Roof climbing can be very intimidating, especially for those who are just getting started with rock climbing. It’s pretty hard to imagine how you can climb a steep, horizontal wall, but once you see the pros have a go at it, you’ll be amazed at how they make climbing roofs look easy (and super cool at that). If you have enough experience and feel confident about your climbing skills, then you may just want to give it a try. Below are some techniques and useful tips to help you conquer those roofs and ceilings and come out on top.
5 Techniques for Climbing Roofs
Climbers employ a variety of techniques when climbing a roof, including the ones below. Be sure to do some climbing warm-up exercises before attempting any of these maneuvers. Also, all of the following (except the last one) will require using your feet and lower body, so work on developing your climbing footwork as well.
The toe-hook is an advanced roof climbing technique that climbers use to keep their bodies tight against a climbing surface while executing a move. This maneuver involves using the top of the toes or foot as an anchor, which transfers a huge amount of load-bearing duties from the upper body to the lower body. Perfecting the toe-hook requires lots of practice, but you’ll be able to increase your muscular efficiency once you learn how to do it well.
Executing the toe-hook involves the following steps.
- Place the top of your toes behind a hold so that it is hidden from your sight. If possible, use more than just the top of your toes. Use as much surface area of the top of your foot or rock climbing shoes to create more fiction.
- Lock your feet in place by pulling your toes against the hold and towards you. Be sure to keep your leg rigid since losing tension will cause it to fall off the hold.
The heel-hook is another popular move used by climbers when climbing a roof. It helps to keep your body in place by acting as a stabilizer, and allows you to leverage your body into a better position so you can reach climbing holds that you can’t reach otherwise. With the heel-hook, you have a “third arm” which you can use to pull yourself up.
To do the heel-hook, follow the steps below.
- Place your heel or the back of your shoe on top of a hold. Adjust your feet to find the best angle that will allow you to pull with it without slipping.
- Lock your heel in place by pointing your toes downward or away from your body.
- Pull yourself up by pushing your heel against the hold and using your hamstrings and glutes.
The bicycle is a stabilizing climbing technique that uses the feet to apply simultaneous and opposing pressure on footholds. By combining the opposing forces of your feet and core, you can achieve balance and static control, as well as a more stable position on the wall. A properly executed bicycle will also allow you to reach holds in odd locations or positions, as well as grab poor holds that you normally wouldn’t feel comfortable gripping.
The mechanics of the bicycle are as follows:
- Look for two holds that are fairly close to each other. Position your feet so that you have one foot on each hold.
- Lock your feet in place by stepping down on the hold nearest to you and doing a toe-hook on the one farthest. It would feel like you’re trying to bring the two holds together. Aim for equal opposing forces between your feet.
The knee-bar is a climbing technique where you use your feet and knee to create a bar between two holds. By locking into this position, you create pressure in your legs that is strong enough to carry your whole body weight. This technique can be very helpful during those times when your arms feel exhausted and need to take a break or dip them in your climbing chalk bag.
Doing the knee-bar is pretty straightforward. Just follow the steps below.
- Place your foot above hold and your knees behind another. Essentially, you want to trap your foot and knee inside the two holds.
- Press your foot down and step firmly on the hold to push your knee against the other hold to lock them in place.
The techniques mentioned above all required using your feet, knees, and legs. However, there will be instances when you simply wouldn’t be able to use the said body parts. In such cases, you’re going to have to campus.
Campusing is a maneuver where you use your arms to move from one hold to another while your feet dangle freely below you until you can find a foothold. Think of it like monkey bars. Campusing can be performed in a variety of ways. Whichever one you choose, be sure to keep your shoulders engaged. Also, adding arms strengthening exercises when training for rock climbing helps.
Roof Climbing Tips
Climbing a roof is not very different from ascending a vertical wall. You still need to work on the basics and get your fundamentals down. However, there are certain things you’ll want to focus on when training for roofs, ceilings, and overhangs.
Practice, Practice, and More Practice
The best way to learn how to climb a roof is to climb a roof. Climbing a roof requires unique movement, endurance, and technique. Start with easier climbing routes. These will have bigger climbing holds which will make it easier for you to place toe hooks and heel hooks and practice other techniques particular to climbing a roof.
Develop Good Climbing Techniques
Climbing a roof will sap a lot of energy from you and you’ll constantly be fighting with fatigue. That said, you’ll want to work on developing your climbing technique, since executing them well will help you to conserve energy while sloppy techniques are sure to burn your energy. For instance, you want to keep your hips pulled to the wall as much as possible. You don’t want to let your bum sag because this will pull the weight down and stress your arms.
Work on Your Footwork
You’ll be using your feet a lot when climbing roofs to execute moves like toe-hooks, heel-hooks, and others. That said, make that you spend time working on your rock climbing footwork. Don’t forget to work on your leg muscles like your calves and thighs as well. If you go to the gym, be sure not to skip leg day. Having a strong lower body and the proper climbing footwork will relieve a lot of weight and stress from your arms thus allowing you to climb for longer.
Strengthen Your Core
Looking at the roof climbers it appears that their arms and legs are doing most of the work. However, it is the core that does most of the work. Your core is responsible for stabilizing yourself against the wall, and more importantly pulling your feet back up when they fall. Not being able to regain your feet when they fall can be frustrating because this means that your arms will be carrying all the weight. Sometimes, when their feet fall it means the end of the journey for climbers. Training your core will be able to help you with this and provide you with other benefits.
You’ll have to make adjustments when gearing up for roofs, ceilings, and overhangs. For example, when placing gears under a roof, consider extending your climbing sling to reduce rope drag. Opt for multi-directional pros like climbing cams instead of single-directional climbing nuts as well.
Get the Right Shoes
The right pair of rock climbing shoes will make climbing those roofs much more doable. Some shoes have aggressive amounts of rubber on top of their toes, which makes them better at toe-hooking. Some shoes have rubber surrounding the heels which makes them excellent for heel-hooking. Look for these kinds of climbing shoes if possible. You can get away with ordinary climbing shoes but it will be more difficult to place soli toe-hooks and heel-hooks with them.
Q: What is a roof in climbing?
A roof in climbing refers to a climbable rock that is parallel to flat ground. Compared to overhangs, roofs are much steeper and mostly horizontal. When climbing a roof, your back will be perpendicular to the ground, which is what makes it intimidating for many climbers.
Q: How do you climb a ceiling?
You're going to need to employ a variety of rock climbing techniques when traversing a ceiling. These techniques include toe hooks, heel hooks, kneebars, and others. You also want to keep your center of gravity close to your lower body.
Q: How do you climb onto a steep roof?
Aside from your arms, a steeper roof will require the use of your legs and feet. Your arms and other muscles will be responsible for keeping your upper body afloat while you're perpendicular to the ground. You're going to rely on your legs and feet to help you to stabilize and advance to the next position.
Q: How do you safely climb a roof?
Climbing roofs have their risks, but many of these can be avoided by following several roof climbing safety protocols like putting bouldering crash pads on the landing zone, having a belayer to assist you, and others. Also, keep your ego in check and avoid climbing roofs that are beyond your skill level.
Globo Surf Overview
Climbing roofs involves certain risks and hazards. So if you plan to climb a roof soon, spend some time working on your rock climbing techniques indoors before heading outdoors. Be sure to follow the tips and safety protocols mentioned above. Doing these will not only make roof climbing doable but more exciting and enjoyable as well.