Avoiding the Beached Whale

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Avoiding the Beached Whale

You’ve just hiked the crux of your latest proj. Just a few easy moves and a nasty topout separate you from victory. You stick the final grips with ease, and pull up to the lip. Then it hits you: Your feet are way off the deck, and you’re not sure what to do next. Panicking, you throw a leg onto the lip, but your heel skates off the rock. You hold your breath and try rocking onto your other foot, but your pumped forearms are too weak. Suddenly your loud cursing mingles with the sound of a deep phumph from your crashpad. You throw your chalk pot at the boulder, compounding your humiliation with a blatant display of mental weakness. Your peers lower their eyes at your shame.Now you’re probably familiar with a standard mantel top out: grab the lip with both hands, plant your feet in the running position on the face, pull down, press up, then swing a foot up onto the lip. If a top out is very rounded or sloping, however, you might need different Beta. If you’ve ever climbed in the Southeast, you’ve noticed most problems end with an absolutely heinous mantel. Those Southern boys and girls never wince at the grim slopers and featureless topouts, but you don’t need to whistle Dixie to hike mantels. Here are seven steps to the perfect Southern-style sloping topout:

Step one. When you reach the lip of a boulder, quickly evaluate which foot to swing up onto the lip (from now on this foot will be known as the pivot foot). Let gravity work for you by swinging your pivot foot onto the low side, not the high side, of the boulder. If the lip is horizontal, pick your stronger — or favored — side to swing up. Do a half pull-up, and simultaneously raise your pivot foot over the lip, keeping your knee slightly bent. Try to find a good heel hook, edge, or foot scum to use as a fulcrum — extra purchase is useful for floating a mantel. If possible, use your other foot to edge on the face of the boulder.

Step two. With your arm opposite your pivot foot, reach out laterally, approximately a forearm’s length, and grab a hold on — or slightly above — the lip. Palm the rock with your fingers facing slightly towards your body. Flag with your non-pivot foot to keep from barndooring.

Step three. Contract your pivot leg so that your hips are even with — or higher than — the lip. Hold yourself in position with friction from your pivot foot. Bend your elbows, and use your ab muscles to bring yourself aggressively close to the rock. If you’re having a hard time making your foot stick, try draping your pivot-foot leg over the stone, contacting the rock with the underside of your calf muscle, to create additional friction.

Step four. Pop your pivot-foot hand and elbow 90 degrees so that your fingers face your torso. Shift your other hand 45 degrees outwards (away from your body), and switch your fingers from clasping the rock to palming it. This positions your shoulders over your wrists, and improves your overall leverage.

Step five. Rock up, pulling with the thigh and calf muscles of your pivot leg, keeping tension with your abs. Turn your pivot knee in slightly, and pull your torso over the lip. Flagging your non-pivot foot helps as a counter balance, as does smearing (backstepping) on top of the lip with your non-pivot foot. If done properly, your body will be almost horizontal to the ground.

Step six. Dig the inside edge of your pivot foot into whatever feature it’s on. If there are no features, firmly push of your shoe into the rock to maintain friction. Now lever up onto this foot, twisting your torso inward. Drive hard with your elbows as you push your shoulders over the lip with your palms.

Step seven. Extend your elbows and stand up. You’ll likely have to make minor adjustments in the position of your hands and body to keep your balance as you go from perching to standing.

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