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Crack Climbing in Squamish: Tips from a Mountain Guide

The author takes on a crack climb in the Smoke Bluffs, in Squamish.

The author takes on a crack climb in the Smoke Bluffs, in Squamish.

Before Squamish, British Columbia was a hub for all things outdoor recreation, it was a home for dirtbag climbers from around the world.

Within the granite walls lie thousands upon thousands of cracks, which is Squamish’s signature climbing style. Many of the crags are easy to find, but it helps to have a little bit of “insight” handy. Trucks like the Chevy Colorado offer wifi straight from the truck itself, which makes checking to see if you’re at the right trailhead a bit easier.

Once you’ve reached the crack, it takes some technique. On a recent trip to the area, Squamish guide and climber Josh Majorossy gave us all the information needed to get started on some great crack routes. Majorossy has been trad climbing for three years, has red pointed Crime of the Century, an 11c finger crack, and loves long routes up The Chief. He started his ACMG Apprentice Rock Guide program last week, and gives a killer belay. His tips are below.

What should you know about crack climbing before trying your first route?

Before your first route you should know how to place traditional gear and some basic crack technique. After that get on it! Jam away, and remember if you’re not bleeding you’re not crack climbing.

Can you briefly explain how to do a finger jam and hand jam?

With jams (hand, finger, foot, fist) the idea is that you are using the negative space within the crack. The hold isn’t there to grab you create it with different techniques depending in the size of the crack.

Josh Majorossy waits to belay.

Josh Majorossy waits to belay.

Hand Jams – the easiest to get used to and one of the most secure. When the crack is big enough to fit your hand into use a hand jam! You put your hand in skinny then make it fat to squeeze the crack from the inside. You do this by pushing your thumb toward your little finger, while your hand is in the crack. Your thumb muscle does all the work. Though if you’re hanging on hand jams for a long time your forearms can get pumped out just like climbing face holds. You can use this technique thumbs up or thumbs down.

Finger Lock (my favorite!) – when your hand doesn’t fit, you use your fingers. Look for constrictions in the crack. Place your fingers in above them then slide them down until they pinch in the constriction. When locking thumbs down bring your elbow downwards to cam your fingers together in the crack. Finger locks are great because they utilize the skeletal structure and they take less muscle work.

What are some things to keep in mind while in the middle of a crack climb?

Use the crack but don’t get narrow minded. Look around for face holds and other features to help. You’re also looking for your next rest and where to place your next piece of gear. No bolts on the cracks!

What are a few things to not do while crack climbing?

Don’t panic when you can’t find a face hold. Remember your techniques and use them. Don’t rely on your hands for everything. Just like other types of climbing you have to keep your weight on your feet. Learn to foot jam and smear.

Images by Carl Christy of Camp Trend and Camp by Camp

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