Sports & Gaming

Crack Climbing

Alex Honnold & Tommy Caldwell

Lesson time 08:51 min

Crack climbing is an essential technique for most outdoor climbing. In this lesson, Alex defines and demonstrates various crack climbing techniques for cracks of all shapes and sizes.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Crack Climbing • Hand Jams • Foot Jams • Finger Jams • Finger Stacking • Fist Jams •


ALEX HONNOLD: Crack climbing is any time you have to climb a fissure in the rock or any kind of natural gap formed between rocks. It's important to learn how to crack climb because you encounter so many cracks outdoors. I decided to teach crack climbing in the gym because the controlled environment provides a lot of opportunity to show different styles and different techniques of jamming. When you crack climb outdoors, you often employ one technique for an entire pitch. So in 100 feet of climbing, you'll do roughly the same thing the whole way because a crack sometimes forms in one particular size. In the gym, the crack is quite varied. And so you're able to highlight all the different climbing techniques in a relatively efficient space. [MUSIC PLAYING] When you're learning how to crack climb, you should really take any steps necessary to avoid pain, which sounds obvious. But you really should try to minimize the amounts of cuts and scrapes and things like that on your hand. So if that means that you have to tape your hands, if that means you have to use special crack gloves that have rubber on the back, really, you should employ any techniques possible to make sure that your hands don't get too torn up. When you're crack climbing outside for the first time, you should pay extra attention to be precise in your movements, placing your hands carefully and making sure that your hands don't slide out of the cracks. Because, as you can imagine, if you slide your hand over rock, you're going to cut your hands up in the same way that if you fall down on asphalt, you're going to get cut up. Basically, don't want your hand ripping out of a crack. So place your hands carefully and exert as much force as you need to keep them in place. [MUSIC PLAYING] Hand jamming is basically when you wedge your hand into a crack. When your hand jamming, you really want the back of your hand to be as flat against the crack as possible. I think sometimes when you're starting to learn how to crack climb, you think about bending your hand or sort of making a fist inside or various things, and people wind up putting a lot of pressure against their knuckles. And you really want to avoid that as much as you can. The idea is to keep your hand as flat as you can against the inside of the crack so the pressure is evenly distributed across the whole back of your hand, and then really use the meat of your thumb to force the constriction. The meat of your thumb is what's changing the shape of your hand. You're not changing the shape of the back of your hand because that puts too much pressure on the bony parts, and that hurts quite a bit. When you look up at a crack and you're trying to decide the size and you're trying to think about the jam, it's super common to reach up, put in a hand jam, decide that it doesn't feel that good, move it down a little bit, try again in a different spot. You shouldn't feel bad about trying a lot of diff...

About the Instructor

With more than 60 combined years of elite rock climbing experience, Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell have scaled some of the largest—and most extreme—walls in the world. Now, the stars of Free Solo and The Dawn Wall are teaming up to share their tried-and-true techniques for tackling any wall. From the fundamentals of footwork and body and hand positioning to mental exercises and advanced holds and movements, you’ll learn how to take on new challenges and push yourself further on and off the wall.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Alex Honnold & Tommy Caldwell

Stars of “Free Solo” and “The Dawn Wall” Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell teach lessons from more than 60 years of combined rock climbing experience.

Explore the Class
Sign Up