Understanding Types Of Climbing Holds


One important aspect of becoming a successful rock climber is having a good understanding of the different types of climbing holds. Climbing holds come in various shapes and sizes, and being familiar with their appearance and features will allow you to better plan your route and what climbing techniques to employ so you can get a good grip on them. So put those rock climbing shoes aside for now and let’s take a look at the different types of holds you’ll encounter in indoor rock climbing facilities and outdoors.

12 Types of Climbing Holds

Climbing holds in indoor rock climbing facilities and training centers are designed to mimic those that are found in the natural world. The climbing holds outlined below takes a look at the most common kinds of climbing holds that are found in both settings.

1. Jugs

Jugs are large, open, and very positive holds making them the easiest to grip. Some jugs are so big that you can easily get your whole hand around them. Because they are easy to use, jugs are commonly found on beginner routes on rocks, warm-up problems or boulders, and steep walls since they provide a solid handhold.

2. Mini Jugs

As the name suggests, mini jugs are smaller versions of jugs. Despite their size, they are still able to provide a solid handhold for climbers. When dealing with mini jugs, experts suggest keeping your arms and wrists straight. Using a natural open-grip also helps to minimize your chances of getting injured while rock climbing.

3. Edges

One of the most common climbing holds you’ll face in rock walls are edges (also sometimes referred to as ‘ledges’). These holds have a very pronounced vertical edge and a flat surface on top. You’ll find them in varying sizes, some of which are too small that they can only be used as footholds while others are so big that you can hoist your whole body over them. Most climbers will be utilizing a close-grip when faced with an edge.

4. Crimps

Crimps refer to very small and thin climbing holds, so much so that they can only accommodate the pads on your fingers. Because of their nature, dealing with these climbing holds can be very tricky and challenging. Most climbers will be using close-grip when faced with crimps, but care must be taken since this technique can put a lot of strain on the joints and tendons which can potentially lead to an injury. Using climbing chalks can help remove moisture on your finger pads and give you a more secure grip.

5. Pinch

Pinches are vertically oriented climbing holds that are narrow enough so you can “pinch” them with your thumb on one side and your other fingers on the other side. Doing this gives you a more “squeezing” force for a more secure grip.

6. Slopers

Slopers are big bumps or bulges on the rock face. Unlike other types of holds, slopers have no angles, lips, or edges making them one of the most difficult holds to grip properly. This is why you never see them in beginner routes. Despite being one of the more challenging holds, there are climbing techniques you can employ to get over them. 

First, you’ll want to get as much surface area of your palm as possible over the hold. Most slopers have a rough or positive surface so having more contact with your palms gives it more friction and grip. Also, you’ll want to keep weight directly opposed to the direction of the pull and maintain a low center of gravity.

7. Pockets

Pockets are simply holes in the rock and vary in size. Some pockets are small enough that you can only fit one finger in, while others are large enough to fit your whole hand. Because pockets can take the direction of pull, you don’t need to employ any special technique when gripping them.

If the pocket is only large enough for one finger, you’ll want to use your middle finger since this is the strongest. If it can fit two, then you’ll want to use your middle finger and ring finger as this helps in keeping your wrist in line. If the pocket can fit three fingers, then use your index, middle, and ring fingers. Your pinkie finger generates the least amount of force so you don’t want to use them unless the pocket is wide enough to accommodate four fingers.

8. Undercling

An underlying refers to any type of holds that you grip from the bottom. Because your palms are upside down while gripping the hold, it can present challenges when you are positioned below an undercling. Finding high footholds can help drastically when overcoming underlings as they allow you to put very strong opposing force on your feet. 

9. Flakes

Flakes refer to a big piece of rock that is somewhat detached from the face of the rock (imagine a painting hanging from a wall) and leaving a crack between it and the rock face. Under general circumstances, no special climbing technique is necessary when dealing with flakes. Just make sure that it is still safely connected to the bigger rock before you start pulling on it. Wearing the right gear like crack climbing shoes can also help.

10. Horns

Horns are rock protrusions that come out of the face of the rock or wall. Think of actual horns growing out of a cow or a goat’s head. Horns can grow in any direction and those pointing upwards or horizontally are often the best ones. In any case, horns allow climbers to wrap their whole hands around them thus making them easier to grip.

11. Side Pulls

Some climbers don’t consider side pulls as an actual climbing hold but rather as the orientation or direction of a hold. A side pull is when a hold is oriented sideways and away from the climber. With a side pull, climbers take advantage of the horizontal direction of force to stay connected to the hold.

12. Gastons

Just like side pulls, gastons are mostly thought of as referring to the orientation of a hold. A gaston is similar to a side pull in the sense that the hold is oriented sideways, the difference is that this time it is towards the climber. With a gastons, climbers will be using an opposing outward push as though they’re opening a sliding door.



Q: What are climbing holds called?


Climbing holds are simply called “holds” in rock climbing, which is an umbrella term that refers to all types and styles of climbing holds. Other names used to refer to climbing holds like “jugs”, “slopers”, “pinches” and others are actually names for the different types of holds.

Q: How many rock climbing holds do I need?


It is generally agreed to install at least one climbing hold per square foot of wall. So if you’re going to build a rock climbing wall using plywood, that means that you’ll need 32 climbing holds per sheet of plywood (the standard measurement of which is 4 ft. x 8 ft.).

Q: How do you use a climbing hold?


Rock climbers use climbing holds to pull themselves up while climbing a wall. Climbers simply grab onto the holds using various gripping techniques suited for the types of climbing holds immediately available to them. Climbers also used climbing holds as foot holds or steps to assist them while climbing.

Q: What size bolts for climbing holds?


Most climbing holds are bolted onto a wall using 3/8 bolts. These are screwed into a t-nut which is the most common method of mounting climbing holds onto walls. Some manufacturers may have specific size requirements according to the types of climbing holds they produce so be sure to check.

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Knowing the different types of climbing holds is a crucial part of your rock climbing training. This knowledge will help you plan better which route to take and know exactly what climbing technique to use for specific types of holds. So take some time to familiarize yourself with them, and more importantly how to utilize them to your advantage.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!