October 22, 2014

Taping For Crack Climbing

I'm smack in the middle of my yearly October rock climbing vacation (or Roctober, best spoken like an enthusiastic classic rock DJ). I've been climbing and catching up with friends old and new at some great locations, including Red Rocks, Zion, Indian Creek, and The Black Canyon.

I'm also learning a lot. As usual I'll spend the most time in Indian Creek this Roctober; I'm writing this from Moab's excellent public library. Indian Creek always teaches me a lot about crack climbing and trying hard. Another thing I'm learning on this visit is how to tape my hands.

Taping wasn't really something I saw climbers doing a lot when I was learning to climb in New Hampshire. Over the years I tried making tape gloves a few times, but they always took a long time to make, never lasted more than a pitch or two, and usually made the climbing harder. Climbing on the sometimes sharp rock of Joshua Tree taught me that "milking" the jams always led to bleeding and that it was best to put the hands or fingers (or more) in the crack and accept the jam for what it was. I still rarely use tape. After a few weeks in the Creek I usually have my share of gobies, but they've never been a huge problem.

I recognize that I am in the minority here. For most climbers, crack movement does not come naturally, and taped hands are a very effective "training wheel" when learning different sizes. I've come to see that as a guide it benefits me and my clients if I know a great taping method. I did some research before Roctober began and was looking for a method that didn't take a lot of time or tape, was easy to remember, and didn't change the size of my hand too much. This last one was a problem I've always had with the reusable tape glove.

The best method and tutorial I've found was by crack master (or mistress?) Steph Davis. She writes about  it on her blog, and is in a great instructional video. She advocates for 1.5" wide tape, but I've had good success with 1". As with learning anything new, practice is important, and the best place to practice might not be at the crag right when it's your turn to climb. She's also spot on with her recommendation of the Mueller Europtape. It can be found at climbing shops here in Moab and also at Eastside Sports in Bishop. If your local shop doesn't carry it, they should.