Offwidth tips and The Twilight Zone


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Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 14, 2005 - 04:21pm PT
TM = Transcendental Meditation... an extremely good name for a heinous offwidth climb, I will hold it in reserve.

I think that Bruce is correct with regard to the technique. I find that I use a lot of friction and slab foot work when doing offwidth, squeeze and chimney routes. The thing you have to have in addition is the ability to do counterpressure, which is much more strenuous then slab and friction, where gravity provides the "normal force" generating the friction. The advantage in counterpressure is that you are not limited by gravity, you can generate higher forces pushing, and thus higher frictional forces.

I am often amazed that I can hold myself up on just a single arm chicken wing...

And I am also convinced that the real key is learning how to rest. Once you can rest you can get up a lot of stuff you would never be able to do in a single push (at least not me).

Melissa, thanks for the beta on Abs. Free Right, I am bigger than wither you and Jay, so I would be outside... can't wait.

Wade Icey

Social climber
the EPC
Dec 14, 2005 - 05:30pm PT

"er- you're not racking big cams on your harness? are you?"

No. Up to this point in my not so illustrious career. big cams have been left in the haul bag until the last possible moment and then racked on my A5 Double gear sling.

For free climbing I do rack as much as possible on my harness and rarely carry anything bigger than 3.5 camalot. ( I wasn't kidding about avoiding OW for thirty years).

The new big cams -and the aforementioned temp insanity- are what's got me interested in this stuff. Seems like modern gear might make these wide things a bit less horrific. Am I dreaming?

So, I take it that 'sewing it up' isn't a big tenet of OW climbing? I have heard of the 'moving toprope' method of OW climbing. Swilliam told me about it. I thought he was kidding.

BTW I read 'Lucille' (again, yesterday and back when it was first pub'd.) (That's you right?) and you've either already been to the crossroads or you're selling yourself short. nice work.

Russ Walling

Social climber
Dec 14, 2005 - 05:46pm PT

Lose that double gear sling..... go '70's style with an over the shoulder sling. I've guessed "wrong side in" numerous times and have needed to put the rack onto the other side while hanging upside down by my feet. Not pretty.... Kinda like Houdini over a gaping crowd in Times Square.

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 14, 2005 - 08:57pm PT
Even with the big gear, unless you go to Valley Giants (and even then) there are going to be stretches with no pro....

...get the technique wired and it will pay big dividends! On the other hand, if you don't like to run it out, you may not like OW at all. But you must run out those face/friction/slab routes? no?
Wade Icey

Social climber
the EPC
Dec 15, 2005 - 01:54pm PT
No. Er..Yes. But I don't have to like it.


Social climber
The West
Dec 15, 2005 - 02:57pm PT
With modern pro, the technology exists to 'sew up, almost anything. The logistics are another matter. Even tieing in is an epic while wearing a rack of five or more giant peices (I'll look for the photo). So eventually you end up running it out, again. One exception is Trench warfare. That roof is so low to the ground that you have to protect it like crazy to avoid the cranium leveling potential. I guess you could wear a helmet, but you might not fit in the no hands rest chimeny in the middle. We even taped enoslite pads over some of the more threatening death edged boulders.

Resting IS the key, till you rest too much and move too little.

Thanks Wade, and Robert Johnson says hi, too.
Brutus of Wyde

Old Climbers' Home, Oakland CA
Dec 16, 2005 - 12:12am PT
Regarding slabs and OWs:

As Greg Opland once said, the best way to train for the Steck-Salathe' is to take off your shirt, strip down to your shorts, and crawl on your elbows and knees across a parking lot in 115 degree heat.

