December 11, 2018

Cold Weather Rock Climbing Tricks

It doesn't matter what kind of rock climbing you're into, at some point you're probably going to find yourself climbing in chilly weather. From boulderers waiting for perfect "sending temps" for their project, to alpine climbers on a rock route in the mountains and everyone in between, being out in the cold is a fact of life.

It's fairly straightforward to keep most of our body parts warm, except for our feet when they're in rock shoes. Snug fitting rock shoes offer pretty much no insulation, and also slightly reduce circulation by their tight fit. While I will occasionally wear a thin pair of socks in my rock shoes this is a sacrifice in performance. Besides, many of my shoes are too tight to wear with a sock.

One simple (and free!) solution I've come upon is to tuck the shoes into my layers when I'm not wearing them. At the boulders or at the crag, this means putting them in my jacket before I start climbing and in between laps. In an alpine setting, tucking them into my layers is the first step of the transition from hiking to climbing at the base of the route. Puffy jackets with internal "drop-in" style pockets are perfect for this. To get them even closer to the warmth coming off your torso, tuck them into the layers which are themselves tucked into your harness.

Kevin getting ready to boot up at the base of the Northeast Ridge of Bugaboo Spire.

While assisting Arc'teryx athlete Leslie Timms with a clinic on a cool spring day a few years ago we discussed this technique. She referred to it as "shoe-boob" because of the way it looks when your layers are zipped up with your shoes in there. I think that's a great name.

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