Climbing Technique Tips Article
Pulling on Pockets
By Anthony R Bubb's
Over time I have noticed that, in on pocketed rock, limestone and sandstone particularly, there are ways for me to optimise the pull I get on any particular holds. This won't be a post of "This Is Better." it is a post of "Try this, and see if it makes a difference for you." There are several short observations here, some of which might be usefull. Some of the people who come from "thin" rock areas have trouble at Red River (pocket heaven) and these suggestions have helped them in the past.
YOUR MILAGE MAY VARY.
I was struggling with a 2-finger pocket in springfield a few years ago, having to heavily weight it, then get into a side-pull on it. The shape of the pocket was giving me a pain, and my hand felt very awkward strained, plus, it kept popping out as soon as I stepped up so my shoulder was above the hold. This particular pocket was kind of tear-drop-shaped, horizontally symetricl, with the round end of the pocket facing me. I'd been placing my right hand in it, as it was to that side. Index and middle fingers were all I could get into it. (just two).
I decided that my index was getting too tired to hold on, and switched to middle/ring finger in the pocket. WHAT A DIFFERENCE! A few things happened. First, I was able to put my fingers in alot further. Being deeper on the neer side, having the longer finger there helped alot, as opposed to extending my index finger and scrunching my middle finger to maximise the amount I had "in the pocket." In this position, the longer finger was on the deeper end, so my fingers were in a more anatomical and comfortable position. The power was alot easier to generate. In addition, The transition from downward-puul to side-pull positions became a smooth roll, as opposed to a slipping motion. At least for me, the index finger is the hardest to turn. (I've dislocated it before, so that may be due to injury, and not be true for you, but BOTH of them are harder to turn.)
Although my index finger is alot stronger, switching to the other two fingers is more natural, for me, and in some pockets allows me to pull a LOT harder on them. I started doing this pretty often, and I have noticed several benifits, aside of the immediate gain. Later on, when I go for a pinch or for a small edge, my index finger is not flamed out from pulling on pockets, plus, my over-all hand strength an coordination has improved, in part (I believe) due to this.
Another optimization that can be tried is to go for the inside (that being closer to you) edge of a pocket instead of the center. If you grab the pocket at 20 degrees from horizontal, your down-force won't suffer noticable, but what will happen is that as you stand up beside the grip, a side pull has already been attained. In other words, you don't have to worry about switching the grip or slipping out. You can balance better off of a multi-diectional hold.
One more thing, though it may be obvious. When you go for Mono's (don't laugh... there are 5.10b/c's in Red River with One-finger- pockets in them) you can often "stack" fingers. This is accomplised by placing a second finger on top of the protruding part of the finger that is in the pocket. The not-so-obvious (IMHO) is that the index "stacks" alot better on top of the ring finger than vice-versa. Try this: hold your middle finger up to the first knuckle as if it were burried in a pocket about 1/2-1" deep. Put your index finger-tip on that knuckle (which shoud be bent) and pull on the "pocket". Not really comfortable, but surprisingly powerful. Now, try it vice-versa. The middle on top forces a much more "cling-grip" sort of position. That is less comforable, and far harder on your joints and tendons that the "open grip" acheived with the middle finger on the bottom (in the hole). I, for one, usually stack with the middle finger down. It is more comfortable, and seems (for me) to be a stronger position for the hand.
Hope this comes in useful. AS always, I hope that I was clear. Remeber, it's just some things to TRY. It might not work for you.