In the climbing sport, chimneys are a type of fissure or crack within a cliff that is wide enough for the climber’s body to fit inside. Chimneys feature varying widths, ranging from those that are just wide enough for the climber to squeeze into to wide gaping fissures that you have to climb by stemming and bridging your legs and arms on opposite walls.
Chimney climbing becomes easier once you understand the unique set of movement you need for each crack or fissure. In this rock climbing chimney guide, we will take you through various chimney climbing techniques.
Chimney Climbing Techniques
This technique is ideal for the tightest chimneys, where even breathing can keep you from moving upward. Remove any bulky gear – for example, shoes on a harness, pack, etc – put it on a sling and then clip it to the belay loop so it hangs down.
Next, choose a side you can stick in first – if the crack gets tighter going deeper, put your dominant hand inside for jamming. If more edges are present on one side, face that side so that you can use the edges as climbing holds.
Look for narrower areas to wedge your feet with the toe and heel smeared on the opposite sides, like you are standing. If the rock climbing chimney allows it, try heel-toe cams, twisting the ankle so that your foot cams sideways. Alternatively, try the T-shape heel-toe cam where your feet are perpendicular to each other, with one heel nested into the arch of your other foot.
Your hands should be finding crimps/edges, smearing with palms, using chicken-wing (your palm on one side and the upper arm on the other) or arm-barring. If inhaling locks you in place, exhaling should release you.
2. Froggy Style
This is ideal for chimneys that are slightly bigger than the squeeze – the chimneys are not too expansive such that you can fully stem. When chimney climbing using this technique, you will need to back on one side, with the knees pushing into the other side.
With the soles of your crack climbing shoes pressing into the backside, use your palms to push out – fingers pointing to the side or down – kept low for the leverage. Lean the upper body forward slightly and push down with the hands and feet so that you can scoot the lower back and butt upward.
The movement will be slow and steady. Push with everything to hold yourself in place while the upper legs lift your body. Repeat pushing to slide the legs ups.
If you anticipate wide chimneys, learning stemming is a good idea. When using stemming for rock climbing chimney, you will need to put the left hand and foot on one side with your right foot and hand on the other. Press and push the hands and feet outward while trying to maintain as much external pressure as you can.
Think of it as pushing through a climbing wall. A common mistake made by climbers is pushing down when the types of holds available require them to push out.
When chimney climbing wide cracks, you should always be on the look for bumps, edges, or slabbier sections to use as footholds. Pull down on the holds above or palm the wall – this will give you some downward force so that you can move up 1 foot at a time.
Chimney Climbing Tips
Avoid tight, downturned climbing shoes. Instead, think stiff, flat, and supportive. Be sure to check the belay loops, leg loops, and waistbelt for damage. To move your chalk bag, use a webbing strap.
When choosing climbing pants, choose pants that can protect your legs. Consider donning canvas or jeans if you know your route will feature rock climbing chimney.
Put all your bulky gear on a sling. If the chimney gets tight, hang the gear down and out of the way by clipping it to your belay loop. Consider taking your helmet off – put it back on when you are out of the chimney.
You will need to place the protection when you can, not every time you want to. This means taking everything you can get – slinging blocks, small nuts, etc. – up next to you. Look for spots on the face too. While the protection will be limited, your position will be secure.
Whenever you get exhausted, you will need to find a way in which you won’t be applying external pressure but you will not slide down. Turn the upper body so that the shoulders are wedged. Alternatively, inhale to lodge the chest in place.
When using the froggy style, you can lean forward so that the chest is against the rock or sit down on the wedged feet. Look for bumps, edges, and holds to put the feet on. This should allow a nice rest.
If you are new to chimneys, you must start on the shorter chimneys to build technique and endurance. Once you get the technique right, you can move on to the longer chimneys.
When attacking longer chimneys, be sure to plan on being run out at times, but secure. Breathe and climb from rest to rest. This should allow you to stay focused on the few feet in front of you without getting too exhausted.
Globo Surf Overview
Climbing chimneys generally requires straightforward techniques. However, to master rock climbing chimney, you will need to practice a lot to develop the needed skills.
What you will need to keep in mind is that chimneys are usually climbed by make use of opposing pressures with the knees, feet, hands, and back on the sidewalls of a chimney. To advance upward, you will need to push and pull on the walls. To progress easily, you should move in short spurts rather than big moves.
In this article, we have shown you the best chimney climbing techniques. Using each technique in the right chimney will guarantee success.