Crack Climbing: Techniques and Training Tips

Are you often stumped by the seemingly daunting task of crack climbing? We’ve been there too, and we know how crucial it is to master this technique (did you know that crack climbing requires specifically learned hand and foot placements?).

That’s why we’ve dug deep into studying techniques and training methods to tackle those tricky cracks. Ready to level up your rock-climbing game? Let’s dive in!

Techniques for Crack Climbing

In crack climbing, there are various techniques to master, including hand jams, foot jams, finger jams, fist jams, and off-width jams.

Hand jams

Mastering the art of hand jams is pivotal in crack climbing, offering stability and support. The technique involves inserting your hand into a crack and manipulating it to make a firm wedge.

Initially, the position feels awkward and possibly uncomfortable; however, with persistent practice, its efficiency becomes evident. The thumb-down position often proves optimal for achieving stronger jams but experiment to figure out what offers the maximum hold for you.

Always remember proper protection – gloves or tape can help against the inevitable abrasions that come with this climbing discipline. As per Pete Whittaker’s five rules of crack climbing, use our bodies as jamming devices efficiently in combination with hand jamming techniques to achieve effective outcomes while minimizing injury risks.

Foot jams

One important technique to master in crack climbing is foot jams. Foot jams involve wedging your foot into the crack to create stability and friction, allowing you to move upward. Proper foot placement can make a huge difference in your ability to climb cracks efficiently and safely.

To execute a foot jam, you want to find a solid position where the edge or sole of your shoe fits snugly into the crack. This can be done by twisting your ankle slightly, pointing your toes down, and applying pressure on the inside edge of your shoe against one side of the crack.

This creates a secure hold that allows you to transfer weight from your hands onto your feet.

In wide cracks, it may be necessary to utilize techniques such as heel-toe jams or toe scums. These involve using various parts of the foot to gain purchase within wider cracks. Practice different types of foot jams on both indoor and outdoor climbs with varying crack sizes so that they become second nature when facing different challenges on real rock faces.

Finger jams

One important technique to master in crack climbing is finger jams. Finger cracks can be challenging, as they require precise hand placement and the ability to generate power from your fingers.

To execute a finger jam, you’ll want to create a strong lock with your fingers by inserting them into the crack and twisting slightly. This will help distribute the weight evenly across your hand and give you stability.

It’s crucial to use proper finger technique, as putting too much strain on your fingers can lead to injury. By practicing finger jams on various sizes of cracks, you’ll improve your strength and dexterity, making it easier to navigate different types of cracks while climbing.

Fist jams

Fist jams are a crucial technique in crack climbing that involve inserting your clenched fist into a vertical or horizontal crack. This technique is especially useful for wider cracks where other hand jams might not be as effective.

To perform a fist jam, make a fist with your hand and insert it into the crack, twisting slightly to secure your position. Keep in mind that proper hand placement is key to avoiding injuries such as bruising or spraining your wrist.

By practicing and mastering this technique, you’ll be able to tackle wider cracks with confidence and efficiency. So get out there and give those fists some love!

Off-width jams

Off-width cracks can be particularly challenging in crack climbing. These cracks are wider than hand or fist size, but not wide enough to comfortably fit your entire body. They require unique techniques and strength to navigate successfully.

One strategy is to use the “thumbsdown” position, where you place your thumbs downward into the crack and then rotate them outward for stability. Another tip is to utilize your knees by pressing them against opposite sides of the crack to create a counterforce that helps keep you balanced.

It’s important to practice these off-width jamming techniques in order to improve your overall crack climbing skills and tackle even the trickiest routes with confidence.

Training Tips for Crack Climbing

In order to improve your crack climbing skills, there are several training tips you can follow.

Practicing on indoor cracks

When starting out in crack climbing, it can be helpful to practice on indoor cracks. Here are some tips for making the most of your training sessions:

  • Find a climbing gym or facility that has artificial crack features. These can provide a controlled environment for practicing crack climbing techniques.
  • Start with easy cracks that have face holds or other features that can help support your weight. This can help build confidence and familiarize yourself with the movements involved in crack climbing.
  • Use tape gloves to protect your hands while practicing on the artificial cracks. This can help prevent blisters and abrasions that can occur from repeated jamming.
  • Take the time to learn how to place trad gear safely and efficiently. This is an important skill in crack climbing and will allow you to protect yourself during outdoor climbs.
  • Utilize crack climbing technique manuals or resources to learn proper hand and foot placement techniques. These resources can provide valuable guidance on how to effectively jam your hands and feet into cracks.

Finding easy cracks with face holds

One helpful tip for amateur rock climbers when it comes to crack climbing is to start by finding easy cracks with face holds. This can be a great way to familiarize yourself with the technique and build confidence before tackling more challenging routes.