I would add: drop occasionally to your belly and try to crawl underneath sports cars.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 16, 2005 - 12:17am PT
Brutus... didn't you also write:

"I've seen 5.11 divided into 11 different grades of increasing difficulty, as follows: 5.11a, 5.10d, 5.11-, 5.11b, 5.11, 5.11c, 5.9 squeeze, 5.11+, 5.10 OW, 5.12a, 5.11d"
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 16, 2005 - 12:37am PT
my offwidth partner Gary:


Dec 16, 2005 - 12:39am PT
Good grief Ed, what are you guys climbing with all that gear?
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 16, 2005 - 12:45am PT
I think we were mostly weight training that day Werner...

...this is so embarassing...

Ivory Tower, Left, Olmstead Area, Tuolumne Meadows (5.8)

we probably didn't need all of that, but it was good exercise to haul it up the crack.

Los Angeles, CA
Dec 16, 2005 - 01:21am PT
Ivory Tower, Left, Olmstead Area, Tuolumne Meadows (5.8)

I thought that was a pretty good 5.8 OW actually.

Social climber
Queensland, NorCal, Iceland
Dec 16, 2005 - 08:11am PT
ed: you mean this?

aieeee, it's all been said before.... when time becomes a loop, when time becomes a loop, when time becomes a loop

Trad climber
Dec 16, 2005 - 08:04pm PT
Tom Higgins gives tips from quirky love of off widths:


 technique: involves separate movement of lower and upper body: if right arm straight in, right leg is in and cocked up, foot and leg torqued; left arm is bent and holding crack edge near head; move by shifting hips out and pumping up off left foot heel-toe at outer edge of crack; hold self in with arms but don't try to drag body up; arms stabilize, legs do push up, then arms move up to hold in for next pump; motion is sideways coma, straighten, comma, straighten; don't pump unless have good pump foot as will waste energy and cause, uh, panic.
 rest: if heel toe is good, left edge sharp, and not overhanging, one can rest between pumps (e.g. Crack of Despair); other rest can come from chicken wing arm in crack, if crack and upper arm length match.
 flares: where bombay or flare won't allow heel toe pump, try feet in a T position for double leg pump (e.g. short wide 5.9 section on Traveler's Buttress, Lover's Leap).
 helpful to have sling for hardware, hanging from outside side, versus hanging stuff on harness or swami which blocks hip area; other posts make same point too.
 protection: long ago, used bongs, t-bars and tubes; t-bars were tempting choice since have slim profile compared to tubes; work OK (e.g. Crack of Fear, Colorado) except for flare and bombay places; tubes also OK, but need to fiddle to get just right size and avoid pivoting; all why Bigbros and big Friends are preferred (but didn't have them long ago).
 rack: try to get rack recommendation from trusted, experienced friend so don't take too much or little as either is vexing.
 reversing: when practicing, try down climbing a little to know it is possible and how to do it; helps reduce fear to know (or fool yourself) you can go back to a "secure" point.
 body size: important are distance from shoulder to elbow, knee width and hand size for transitions into hand cracks; in time, will learn favorite and hated widths and be able to "read" cracks for rest points (see "chicken wing" above).
 pacing: very important not to rush, take time, rest, think about body position, as other posts suggest; beauty of off-widths is how impossible and possible they are all in a matter of moments; very satisfying to make it; very disconcerting to retreat, a most quirky love.
 crack machine: consider building crack machine since hard to practice on real thing; once put up wooden plank job on side of three story house; planks supported by 2 X 6's (probably overkill) on edge to give stiffness; third story porch and railing allowed top to be moved easily along railing so whole thing could be vertical, less or overhanging and any width; climbed between planks (didn't have plywood then) and stucco house wall (reminds me of English "grit").

