10 February 2011


Category: Winter Climbing tips

Note: Many of these articles are very old, and although the technical information is still relevant the equipment mentioned may not be (for example a Stormy cooker was state of that art in 1995, but not in 2021).

One of the scariest hooks you can have - well when you’re used to real locking hooks - is when you hook a small hold, the type of thing you’d crimp.  These kinds of moves become more and more common as you get onto harder routes, and often the crux will be just such a move (or string of them), leading you to something a little more bomber.

If you’re unused to doing this kind of thing then here’s a few tips:

It’s vital that once you have a hook you’re happy with (see tip number 1), do not change the angle or position of your pull or your pick.  If you do you stand a very good chance that it will rip.  The best way to do this (or not do it?) is to follow a a great tip from Will Gadd, who said you should imagine you’ve got a cup of coffee balanced on the head of your axe, and when you move you mustn’t spill a drop.

Another vital thing is that your picks are sharp - which goes against the grain for scottish mixed climbers, but a sharp pick will hold an edge much better.

A hook will also only work when pulling down, and so the higher you go, the more unstable it will become.  Cranked tools with two high hand positions are designed that they will stay locked on even when pulling from the top position, giving you that extra reach.

Lastly practice makes perfect, and doing traverses on brick edges is a good way of learning the ropes, or doing modern drytooling on limestone winter sport crags.

Once you can move comfortably on a hook you’ll find you have one more type of hold you can exploit.


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Andy Kirkpatrick
Andy Kirkpatrick

Andrew Kirkpatrick is a British mountaineer, author, motivational speaker and monologist. He is best known as a big wall climber, having scaled Yosemite's El Capitan 30+ times, including five solo ascents, and two one day ascents, as well as climbing in Patagonia, Africa, Alaska, Antarctica and the Alps.

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Unknown Pleasures Higher Education
Me, Myself & I Nutcraft - The Climbing Nut Bible
Aid Basics 1000+ Tips for Climbers
Cold Wars Psychovertical
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