Look for cracks that have larger features on the rock face surrounding them, such as edges or ledges, which you can use as hand or foot holds to supplement your jamming technique. These face holds provide additional support and make it easier to navigate the crack.

By starting with these types of cracks, you can gradually progress and develop your skills in crack climbing. Happy climbing!

Learning tape glove techniques

As amateur rock climbers, one important technique to learn for crack climbing is how to use tape gloves effectively. Tape gloves can help protect your hands from cracks and prevent painful cuts and bruises. Here are some tips for learning tape glove techniques:

  1. Start by wrapping the tape around your hand, starting at the base of your fingers and working your way up towards your wrist.
  2. Make sure the tape is tight enough to provide support, but not so tight that it restricts movement or causes discomfort.
  3. Use multiple layers of tape to create a thicker barrier between your skin and the crack.
  4. Experiment with different taping methods to find what works best for you. Some climbers prefer a full-wrap method, where the entire hand and wrist are covered in tape, while others may only wrap certain fingers or areas that are prone to injury.
  5. Practice climbing with tape gloves on both indoor cracks and outdoor routes to get a feel for how they affect your grip and technique.
  6. As you become more comfortable with tape gloves, try using them on harder cracks or longer climbs to test their durability.
  7. Remember to always inspect your tape gloves before each climb, checking for any signs of wear or loosening that could compromise their effectiveness.

Placing trad gear safely and efficiently

Placing trad gear safely and efficiently is an important skill to master in crack climbing. Here are some tips to help you improve your technique:

  1. Start by selecting the appropriate piece of gear for the crack size. Different cracks require different types of protection, such as cams or chocks.
  2. Before placing the gear, make sure to clean out any loose debris or dirt from the crack. This will ensure a secure placement.
  3. Place the gear at a solid and stable section of the crack, avoiding any loose or flaring sections that may compromise its stability.
  4. When placing a camming device, place it with the lobes facing downward and parallel to each other. This will allow for maximum contact with the crack when weighted.
  5. As you insert the gear into the crack, make sure to wiggle it back and forth slightly to help create a secure fit.
  6. Once placed, give the gear a gentle tug to test its stability. If it feels loose or unreliable, remove it and try again.
  7. Avoid over – camming your gear, as this can reduce its holding power and increase the risk of it becoming stuck in the crack.
  8. Place multiple pieces of protection whenever possible to create redundancy and minimize potential fall hazards.
  9. Finally, always double – check your placements before committing your weight to them. Trust in your abilities but also be cautious and aware of your surroundings.

Utilizing crack climbing technique manuals

One helpful resource for improving your crack climbing technique is utilizing crack climbing technique manuals. These manuals provide in-depth explanations and step-by-step instructions on various techniques, allowing you to learn and practice at your own pace.

They often include detailed illustrations or photos that visually demonstrate proper hand and foot placements, as well as tips for body positioning and movement. By studying these manuals, you can gain a better understanding of the fundamental techniques involved in crack climbing, which will help you progress more efficiently on the wall.

Additionally, these manuals often offer valuable insights from experienced climbers who have mastered the art of crack climbing, providing valuable tips and advice that can enhance your learning journey.


In conclusion, crack climbing is a unique and challenging form of rock climbing that requires specific techniques and training. By learning the various types of hand jams, foot jams, and other jamming techniques, climbers can improve their skills on cracks of all sizes.

Additionally, practicing on indoor cracks, finding easy cracks with face holds, and mastering trad climbing skills will help climbers become more confident and efficient in their crack climbing abilities.

With dedication and perseverance, amateur rock climbers can successfully take on the thrilling world of crack climbing.


1. What is crack climbing?

Crack climbing is a type of rock climbing that involves ascending narrow cracks in the rock face using specialized techniques and equipment.

2. What are some techniques used in crack climbing?

Some common techniques used in crack climbing include hand jamming, finger jamming, foot jamming, and body bridging. These techniques involve wedging body parts into cracks to create points of contact and stability.

3. How can I improve my crack climbing skills?

Improving your crack climbing skills requires practice and training. Some tips for improvement include focusing on technique over strength, gradually increasing difficulty levels, seeking instruction from experienced climbers, and incorporating specific exercises that target the muscles used in crack climbing.

4. Are there any safety considerations when it comes to crack climbing?

Yes, safety is crucial in crack climbing. It’s important to use proper protective gear such as helmets, harnesses, and appropriate footwear. Additionally, learning how to place protection devices like cams or nuts correctly can prevent falls or injuries during climbs. It’s recommended to climb with a partner who has experience with traditional lead-climbing techniques for added safety measures.

Calvin Rivers

Hey, I’m Calvin Rivers, a climbing veteran with 10+ years on crags and walls around the world. I can’t wait for you to explore our site and fall in love with the outdoors just like I have.

More Posts - Website