Monday, April 8th, 2024

Offwidth Climbing: The Art of Knee Lock

I’ve been meaning to make this video for a few years. As far back as in 2021, a friend asked me about my thoughts on the Wide Boyz’s knee lock technique. I shared with him basically what I shared in the video. He, being the very analytical type (and a PhD!), agreed with me. That’s when I initially had the intention to share with others. A couple of recent inquiries/comments on my other YouTube videos finally pushed me over the edge and I took action.

Please watch the above video and share in the comment what you think. But I didn’t want to make it too long, so I left out a few points worth discussing, which I will layout here.

1. They mentioned in their video that thick bulky trousers, such as jeans, are best for this kind of climbing. I don’t want to dispute it because I do see the points. They are durable, abrasive, which you often want while climbing inside the cracks, and probably look cool. However, in my experience, they add just a little more risk of getting the knee stuck. First, they can really bunch up at the knee fold, adding unintended bulk that you can’t control the size of by relaxing/flexing your own flesh. Second, when the fabric folds get very compressed, it becomes extremely hard to pull apart while in that compression (e.g. in the stuck knee situation), exactly because the abrasiveness in the fabric. For that reason, I’ve switched to thinner materialed long pants (e.g. hiking pants) with kneepads worn inside. But more often than not, I prefer wearing compression knee pads over my pants. They are not the stiff bulky type. They flex with my knees without creating a lot of bulk at the fold, but provide just enough padding that it takes the edge off from any pressure pain.

2. The no-sliding principle described in the video also applies to bumping cams for protection. Sometimes, one needs to bump a cam up with her to conserve on gear yet still reduce runout. Last thing you want to do is simply/blindly slide that cam up with you. It’s REALLY easy to get a cam, esp. the larger sizes, stuck that way. Instead, every time I bump, I retrieve the cam out of the crack just like how I clean it, and reach up to re-place it.

3. I have some thoughts on the general principles of offwidth climbing, but that’ll have to be a separate post/video. I will re-emphasize the principle of “minimal effort”. Do a body scan periodically, e.g. while relaxing in a secure knee lock, to see if you are holding extra tension that does not contribute to holding your position and actively let it ease off.

Hope this is a helpful discussion. I welcome your commend and feedback.