Why I like no-hold climbing

Why I like no-hold climbing

I like no-hold climbing because you can’t fake it. You get forced in to flow because the climbing requires it. No amount of training, crimp-pulling, thrutching or power screaming will get you up a no-hold climb.

What is no-hold climbing?
Climbing without holds of course!

Ill-defined categories include bridging (stemming), palming, chimneying, friction slabs, shuffling, hip-scumming, smearing and wriggling. None of those big plastic pink things you get in the indoor wall, no crimps, no grips, nothing you can grab and swing your feet from.

Half Shark Half Alligator Man. See video below for an example of no-hold climbing

I love no-holding climbing because you have to let your body move without thought. Since there are no holds, there are no moves and since there are no moves there is no sequence. Nothing you can grasp and learn, rehearse and repeat. No right hand, left hand, right hand. Not even tick marks. Just shuffling and smearing and gaining height. You can’t climb a no-hold pitch the same way twice. Leave your perfectionism at home. 

On the crux corner pitch of the PreMuir, El Cap we put one tick mark on the only foot hold. In the end we wanted to avoid that foot hold because it broke the flow of movement. Instead of moving between moves, the route is better seen as one single move.

This sort of climbing is great for people like me with terrible memories because you don’t have to remember a single thing. Where does your right hand go? The exact place your body position demands it in this moment. Not where you decided it would be good to put it last time you tried it. 

After complaining about the lack of good holds at Arapiles the great climber Steve Monks once told me that ‘the holds aren’t good, you have to make them good’. When I find myself hating the holds I’m on I remember this; if a hold is bad it’s up to me to change my body position to at least make it better. If the holds feel crap the reality is that your being a crap climber (to a point). This philosophy rings true in no-hold climbing most of all because there are no holds and therefore climbing is only body position.

I like no-hold climbing because it puts everyone on an equal playing field. No amount of training will help you here. Beast makers, dumb bells, TRX’s and diet plans won’t prepare you for this kind of climbing.

No-hold climbing separates climbers from climbers.

Here is a link to a video of a nice few-hold route in Indian Creek.


Comments 3

  • Raf

    Awesome Post, thanks for the insights and keep up the good Work! Big fan here.

  • 06/15/16

    Nice hazel. nice insights…

  • 06/15/16

    Those are novel ways of looking at things like stemming, thanks. Stemming corners are my favorite type of climbing for a few different reasons - the reliance on leg-hip flexibility and leg power, having the big air gap in front of you, and just ascending something that appears hold-less. 

    (Sorry, about the all-caps—I have my cap lock off, yet can get no lower case letters to appear here.)

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