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Note: As part of Climbing’s new Summit Membership, members will receive a free upcycled jump rope from Edelrid while supplies last. Read on to see why the simple jump rope might be the ultimate warm-up tool at the rocks, especially during the bitter days of winter.
“Watch this,” Ethan Pringle said to a group of us one cold winter’s day at the Buttermilk Boulders outside Bishop, California. A few other boulderers and I shivered, too cold to start climbing even with the sun hitting the south-facing blocks. Pringle, one of the best sport climbers in the United States, had said he had just the tool for warming up—even on this sub-freezing day. I expected him to reach into his backpack and retrieve a solar-powered gizmo that somehow diffused heat into his forearms. Instead, he pulled out a small length of rope with two handles on the end. He then proceeded to jump rope for five minutes, skipping, doing skier’s jumps, and then doing double-unders.
“Now I’m ready to climb,” announced Pringle, who then proceeded to hike the warmups and then crush a hard circuit of boulders while the rest of us watched with our hands in our pockets, shivering.
Jump ropes have long been a staple of the athletic world. Boxers use them to increase dexterity—to stay light on their feet. Runners use them as a way to warm up their calves and rear deltoids. It’s a strenuous activity: You can burn up to 1,300 calories in an hour of jumping rope—that is, if you’re fit enough to jump rope for an hour. In the climbing world, they’re less popular. However, after watching Pringle warm up with his jump rope and then go on to send classics like High Planes Drifter (V7), Soul Slinger (V9), and other classics, it’s become a standard in my pack.
In Rifle, Ten Sleep, and in bouldering zones like the Buttermilks, I’ve started to pack a jump rope. Many climbing areas—or at least my favorite ones—tend to have little to no approach hike, which means you’ll arrive at the cliff with stiff, cold muscles, which translates to climbing poorly until you’re warmed up. To properly warm up, I need to elevate my heart rate. A short five- to seven-minute session of jumping rope not only loosens my shoulders and arms with the swinging, and my legs with the jumping; it also helps me to focus on my breathing and heart rate. While jumping, I concentrate on lowering my heart rate and controlling my breathing. This practice at the beginning of my session translates well to giving redpoint burns on my project later. When I’m redlining on the crux moves, I intrinsically revert to the controlled breathing I’d practiced earlier while jumping rope.
The jump rope also has a few other advantages: As a warm-up tool, it takes up hardly any space in my climbing pack. Additionally, unlike other cardio exercises like running or hiking, I can start and stop in the same place—I just need a slightly even area to jump in, which most cliff bases provide. It also means that I can stop and start at any time. Between the jump rope and a few Therabands, I have everything I need for a proper warm-up. I can get primed and ready to climb on the coldest days.
My days of shivering at the Buttermilks are over thanks to a bit of rope and some wood handles. Who knew it would be so simple?