This is the fifth in an eight-part series on fundamental climbing techniques. Previously we examined several basic techniques that should be rapidly perfected during the formative stage of learning to climb. Upcoming in this and the next three articles are fundamental techniques needed for effective and efficient climbing on advanced-level climbs.
Use Flagging to Enhance Stability
Flagging is the alternative technique for maintaining stability when a left-right hand-foot combination is not possible. Suppose you are attempting to use a right hand and right foot combination to propel upward movement. Upon releasing your left hand to make a reach upward, you will immediately begin to barndoor. This sideways rotation is hard to fight, and often results in a fall. However, a simple flagging of the free leg (in this case the left) significantly improves stability and balance by shifting your center of gravity more directly over the supporting (right) foot and under the supporting (right) hand.
PHOTO: Notice how Emily Harrington’s flagging left foot shifts her center of gravity (hips) to the right and almost directly under her right hand and closer to her supporting right foot.
Exploit Mantling and Hand-Foot Matches
Another important technique for ascending difficult “big-move” climbs is the hand-foot match. Let’s consider the most common scenario of needing to mantle with one hand while the other hand is pulling. The pulling hand will usually be positioned above your head while the mantling hand will contact a hold somewhere near your torso. Depending on the size of the hold to be mantled, you may be able to press your entire palm onto the hold or, possibly, just your fingertips. The left-right combination of pushing and pulling hands provides great stability, so you will be able to upgrade one or, possibly, both feet. Quite often you’ll need to match a foot to the handhold on which you are mantling. Regardless, the mantle is complete when you are able to weight your feet, gain balance, and upgrade your hand from the mantle.
Copyright 2007 Eric J. Hörst. All rights reserved.