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Ever since I began to climb, I’ve had to figure out my own methods and sequences. Most of my climbing partners have been men much taller than I am, who could reach past long blank sections of rock that I could not. At 5’1 and a half (I count every bit) inches, I have learned to compensate by looking for high footholds or small intermediate handholds that most people don’t even see. But sometimes the only way past has been a dyno.
Chouca (5.13c) in Buoux, France, a famous testpiece back in the mid-1980s, taught me a lot about dynoing. Most climbers with longer limbs had little trouble making a certain big dyno from one pocket to another without whipping off. For me as a smaller person with shorter limbs, the dyno was technical and powerful. However, my small size also meant that I had less weight to launch and control once I latched the hold, and that was a plus.
The trick for me was to generate enough power to travel upward and over to the side on this extremely overhanging wall. The biggest challenge was controlling the rotational movement of my body and limbs as they flew through the air. I had to coordinate the pushpull timing between my hand and footholds so that my body would arrive in the right position with respect to the hold and the angle of the wall. If I overshot, my body whipped off due to the excess momentum. If I tried to catch the hold before my body traveled to the correct position, I would also whip. When I hit the hold at the ideal moment of my upward trajectory, I had less momentum to control and was finally able to catch the hold. In the case of Chouca, on such overhanging terrain, that meant my arm and body were in a position nearly perpendicular to the wall.
Ironically, in the end I discovered that the “figure-four” technique was the perfect solution to this move, since I could wrap my fingers securely around a “finger bar” inside the pocket, wrap my leg around the arm, and gain the necessary height to reach the hold. When it came time for redpointing, I chose to use the figure-four instead of trying to stick such a low-percentage dyno move. Still, I’d had a seminal learning experience. Whether you happen to be a small person or you simply want to send your hardest routes or boulder problems, put dyno skills in your bag of tricks.
HOW TO DYNO
1. The first priority with a big dyno is to make sure your feet are in the best places to generate maximum leverage and power. The bigger the lunge, the higher your feet might need to be. Women may have an advantage here in terms of having the flexibility for high foot placements. Experiment with different foot combos to find what feels best.
2. Visualize the timing of when to initiate the push-pull snapping motion, and the position of your body at the moment of arriving at the apex or weightless “dead point” of upward momentum: that moment of stillness just before your weight begins to fall. Imagine catching the target hold as if it were a ball.
3. Extend your arms fully and then initiate a powerful push-pull motion simultaneously between your hands and feet. The timing of when you make a “snapping” motion with your arms will determine your trajectory. Sometimes it helps to test the movement, rocking up and down once or twice, before liftoff. This helps you coordinate the pushpull timing necessary for generating maximum power.
4. At the apex or dead point of your upward movement, give a final push off with your hands and catch the target hold.
5. Last, hold on! Sometimes, especially if you’ve doubted yourself or have tried many times, you can be so surprised to stick a hold that you forget to hang on. Follow through with your visual image of catching the hold like a ball.