you more power through that crux when you need it. Climbing is about the experience, so don’t rush it. Dance with the rock, don’t manhandle it.
15/ Just Breathe: You’re more efficient when you breathe, it can allow your head space to function with a new level of celerity. Mind, focus and body awareness spike when you take time to take in your surroundings with a deep inhale and exhale. Yoga is a great cross-training tool for this.
16/ Double Check: Partner checks are essential before hitting the rock. Check knots, ropes, carabiners, and harnesses. Re-check the gear needed for the route and make sure you have the right gear and the right amount of it to reach the top. Be verbal about your checklist. Last, and certainly most importantly, check you and your partner’s head space. Are you both on the same page and okay with the risks?
→ Read more: Perfecting the Art of Bailing
17/ Have Fun: Don’t forget why you’re up there. You’re climbing for fun, and if you’re not climbing for fun, you’re doing it wrong.
The climbing community is growing and is filled with beta. Offer up your favourite hacks to a newbie and the favour will find its way back to you.
Also, be sure to add The Rock Warrior’s Way and Espresso Lessons by Arno Ilgner to your summer book list for even more readable insight.
A big thank you to these amazingly talented and humble climbers who shared their hacks and insights: Diny Harrison, Aaron Van Dyck, Michelle Brazier, Phil Green, Jen Girardi, Spring McClurg, Leigh McClurg, Joe Lammers and Eric Hughes.
A lover of all things outdoors, Abby Cooper is a splitboarder, climber, hiker, adventurer, photographer and writer. She’s living life one adventure to the next with her dog by her side.