EA MOUNTAIN SKILLS
As climbers move up through the grades footholds quickly become smaller & their footwork needs to be equally precise to match these demands.
Easier indoor climbs often feature holds so big beginners can 'get away' with session after session of imprecise footwork. This poor technique not only becomes heavily engrained but then becomes something to 're-learn' as beginners seek to send harder grades. The lesson? You may have just started climbing, you may be topping your routes, but its never too early to start honing your footwork.
(Note the decreasing size of the footholds on the routes above - Wall & Corner VDiff, Phantom Slab VS & Living at the Speed E1).
The first climbs of a session are ideal for focussing on footwork as lack of fatigue allows a conscious effort at precision. You'll be warming up on easy terrain & may well find yourself using larger footholds; be selective about where on those larger holds you place your feet. Here are the four rules I give to any client seeking to improve their footwork.
In order to give yourself time for a precise foot placement the rest of your body must be in balance. Manoeuvre your weight over your 'standing' foot in order to release the 'stepping foot'.
Ever tried playing darts blindfolded? Me neither. Beginners often look away when they're moving their feet & consequently either miss the hold or land their foot with a poor contact leading to a slip shortly after. Instead look at the hold you're moving to & watch your foot all the way on to the hold.
Dynamic movement, pivoting your hips, reaching further... all advantages in climbing & all made possible by standing on your toes. Whether you're using inside or outside edge (often for slabs & overhangs respectively) ensure you make contact with the hold toes first.
The ultimate test of your footwork; keeping your foot horizontal shift your weight over the foot you just placed.
The drill above is designed for beginners to hone their precision in preparation for moving up through the grades. As the climbing becomes more demanding advanced foot techniques such as smears, heel hooks & toe pulls will become necessary additions to a climber's repertoire. For now though; start honing that precision.
Ed | Mountaineering Instructor & Development Coach