Notes From Old Diary

 Cream: hard part is early while still fresh; secure higher with good knee fit; tube chocks up to 6 inches were cumbersome, but pretty secure; nice line.
 Twilight Zone: t-bars and tubes did not work well; felt mostly 3rd class; quite insecure and strenuous all the way until, strangely, crux where pinches down and is more technical (getting around pro) than scary; key lore is Pratt hung at crux, yelled to T.M. Herbert to run to car to get bong, hauled it up, finished climb; some say big friends make this much easier on the mind, but talk to trusted ones before go as climb has ugly, knifing flakes at bottom.
 Left Side of Slack: tubes and bars did not work too well, but climb felt much more safe than TZ with no fall prospect onto piercing flakes; crux creeps up, wearing you out if don't go easy; overall, good, stiff starter off-width given easy access too.
 Despair: quite secure off width; sharp edge to grab, good heel toe with right side in, stronger side for most; good bolt protected it in old days; key lore - here Frank Sacherer nearly pulled Tom Gerughty off because young, inexperienced Tom stepped on a bolt to rest; some old mentors were pretty strict about free being free.
 Edge of Night: very hard technically due to nasty flare; easy to flail and try to overpower; again, bongs and bars not good; modern big friends probably much better.
 Hourglass: right side has pretty short crux and not too hard, but hard to protect with bars and tubes (left side crux is very hard undercling, not off width); remote, peaceful feel to Ribbon Falls area and views to soaring west wall of El Cap.

Hope this helps.

Tom Higgins

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Dec 16, 2005 - 09:20pm PT
Of all those off widths you mentioned, I thought Edge of Night was the hardest (for me), but I did it really early on and never went back. I couldn't fit into the thing and climbed it left side in, face climbing with my feet and melting out every move. Cream and TZ and Slack L side and Hourglass R side and all the rest you can really plug into, and if you're in shape, you just concentrate on pacing and not burning out or losing focus.

Also, I remember the Left Side of Absolutely Free as having only two nuts in the whole pitch (when we did it). Plenty secure and not real hard (5.10b I think), but don't fall. I can't get my knee in Bad Ass Momma and if you straight arm bar that route, sans knee locks, it's horrendous.


right near the beach, boyeee (lord have mercy)
Dec 16, 2005 - 11:33pm PT
I loved seeing Pharoah's Beard in the list. No-one is ever there, and it's so much fun.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 17, 2005 - 01:28am PT
OK, Gary wasn't happy with his picture appearing above...

Date: Fri, 16 Dec 2005 07:10:38 -0800
From: Gary xxxxxxx
X-Accept-Language: en-us, en
To: Ed Hartouni
Subject: OW Picture

You're in big f'n trouble!!!

To: Gary xxxxxxx
From: "Edward P. Hartouni"
Subject: Re: OW Picture

dude, it was posted for "educational purpose" with no personal gain involved...
just an example of a large cam rack...
I would have posted the other one (with George and Me) but I couldn't put my hands on the negative quickly...

Date: Fri, 16 Dec 2005 13:55:44 -0800
From: Gary xxxxxxx
X-Accept-Language: en-us, en
To: "Edward P. Hartouni"
Subject: Re: OW Picture

I don't give a flyin F about educating those suckers on ST!! I repeat You're in big f'n trouble!!!

Maybe rain Sunday....Climb tomorrow instead??
I'm your belayer!!



so now I'm in trouble with my best partner after posting to the OW topic in ST!
This is a picture Gary took at Olmstead Pt. in TM. Gary would want you to note that the license plate and the fact that I'm not a 5.10 OW climber (yet!)... I'm the one on the right, George is on the left


Jan 26, 2006 - 06:33am PT
Funny story about I think Edge of Night.I was struggling on it and I yelled down to the Fish.U want to come up and take a look? He asked ,How is it?I looked down at the pro and said,Itś death Russ.He said ,Naw thats allright.

Social climber
The West
Jan 26, 2006 - 11:10am PT
I believe I remember a sequel to resolve that one.

Ed, I saw your car, somewhere last summer.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 27, 2006 - 12:42am PT
Where ever the car is, I'm somewhere in the area (Debbie doesn't take it out, probably because is smells like climbing shoes too much of the year)...

...sort of like Mineral's rig, which is actually much more distinct.

Last summer we were in TM a lot, and the Valley running up to the 120 opening... back in and around the Valley these days.

If not climbing, then around the bay area mostly in the Livermore valley area.
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