Learning to Crack Climb at Touchstone Climbing

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Visiting a Touchstone Climbing Gym, you might have noticed climbers struggling up the practice cracks. Their hands covered in white tape, sometimes wincing in pain, as they jam their hands and feet into the cracks to move upwards. The cracks are not obvious, and these features, molded to varying widths, often go unnoticed unless someone is climbing them. For people who are new to climbing, understanding how to even begin crack climbing can be one of the biggest challenges.

But never fear! The Touchstone Clinics are here to help! Taught by experienced staff, these clinics offer climbers of all levels the chance to learn about and explore new climbing disciplines.

photo 1 (1)Crack climbing in particular requires a distinct set of skills and know-how. Unlike other styles of climbing, where you move upwards using hand and foot holds, crack climbing is dependent on knowing and practicing specific body movements to “wedge” yourself into the cracks.

If Mission Cliffs desk staffer and instructor Nash Anderson makes crack climbing look easy, it’s because he knows what he’s doing. “I got started crack climbing at Mission Cliffs six years ago,” says Nash. “A buddy told me to practice the hand crack at the gym until I was able to climb it without falling, and then he took me to climb Royal Arches in Yosemite Valley.”

Crack Climbing in CaliforniaBeing able to climb in Yosemite is one of the main reasons so many California climbers get started crack climbing. “Most of the popular rock climbing in California is granite and provides some of the best crack climbing available in the country,” says Touchstone Programs Director Ryan Moon.

You know many of those record-breaking climbs that climbing rock-star Alex Honnold has done in Yosemite? Yup, those are crack climbs.

“Crack climbing is the art of ascending a rock face via the weakness, or crack systems that run through the face,” says Nash, “and one of the most difficult parts of starting crack climbing is overcoming the amount of pain that you go through. Your feet, hands, and ankles endure a lot before you learn how to crack climb efficiently.”

The crack climbing clinic helps new climbers get started with the basics. You will learn different types of hand jamming and finger placements, how to jam your feet correctly so you don’t hurt your ankles and how to open your hips and balance in the crack.

Ryan, who recently started crack climbing after over a decade of crushing on boulders, says that having instruction in crack climbing is important because “crack climbing is a counterintuitive discipline that requires a combination of experience and technical know-how.”

Crack climbing, when done correctly, can be one of the most beautiful forms of movement up rock, and can allow you the opportunity to climb to new places and see incredible views that would not otherwise be possible.


WHERE can I take the crack clinic? This clinic is offered at Mission Cliffs, Berkeley Ironworks, MetalMark Climbing and Fitness, Great Western Power Company, and Diablo Rock Gym.

WHEN is the crack clinic offered? The clinic is offered monthly. This month the crack climbing clinic will be held at Great Western Power Co in Oakland on Saturday, October 24th from 5pm – 7pm and at MetalMark Climbing in Fresno on Tuesday, October 27 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm Taught by veteran crack climber Andrew Jackson, this is the perfect chance to learn to crack climb. Along with 2 hours of climbing and technique instruction, you’ll also learn how to make tape gloves.


To find out more about this and other related clinics to learn to climb outside, check out Touchstone’s entire outdoor clinic track.