Climbing on loose rock when deep water soloing

Climbing on loose rock when deep water soloing

Most established deep water solo routes are fairly solid although with so many up and coming venues, you are quite likely to come across loose rock at some point. Climbing on this is an art and can be very dangerous if you get it wrong.

Most routes of today are very solid with only the odd loose hold. In these cases it is best to avoid using them. If you don't have to use it, then don't. Climbing on loose or fragile rock can, at times, be somewhat harrowing. Staying 'on' the rock in these conditions can be a big part of the challenge, so a few basic principles should be applied.

Points of contact

It is important to keep at least 3 points of contact on the rock at all times, with your weight evenly distributed between each point of contact.

Check each hold  

Check each hold before you use it. Depending on the size, tap it with your knuckles if it's small, and tap the rock around it to see if there is any difference. With bigger blocks use the palm of you hand. If it moves, see how it fits into the rock.

Using a loose hold

If you HAVE TO use a loose hold, pull on it in the direction that pulls it into the rock - usually by applying a downward not outwards force (unless the hold is precariously perched under the lip of an overhang). Be careful not to lever it out and be gentle with each move. Always look for alternatives and remove dirt and debris to locate better rock underneath.

Weight distribution

When climbing on fragile rock spread you weight out as much as you can. Spread you fingers out over the holds and pull gently. Tap your footholds with your feet and remember what you used for your hands - ask yourself whether the same pressure from your feet will disrupt those same holds. Keep looking for more secure holds, these are usually NOT the big ones! Think of the route as an elegant dance, with you gliding across the rock like a ballerina!

Rock shoes

Use a thin pair of shoes for extra feeling and sensation. If a hold breaks without coming off you have more chance of noticing and more warning to change your position. Watch out for dirt on your shoe if you do brake off a foothold. This was the cause of Johnny Dawes' huge fall on Hardback Thesaurus (E7) on the 'Gogarth' video. Never spin or rotate your feet on potentially loose footholds.

In summary

Remain focused at all times and try to keep a clear head. And if you do pull something off the rock, check there is no one below you before throwing it down!

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