Learn two vital techniques for effective climbing on steep routes and boulders.

This video analysis, of a short 5.14 power-endurance sport climb in Wyoming, depicts the vital foot “flag” and drop knee techniques for ascending steep, powerful climbs (both outdoors and inside).

Flagging your free foot behind your supporting leg often increases stability on hard moves because it shifts your center of gravity laterally, nearer to the supporting hand and foot. Look to flag a foot when your best hand and foothold are on the same side of your body. That is…if your left hand and foot are supporting your weight, you should be able to increase stability and ease of upward movement by flagging your right foot behind your left (see 00:15).

Drop knee moves involve twisting your torso and turning one hip toward the wall while one knee drops toward the ground (see 1:01). This movement draws your center of gravity closer to the wall, thus improving the force vector on the finger holds (better grip) and extending reach due to the twisting torso raising the shoulder of the reaching hand upward.

Look to use a drop knee move when a handhold is sloping, inclined (diagonally or vertically), or there’s a pocket with a good side-pull or undercling grip. Drop the knee and turn inward the hip opposite of the gripping hand. An inward-facing foothold (opposite side as the gripping hand) that you can press sideways against can make for a very solid position from which to make a long reach. Many difficult sport climbs involve a series of back-to-back dropknee moves as shown towards the end of this video.

Practice using the Flag and Dropknee moves in a wide range of climbing situations, and you will become a more effective steep-wall boulderer and sport climber!

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Climber: Jonathan Hörst
Route: Monkey Gone to Heaven (5.14b/8c), Sinks Canyon, WY.

Copyright © 2000–2020 Eric J. Hörst | All Rights Reserved.

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