Book Review: The Crack Climber’s Technique Manual

Face climbing is climbing what’s there, crack climbing is climbing what’s not there

-Topher Donahue

Let’s all agree on something: none of the founders of climbing would have thought that climbing was to become such a specialist’s sport. We have bouldering, sport climbing, traditional climbing and ice climbing which sometime turn into alpine climbing and big wall climbing. We have climbing which isn’t climbing but rather aid-climbing. We have people who train for that one move or that one sequence for months. There are even people who seek out a specific subcategory; be it off-width or the tightest of fingers, compression or crimps, overhang or slab and everything in between.

What separates us, however, from the forefather’s of the sport is this ability to be specialists and to become proficient in the types of climbing that we like. As much as we’d like to think that Ondra could send the Dawn Wall, there seems to be some hesitation in saying that with certainty. Similarly, we watch videos of Pamela Pack crushing off-width and Mason Earl killing the finger cracks, and we don’t think, “there’s someone who would run up La Dura Dura.”

Crack climbing, specifically is such a different sport than face climbing. The finesse required separates those who grunt from those who levitate to the top, effortlessly. Furthermore, crack climbing may be one of the most pure and aesthetics forms of climbing, something which people will seek out.

Bro, that splitter is splitttttttteeerrr!

Before you run to the crag however, you must know what you’re doing if you think you can crack climb. That means learning the technique. But as more and more climbers arrive to the sport, there are less and less of us who know how to jam properly and efficiently.

Enter The Crack Climber’s Technique Manual, Jamming With Finesse.

Kent Pease, a Coloradan climber who has many years of cracks in his experiential vaults, wrote a book that covers this art of climbing the space-in-between. His book starts with  some wise words, a little foreword from a friend and some wisdom. Right off the bat we are told that this wont be intuitive nor will it be as mindless. Engineering a correct jam ends up being an art in itself, but not something that can be solely refined on a hangboard.

The foundations of jamming leads us into the next 6 chapters which run the gamut from thin fingers, thin hands, hands, fists, off-width, chimneys and finishes with stemming and lie-backing. Six chapters, complete with full color illustrations and beautiful drawings, show us how to jam or limbs into these spaces and how to make upward progress. Did I mention he explains how to invert an off-width?

What a beautiful book! Science!

This book really starts to rule when you see the scope of the subject matter. The author explains how to protect different cracks, whether or not your placements may pop out from zippering effects and how to tape up for that crack climb (five or six different ways).

There’s even a chapter on how to build an artificial crack from building materials available at Rona or Home Depot. Did I mention there’s even a design of an artificial crack? Obviously, if you think hard enough about this you could probably devise a plan on how to do it, but his insights may make you rethink your own design.

Finally, for the crack aficionado or budding 5.10+ crackster, chapters on efficient climbing and pushing your grade make this book stand out as a step beyond anything that has been published thus far about crack climbing. Using 35 years of climbing cracks, Kent explains how to make sure you can continue to progress in this vertical world of crack.

The stoking of your internal fires for crack climbing will surely make your crack hunger grow and your knowledge will be complete and ready for the experiential learning curve we must all go through.


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