Sport Climbing

Sport climbing may seem simple because all you need is a rope and a rack of quickdraws. But experts spend years honing the skills needed to climb sport routes efficiently and safely. The articles on these pages will help you shortcut the learning curve and make big gains in your redpoint and onsight ability.
  • HPSqueeze

    Learn This: Conquer Chimneys (With Tips From Rob Pizem)

    Royal Arches, Yosemite. Kor-Ingalls Route, Castleton Tower. Durrance Route, Devil’s Tower. What do these super-classic moderates have in common? They each have a physically demanding chimney. This term refers to any fissure that your body fits inside, ranging from a squeeze chimney (one to two feet wide) to much wider, where you must stem the gap with a foot and hand on each side. Each width requires its own set of unique movements, so we talked with wide-crack wizard Rob Pizem (who points out that this was one of the earliest climbing techniques) to break it down into a step-by-step process.

  • HPPlat

    Training: Never Plateau Again

    Climbing is addictive. One reason is that you can see massive strength gains and technique improvement from day one of your climbing career. But after a few months—or for the extremely lucky, a few years—a plateau can sneak up on you, slow your progress, and frustrate you beyond belief. During my own personal three-year-long plateau, I heard every kind of advice from doing more pull-ups to climbing every day despite the pain to even going vegetarian (not gonna happen). On a quest to find the one true way, I started to interview top climbers to see how they handled these annoying performance flatlines—both mentally and physically—and the answers I found were as diverse and interesting as the climbers themselves.

  • HPStuckRapRopes

    Learn This: Free Stuck Rappel Ropes

    When I look back on my 30-year tenure as a climber, I realize that I’ve spent as much (or more) time descending than ascending. After all, knowing when to turn around is what keeps us climbers alive and climbing. All that “downtime” easily adds up to several thousand hours of dodgy anchors, scary raps, and uncertain ends. That stuff would make any grown man nervous, but by far the scariest experiences of all were the few times I’ve gotten the rappel rope hopelessly stuck. This scenario can cause even the hardest of climbers to break out in a cold sweat. When your rope is stuck, you ain’t going nowhere. Here are my hard-won tips for getting your rope unstuck and—even better—preventing it from happening in the first place.

  • HPSteeps

    Learn This: Conquer Steep Routes (With Tips From Sasha DiGiulian)

    As you're eying the next clip only a few feet away, your swollen forearms throb even harder at the thought of just one more move. You take a deep breath, dig your toe in a little deeper, drive your body up, and grab the next hold with a feeling of pure elation—only to experience a moment of stillness, a feeling of defeat, and the rush of air as the wall rapidly fades into the distance. Welcome to steep sport climbing. When the wall kicks back past vertical, the pump clock starts ticking and it’s all about getting to the chains before that alarm goes off. Steeps and overhangs require determination, focus, technique, and creative thinking. Below, we’ve dissected the most important skills to develop.

  • Laybacks

    Learn This: Master Laybacks (With Tips From Cheyne Lempe)

  • HPBelay

    25+ Ways To Be A Better Belayer

  • HPAutoBlock

    Essential Skills: Auto-Blocking Belay Devices

    This setup, which is also called “guide mode,” automatically stops the rope from moving through the device—or “catches” the follower—if he falls. It’s a must-have tool and technique for anyone who wants to tackle multi-pitch climbs.

  • HPSlab

    Instant Expert: Friction Slabs (With Tips From Hazel Findlay)

    In an odd way, friction slabs are like wide cracks: Hate ’em all you want, but you can’t climb some of the most classic trad routes without working through them. It’s common to find slab sections leading into and out of perfect cracks in places like Yosemite and Lumpy Ridge, Colorado. They’re characterized by a low angle (between roughly 65° and 80°) and a dearth of holds (think: micro-divots, bumps, edges, dishes, and nubbins ). There’s nothing to pull down on, so you must employ a set of techniques unique to these features (or lack thereof).

  • Rotator1at660

    Solo Toproping: Basic Self-Belay Techniques

    When Tommy Caldwell or Mayan Smith-Gobat work a free climb high on El Capitan, the crux may be finding a belayer willing to put in days of duty in an isolated and exposed location. Often, the solution is to go alone, rehearsing the key pitches by solo toproping. Whether you’re an active first ascensionist or just want to do some laps after work without a partner, solo toproping is a handy technique to add to your repertoire.

  • Feeding-Slack-Quickly-Grigri-158

    Learn Proper Techniques for Grigri Use

    Petzl has made an effort to educate users, but the bad habits of devotees are difficult to break, and with the release of the Grigri 2 in 2011, it's more important than ever to learn (and teach) proper techniques for this ubiquitous device.

  • How-to-Tyrol-Traverse-600

    How to Do the Tyrolean Traverse

    The Tyrol, short for Tyrolean traverse, involves using a fixed line to cross from one point to another, often over water. While wearing a harness, you clip onto the rope or cable to pull yourself across. Developed in the Dolomites of the former Tyrol region, this method was used to approach and descend from spires. Nowadays, it’s commonly used to negotiate rivers or reach a detached pillar. If the ropes or cables are already safely set up, these basic guidelines will make traversing a breeze.

  • Meditation-in-Brain

    Breathe Easier: Mental Tacks to Get Through Tough Climbs

    Notoriously sandbagged routes are intimidating. They can cause anxiety and lead to disappointment if you don’t redpoint the grade you’re used to completing easily. Arno Ilgner, author of The Rock Warrior’s Way, says the first step to combatting anxiety when faced with a sandbag is to forget the grade. “Move your perspective to where the grade of the climb isn’t an issue,” he says. “When you do that, no problem or anxiety will exist.” Instead, focus on the route’s movement, protection and rest opportunities, and the consequence of the fall zones.