A climbing hold
is a shaped grip that is usually attached to a climbing wall
A climbing wall is an artificially constructed wall with grips for hands and feet, usually used for indoor climbing, but sometimes located outdoors as well. Some are brick or wooden constructions, but on most modern walls, the material most often used is a thick multiplex board with holes drilled...
so climbers can grab or step on it. On most walls, climbing holds are arranged in paths, called routes, by specially trained route setter
A route setter is a person who designs artificial rock climbing wall routes. Also known as "setters", these professionals combine technical craft with an artistic representation of real rock climbing moves. They do this with modular resin holds or "grips" that mimic real rock features...
s. Climbing holds come in a large array of sizes and shapes to provide different levels of challenge to a climber. Climbing holds are either bolted to a wall via hex-head bolts and existing t-nut
A T-nut, also known as a blind nut, is a type of nut used to fasten a wood, particle or composite materials workpiece, leaving a flush surface. It has a long, thin body and a flange at one end, resembling a T in profile...
s or they are screwed on with several small screws. In extreme cases, concrete anchors may be used (if putting holds on the underside of a bridge, for example).
Early climbing holds were made from real rocks that were cast into concrete
Concrete is a composite construction material, composed of cement and other cementitious materials such as fly ash and slag cement, aggregate , water and chemical admixtures.The word concrete comes from the Latin word...
blocks, later they were rocks with holes drilled in them so they could be attached to a wall. These real rock holds often had a wonderful texture, but they were heavy, polished with a lot of use, difficult to manufacture, and impractical for large-scale production or usage.
Wood was another early hold-making material, mainly because it was inexpensive and easy to carve into various shapes. It is still used today in various forms for homemade and commercially produced handholds. Wood holds are usually smooth and pleasant to grab, though they are difficult to wash and splintering may become a possibility with age. The Schoolroom, a famous private training gym in Sheffield, England has a plethora of challenging homemade wooden holds, and Ben Prichard's infamous short Splinter
features Malcolm Smith
Malcolm Smith is an elite rock climber born in Dunbar, Scotland. He is the brother of Scottish Visual Artist Sandy Smith.Climbing since 1988, he has developed an impressive list of repeated hard climbs, notably repeating Ben Moon's 1990 testpiece Hubble at Raven Tor aged only 18...
using wooden holds to re-create the moves and holds on Hubble (a difficult outdoor problem he was training for). Wolfgang Gullich made the first campus board with wooden rungs to help him train for his 9a route action directe.
In the early days, most companies that manufactured holds used a resin
Resin in the most specific use of the term is a hydrocarbon secretion of many plants, particularly coniferous trees. Resins are valued for their chemical properties and associated uses, such as the production of varnishes, adhesives, and food glazing agents; as an important source of raw materials...
mixture. Well-mixed resin can create a wonderful texture and a fairly durable hold, though as the holds age they become more and more brittle until they eventually crack. The edges of resin holds are prone to chipping, and between holds getting dropped, put into buckets with other holds, tossed around, and washed, resin holds quickly take on a beat up appearance. Furthermore, the chipped or broken edge of a resin hold can often provide an unintended place to grab that can be sharp or otherwise dangerous to the climber. Because resin holds are not flexible, they will often crack suddenly if they are being tightened down on a wall that is not completely flat. A final problem is the weight of resin holds. As hold sizes have grown and grown, in many cases resin has become an impractical material to use. Even when the hold is hollow-backed, resin is still quite a heavy material to be carried up the wall in a bucket.
A company called Voo Doo Holds
out of Arizona, USA
Arizona ; is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the western United States and the mountain west. The capital and largest city is Phoenix...
has long used a softer mixture for their holds and included a rubber-like backing on each hold in an effort to prevent the holds from spinning. This technique has had mixed success, as eventually the rubber backing begins to peel away from the wall, providing a similar unintended handhold as the chipped resin might. The softer mixture is more durable than a brittle resin, but with uneven climbing walls and overtightening these holds develop slow cracks that eventually render the hold useless.
, from the east coast of the United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
, has been experimenting with combining synthetic rock with slippery hard plastic. The texture of these holds is quite like outdoor rock, allowing hold shapes that would be dangerous with a more slippery material.
Outdoor-only handholds mass produced for children's play equipment are usually manufactured from durable plastic. These holds are too slick for most climbers, but they are good for play sets because they are sturdy and weather resistant.
, a hold company from the midwest U.S., is currently developing a corn and soy based resin. The goal is an environmentally friendly hold material that is also light and durable.
