What is an Offwidth?


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Novice climber
palm springs
Topic Author's Original Post - May 7, 2002 - 03:49pm PT
What is an offwidth? Is there such a thing as an offwidth hand crack, or an offwidth finger crack?

Novice climber
Topic Author's Reply - May 7, 2002 - 04:33pm PT
I think the official definition is: anything bigger than your fist and smaller than your body. And ditto to the last guys explanation of other off sizes (usually harder than non-off sizes).

Most of the time when I see offwidth in a book, it means either offwidth as I explained it or squeeze chimney (more often squeeze actually). So anything from 3.5" to 12" (depending on hand and foot size) falls in that range.

Novice climber
Topic Author's Reply - May 13, 2002 - 10:42pm PT
Offwidth: awful, tortuous, and incomprehensible anathema to some; joyful, twisted, perverse pleasure to others.

Spend the time and learn to climb them or live forever in fear. Your choice.

A good start: Chingando.
rock kicker

Novice climber
Topic Author's Reply - May 14, 2002 - 04:52pm PT
it's an offwidth if:

1)you are bleeding & you didn't know you were bleeding
(if you knew that you were bleeding then you were secure enough to actually pull some appendage or other out of the crack & notice the blood- ergo the potential for security & not possibly an offwidth- simple!)

2)you can't quite get in it but you don't dare come out of it (if you don't get that, it's wasn't an offwidth you were climbing).

3)you're moaning & grunting so much that someone tells you to go get a room (or if you hear that & it's not an offwidth, maybe you should go get a room...).

Boulder climber
Jan 12, 2016 - 07:10pm PT
wayback bump

Sport climber
Sacramento, Ca
Jan 12, 2016 - 08:07pm PT
If it wants to spit you out, it's an offwidth.

The Good Places
Jan 12, 2016 - 08:10pm PT
that was a good laugh Biotch, bummer on the back-edit

Credit: thebravecowboy

When I think of offwidth, I am reminded of awkwardly f*#king in the front seat of a cramped light pickup.


Trad climber
Portland Oregon
Jan 12, 2016 - 08:15pm PT
I once sat around a fire at the end of the day in JT with three old timers well known on these pages. As an East Coaster, I asked them what their favorite climbing was.

All three said flaring off width.

I think they did it just to terrify me.

Jan 12, 2016 - 08:21pm PT
You went deep BITČH!!

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Jan 12, 2016 - 09:27pm PT
I love it, Lorenzo! We used to say that you could tell which climbers were from the east, and which from the west (particularly from the Valley) by their gestures when describing climbs. Valley climbers gestured with thrutching motions or hand jams, not grabbing horizontal holds. Offwidths and chimneys, being mandatory free climbing on wall routes, became part of the California climbing culture. Gunks-style face climbs, not so (except at Lover's Leap then, and later in southern Yosemite).

I always defined an offwidth as wider than a fist jam and too narrow for my hips. This makes it a flexible definition. When I was in my prime, that meant cracks between about four and eight inches wide. As I've aged, many squeeze chimneys of my youth have become offwidths.

I think I liked offwidths because it took me so much effort to learn - and feel comfortable with - the technique. In particular, I learned to climb in the last days of piton protection, and most offwidth cracks lacked protection of any sort, making them rather bold leads until you got the hang of it. Besides, I didn't want the scars on my back, elbows and knees to go to waste.

Now that I'm old and have nothing left to live for, I prefer less punishing styles, but still try to keep the technique in practice, since I still need it at times.


Trad climber
SF Bay Area, California
Jan 13, 2016 - 12:47am PT
Mmmm OW

I hear that one of the greatest aspects of an offwidth is

"when you get tired, you can just stop and rest"

I believe I've only experienced this once.

I'm still looking for a repeat performance.


I'll say this...it sure isn't popular these days!



Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Jan 13, 2016 - 01:55am PT
Ow = climbing
Anything less is training
Dingus McGee

Social climber
Where Safety trumps Leaving No Trace
Jan 13, 2016 - 04:44am PT
Offwidth = the most inefficient form of moving on rock meaning you will expend the most energy to gain the least potential.

Right Eyonkee? That is why you get so tired.
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Maestro, Ecosystem Ministry, Fatcrackistan
Jan 13, 2016 - 05:00am PT
I would be interesting to rate pitches by total calorie expenditure :)

Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jan 13, 2016 - 06:41am PT
Imagine that youre an offwidth climber with preternaturally good strength and coordination and technical skill, and that youre climbing a known impossibly difficult off-width. Your experience, as you climb, will not be that you possess phenomenal strength and technical skill; rather, it will seem to you that the crack is nearly perfect and easy to read, and that you always have a secure position. That is, you wont experience anything like the (empirically real) strength and skill that the live audience, watching you climb with nothing to stand on or hold on to, will attribute to you.

With apologies to DFW.

The Good Places
Dec 11, 2017 - 10:40am PT
some purty fine definitions here.

the minipony gangbang.  I stared at, lusted over, and dreamt of this t...
the minipony gangbang. I stared at, lusted over, and dreamt of this thing for a year. when I finally jumped on...I got that bliss: "it seemed that the crack was nearly perfect and easy to read, and that I always had secure position"
Credit: thebravecowboy

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
Dec 11, 2017 - 11:05am PT
A flaring offwidth can be like life and love.

Fear draws you inward, seeking safety, seeking shelter,
burying your head, shuttering your vision, breathing stale air,
wildly and indiscriminately clinging to whatever is nearest.
You gnash and huff, slowly grind down, no space to breath,
and all progress is blocked. You feel trapped and resentful.

To have a healthy relationship, you must be willing and able to let go,
to spread out and get a bigger perspective, to be your better self,
Then, you can redefine your connection, be true to yourself,
move forward and remain connected to your love, if you are right for each other.


Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Dec 11, 2017 - 11:15am PT
A helluva good time

Trad climber
Dec 11, 2017 - 11:29am PT
You know it is an offwidth when the leader's vocalizations sound like sex
Bruce Morris

Trad climber
Soulsbyville, California
Dec 11, 2017 - 01:20pm PT
This is an OW:

Sonora Pass Highway &#40;US 108&#41;
Sonora Pass Highway (US 108)
Credit: Bruce Morris
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