We all have our strengths in climbing, a certain movement style we enjoy more than others, a hold type we prefer. When trying a climb for the first time, there’s always the unknown of what lies ahead, and then the joy of discovery. Of reaching up to that hold you hope is a jug…and it is, or finding a hidden rest, or marveling at a perfect pocket, and so on and so forth. Here, I present my personal top five climbing holds, the ones that make a climb super enjoyable for me. Your mileage may vary, of course, but feel free to add to the list in the comments.
This has always been, and might always be, my favorite kind of “hold.” Is there anything better than a locker hand jam? Whether on an endless splitter, or hidden on a sport route, hand jams always bring a smile to my face. And on sport climbs, they often mean a great rest where I can shake out my weary forearms and hopefully get something back. If forced to choose between a solid hand jam and a jug, I’ll take the hand jam every time.
There’s something incredibly satisfying about a good knee bar. Slotting it just perfectly, and then dropping both your hands, admittedly makes me feel like a bit of a super hero at times. I mean, look at me, I’m staying attached to the cliff without using my hands! Plus, once you start looking for these, you’ll find them everywhere, trad routes, sport routes, from Smith Rock to Indian Creek. Aside from standing on a ledge, my favorite rest stance for sure.
I have a general aversion to small holds, as they are one of my main weaknesses. Given the choice between the crimpy sequence and a thuggy one, you can bet I’ll take the way with the biggest holds. (That’s right Mike, I go left at the crux.) But the exception for me is crimps with lips. You know the ones, you reach up, thinking it’s going to be another small edge, and to your delight, there’s an incut which makes your fingers feel so much more solid. My whole being relaxes when these little gifts surprise me on a route, putting my small hold anxiety to rest, at least until the next move.
Not quite as satisfying as hand jams, these are still high on my list. It’s an amazing feeling to lock your fingers up to your knuckles and feel totally secure. How many times have you heard “And it’s got feet!” as a friend was explaining a rad splitter fingers pitch, which on its own could be desperate, but add some footholds and you’ve got climbing Nirvana. And much like hand jams, these add some great variety to sport pitches.
OK, so I’ve never actually climbed anything with real tufas,(only little mini ones) but I can only imagine how glorious it must be. Big open pinches up an amazing, water sculpted feature… Sigh. Thankfully, I’m told I wont have to go all the way to Greece to experience this kind of climbing. The Homestead in Arizona is stacked with them, and Saint George is rumored to have some as well. Anybody know other places in the states where you can climb tufas at the sub-5.13 level?
What about you, what are your favorite holds in climbing?