In an effort to improve the durability of climbing holds, many materials have been experimented with, including a line of thin, hollow fiberglass
Glass fiber is a material consisting of numerous extremely fine fibers of glass.Glassmakers throughout history have experimented with glass fibers, but mass manufacture of glass fiber was only made possible with the invention of finer machine tooling...
holds made and patented by Nicros called Extreme Hold Technology or EHTs. These holds are incredibly light, and extremely strong. If the holds are used properly, they hold up quite well and are interesting to climb on as they make a hollow noise when they are grabbed. Routesetters like them because they are light to carry to the top of the wall. Nicros has more recently begun making volumes using their Extreme Hold Technology. They are embedding T-Nuts in the handholds so additional handholds can be bolted to the main handhold.
Currently most commercial holds are made of urethane
Urethane can refer to*Carbamates, compounds with the functional group RONHR'*Ethyl carbamate, the colloquial name of which is urethane*Polyurethane in colloquial usage...
or a urethane mixture. Urethane is a wonderful material because it is lighter, more flexible, and less prone to chipping and breakage than resin or natural materials. Like resin, urethane mixtures can vary, and different mixtures have different textures and strengths. If the urethane is too soft it will split apart when the hold is tightened, or the bolt might get pulled through the hold. If the urethane is too hard it will be brittle like resin. Urethane holds do not hold up as well when exposed to the sun and rain, so they are not as good for permanent outdoor walls as plastic or resin holds will be. Nevertheless, for the time being urethane is the leading hold material.
A foothold is any hold that is stepped on. Footholds can be any variety of shapes, however they are usually quite small, providing just enough surface to place the toe of one's shoe on. They are sometimes referred to as "foot chips", "footsies, "jibs", "nubbins", "edges" or "nibs". These holds are often of the screw on variety to allow for a lower profile.
Handholds are any holds that are grabbed with the hands. The majority of holds on a climbing wall are usually intended to be handholds, though they may be stepped on as well. Handholds are categorized by their primary features.
is an indication of how easy it is to maintain contact with a hold. The more outward pull the hold can sustain, the more positive it is deemed. If the hold has a large lip on it and therefore would be easy to grab, the hold is considered very positive. If the usable surface is flat and comes into the wall at a 90 degree angle it is no longer positive. Any angle greater than 90 degrees is considered slopey.
The term "jugs" has dual meanings in the climbing world. One meaning is size based—jugs are traditionally large holds. Most jugs should have space for both hands to fit on the hold. The other meaning of jug refers to a hold's positivity. A hold that is called a jug should be fairly easy to use, meaning it is either a very positive hold or it is a flat hold on a less than vertical wall (slab). Because they are easy to use, jugs are often found on beginner routes, warm-up problems, and steep walls. Jugs are also commonly used as resting or clipping holds on routes.
Mini-jugs are holds that are positive but much smaller than traditional jugs. They are usually intended to be held with one hand only. They are useful because they are easier to carry in a bucket than big jugs and they use less material to manufacture than larger holds do (so they are more cost effective).
Slopers are the least positive of the handholds. They slope down away from the wall with generally a smooth surface, requiring therefore the climber, for maximum friction and in order to gain maximum effectiveness of the hold, to use an open handed grip and push inwards. These holds are usually considered more difficult and are typically reserved for advanced routes.
Pockets are holds that have a small opening, only allowing the climber to hold them with one to three fingers. Pockets can be shallow or deep. One fingered pockets are called monos
, and are considered extremely stressful on the tendons. Finger strength must be trained in order to use pockets effectively. Though monos are the most dangerous, all pockets load only a couple of fingers, so climbers must be careful to avoid injuring their tendons. If the edge of the pocket has a sharp radius it will feel more positive but also more uncomfortable. A smooth radius on a pocket is generally the most comfortable to climb on.
Pinches are holds that have two opposing faces which must be pinched (usually by the entire hand, with fingers on one side and the thumb on the other) to grip. Technically, any hold in which the use of the thumb in opposition improves the hold's positivity is a pinch. Pinches require significant hand strength to use, and are usually used on more challenging routes and boulder problems.
Crimps are usually small, slightly positive edges that are just deep enough to fit the tips of fingers into. A technique called "crimping" is used to gain maximum adhesion to these holds.
Volumes (sometimes called piggy back holds) are an extremely large type of hold that any variety of holds can be attached to. The volume is attached to the wall, and it has pre-placed t-nuts in it to which other holds can be attached. Volumes were at one time made from wood, but now they are also made in a variety of materials (including fiberglass, coated wood, resin, urethane, and moulded plastic) by several climbing companies. Volumes are especially prevalent in Europe and on the World Cup circuit, where sometimes entire routes will be constructed from gigantic volumes. To imitate these textured World Cup volumes, sandpaper can be placed on homemade wooden volumes to create texture and allow climbers to make use of the volume's features.