Mike Hutton making an early morning ascent of Don Whilan's classic gritstone hand crack The File (V5 4c) at Higgar Tor in the Peak District, UK. Photo: Mike Hutton.
To accompany Pete Whittaker’s guide to Crack Climbing, Pete has suggested a list of routes from his local Peak District on which to try out some of the techniques described in his book.
Embankment Route 2 (without the big crack on the left), E1 5c, Millstone Edge
Yes, OK, it’s an eliminate, but this is perfect finger jam training. Climbing just the thin crack on the right is as splitter as anything you’d find in Yosemite. A great test for thumb-down and pinkie-down finger jam practice. [Left: Figure 2 and Figure 3 from the book – Thumb-down jam: index finger | Pinkie-down jam: pinkie finger.]
Coventry Street, E5 6b, Millstone Edge
That’s right, all the best finger cracks are at Millstone! If you’ve done all the Embankment routes and Regent Street (E2), then this is your next test. You’ll be able to get to the last move all right, but that final move to the ledge is goey. If you manage the move, then just remember that move is harder than any move on nearby London Wall (E5) – you’re ready for it!
Calamity Crack, E4 6a, Running Hill Pits
Short, safe – of course, it’s a crack, but a right little fighter. It doesn’t really matter if you climb E4 or not, it’s worth just getting on it so that you can practise this size. Plug in those green Friends and get those ring locks and thin hands working hard. You’ll need to have your technique dialled for this one or you’ll struggle. It might be worth sticking a top rope on to start practising the more difficult techniques which can ne found on this size of crack. [Figure 5: Baggy finger cracks: thumb-down jam, and Figure 7: Baggy finger cracks: pinkie-down jam.]
The File, VS 4c, Higgar Tor
One I always recommend, because if you can hand jam properly, it’s VS: but if you can’t, it will feel like the biggest battle of your life for the grade! When the route feels easy, you’ll know you’re really starting to understand the basics of hand jamming. [Figure 46: Standard hand cracks: thumb-up jam finishing position.]
Bond Street, HVS 5a, Millstone Edge
Another Millstone classic ... there are just so many classic cracks at this crag. Wide hands (or potentially fists) at the bottom get gradually tighter and more bomber the higher you get. A cheeky pull at mid-height and you’re into easier ground. [Figure 52: Cupped hands: thumb-up jam.]
The Vice, E1 5b, Stanage Edge
All the old school will say ‘Ayeee, lad, it were HVS in my day’ ... and they are right, it was. But it’s since been upgraded in the modern guide, cementing the fact that we have too many running and jumping problems in climbing gyms and not enough cracks for people to practise on. Because the reality of it is, if you can jam, then yes, it could well be HVS. Anyway, the fists come at the top of this one. Tape up and go deep. If you’re feeling brave go crack only and don’t use the hidden pocket. [Figure 66: Standard fist cracks: palm-up (or out) fist jam.]
Every Man’s Misery, VS 5a, Burbage South
A classic offwidth VS thrash. Which way do you face? You decide. Get in there, get arm barring, and get involved. [Figure 116: Arm bar and chickenwing offwidth cracks: arm bar and forearm scumming.]
Left Eliminate, E1 5c, Curbar Edge
A bit of a thrutch this one, but if you use those arm bars and shoulder bars well and don’t place them willy-nilly then you’ll stand a good chance of success. Bring some big cams and don’t expect it to feel much easier than the E3 to the right … [Figure 118: Arm bar and chickenwing offwidth cracks: shoulder bar.]
Elder Crack, E2 5b, Curbar Edge
A poor man’s offwidth, because there are so many face holds to grab hold of. However, if you found it easy with the face holds, why not stick a top rope on it and try eliminating them all and use pure offwidth technique instead? Using a top rope and eliminating holds is a great way to really focus in and practise offwidthing technique in the UK (because none of them are that pure).
For more rock climbing hints and tips head over to Lydiascapes for a complete guide to indoor and outdoor climbing.