Crack Climbing Tip: Use Your Thumbs

As we near desert season, we asked Kitty Calhoun to give us a bit of beta on an important, but rarely focused on, crack climbing technique.  It’s not just for hitchhiking and texting anymore, Kitty has us considering the thumb as we’re sending splitters at Indian Creek.

Your thumb is the most important digit you’ve got.  Think about it.  Which finger do we automatically use as toddlers to suck on?  The thumb of course.  It gives us security and stability. (See image to left – who hasn’t used their thumb for this?)

Pinching & Crimping

No seriously, your thumb has the most power.  On face climbs, often on cobblestones, it pinches.  On crimpers, it wraps around and sits on top of your index finger to add support and aid in stability.

Thumb Crimping.

Thumb Crimping.

Layback

But did you ever think about how you use your thumb when crack climbing?  First off, you can use your thumb to provide opposition when you are laybacking a thin finger crack.

Thumb providing opposition.

Thumb providing opposition.

Offset Finger Cracks

Secondly, your thumb is critical in offset finger cracks (too big for finger locks and too small for hands).  In this case, you place your thumb under your first two fingers and then slide in the wide part of a crack, bring down to the constriction, and cam.  All the while, your thumb is pushing against the other two to provide stability.

Thumb in offset finger crack.

Thumb in offset finger crack.

Hand Cracks

Lastly, you use your thumb in hand cracks – especially when the crack is insecure and you are in thumbs down position.  Exact use depends on whether if is thin hands or cupped hands.

Thumb in hand jam.

Thumb in hand jam.

Suffice it to say, that the thumb is vital for leverage and stability.  To find out more about use of your thumb and other body parts in cracks, please attend our Indian Creek Climbing clinic.

Written by: Kitty Calhoun