Mastering the Face: Climbing with effective grips

Doug Williams

The secret to becoming a successful climber with a low number of mishaps (we’re talking minor mishaps here as major ones are life changers), is to do with the ability to master the art of coordinating your four points of contact. Your hands and feet must be in complete harmony with each other, complimenting and supporting each other as you proceed upwards.

Use Feet to support your weight

It’s common to forget the significance of firm feet while climbing a rock face, and it can seem like the hands are doing all the work. It is vital to remember that legs are way stronger than our hands and arms, so it only makes sense to assign them the difficult task of holding most of the weight of your body as often as possible, while at the same time, providing the principle force for propelling you up the rock face.


Using hands effectively

As you progress towards becoming a better with every climb, you must learn to better utilize your hands and the strength of your arms. It is only natural that you aspire to go for harder routes, but with every step up in difficulty it requires more refined grip techniques and more strength in your arms, wrists, and fingers, every part of your hand is a climbing tool, from your wrist to your fingertips. You have to learn how and when to shift your body weight to your arms and hands from the feet and legs and vice versa.


Understanding the challenges of different handholds

The rock face is never going to be uniform, making it easy with only one type of handhold or rock formation. On any given route, you will probably face a number of different situations that require a variety of handholds.

There are slopers, both with flat and rounded edges, pinches with only a small ball-like bulge to get hold of, pockets that are effectively small holes and drills within the rock and many more. Learning the pros and cons of these handholds is no less than an art and must be mastered as early in your climbing career as possible.


Basic Hand and Finger Grips:

Following is a list of some of the more basic and commonly used hand grips while climbing.

Friction grips

Also referred to as palming, the friction grip is very much like an open hand grip as it involves using the friction of the skin on your palm on the surface of the rock to create a nonsliding grip.

The friction grip is rarely used while climbing on flat rock, as it requires large flat surfaces which are more common on slab routes. However, if you are planning to climb dihedrals, aretes, or you’re bouldering, you need to learn how to friction grip, it will serve you well.


Climbers practice friction grips in the gym, although some enthusiasts also utilize various urban structures to strengthen their palming techniques.

Full Crimps and Half Crimps

Perhaps the most challenging and potentially harmful grip, and one that takes a good while to master, is called crimping. This grip essentially entails getting hold of small features in the rock such as edges and flakes.

The idea is to use the tips of the fingers to establish a firm hold on the top of the edges, by bending the fingers from the middle knuckle and then providing added strength from the thumb by putting it over your index finger. Crimping is extremely strenuous and hard grip to master.

Open Hand Grips

Unlike crimping, an open hand grip requires the climber to stretch the fingers on a sloping surface of the rock, keeping the knuckles straight and pressed hard on the surface. Open hand grips are only effective if the surface area of the handhold is large enough and strong enough to bear the force of the press.

Despite the fact that to an untrained eye open hand grips don’t really look like a grip at all, the reality is quite the opposite. The most avid climbers train in the gym to strengthen open hand grips, making sure their stretched out fingers are able to bear their weight during a climb, and over time this grip can become the strongest grip in a climbers repertoire.

Pinch grips

Rocks faces exhibit all kinds of different features ranging from large flat table-like structures poking out to small fist size balls of rock. Pinch grips are effective when you encounter small features that you can pinch between your fingers and thumb, rather like a crimp but instead of having your thumb on your index finger you have it under the edge of the rock you’re gripping.



A pinch grip is one of the most used climbing grips and it needs to be practiced regularly.


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fmssolution is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival