Different Types of Climbing Holds for Your Home Wall
Rock climbers have specific words and lingo for everything—including climbing holds. When you look at a rock climbing wall it may appear to be a hodgepodge of colors and shapes, but oftentimes climbers place specific holds in specific orders to create rock climbs. If you are interested in building your own climbing wall at home, it is important to understand the different types of climbing holds. Before we get into it, let’s first go over the difference between a climbing hold and a climbing grip. “Hold” refers to the actual piece of plastic or real rock that a climber grabs with their hand. “Grip,” on the other hand, refers to the way in which the climber holds the hold. One climbing hold may have several different ways to grip it. For the purposes of this article, we are going to cover the basic holds, how you might identify them, and how they may be used in the gym or on your home wall.
Jugs are the easiest and most comfortable climbing hold around. Jugs are what are called “positive” holds which means they angle away from the wall creating space between where you grab with your hand and the wall. These holds are essential for any climbing wall. First, jugs are necessary to create easier climbs that may be used for beginner climbers or warming up. The bigger the jugs and the closer they are together, the easier the climb will be. What’s more, climbers will often use jugs to downclimb from the top of the wall when they have completed a climb. After you are done working hard you want to be able to grab onto some jugs on the way down. These should be the first holds you purchase if you are creating a home climbing wall and be sure to have plenty of them!
Edges, also known as crimps or crimpers, are smaller holds that often meet the wall flat (or at 90 degrees) but can also have a bit of bite to them (meaning they are positive holds, kind of like mini-jugs) or can be very difficult to hold onto if they meet the wall at a negative angle (greater than 90 degrees). Regardless, edges are rarely bigger than one finger pad in width and require more advanced strength to hold onto. The grip used on an edge is called crimping and involves holding on with just your finger pads and creating friction by bending at the second knuckle. Edges are an integral part of any climbing wall as they can be used to create more difficult climbs as well as to help strengthen your fingers as you progress. Many of the climbing holds you will find outdoors on real rock are some variation of an edge which means that having them on your home wall can help to prepare you for climbing outside!
Slopers are easily recognizable as they appear exactly as they sound: sloping. Slopers are characterized by their lack of any positive feature on the hold. Climbers must use an open hand grip and clever body positioning to create enough friction to hold onto a sloper. While slopers are a more advanced type of climbing hold, you will rarely find a home wall without one. They are an excellent way to create a variation on the wall as no other hold requires the type of open hand grip as a sloper. Outdoor climbs generally have slopers near the top as the rock rounds or on the sides (or aretes), so slopers are great for preparing climbers for outdoor adventures as well. If you are just starting out, you probably only need a couple of slopers for your home wall, but you’ll quickly discover how fun and frustrating slopers can be!
Pockets are holes in rock or plastic that can only fit three or fewer fingers. If you can fit four fingers into a pocket, you’ve got a jug! Pockets come in a variety of depths as well. Shallow pockets may only have room for the very tips of your fingers while deep pockets may allow for several finger pads. Generally speaking, the shallower the pocket, the more difficult it is to hold. The grip required to hold onto a pocket will change depending on the depth of the pocket. In some outdoor climbing areas, the rock climbing style is indicated by the abundance of pockets in the walls. Some areas may not have any pockets at all! It entirely depends on the type of rock. Regardless, pockets can be a fun change of pace on a home wall as they force climbers to only use a couple of fingers but do not have to be overly difficult. Be careful, though! Because you are only able to use several digits, you are applying a much larger load to each individual finger. This can be a perfect recipe for injury if you are not careful.
Pinches are edges or slopers that allow for a climber to grip the hold from both sides meaning their thumb can apply pressure in opposition to the rest of their fingers. Pinches usually look like simple rectangles on the wall, but sometimes a clever climber may find a way to use their thumb on a hold that is not an obvious pinch. Pinches allow climbers to apply more friction to a hold and are generally considered to be a bit easier than edges. This is not always the case, though. Because a pinch is also a type of grip, it requires a different type of strength from crimping or open handing. This means that a climber may be stronger on edges simply because they are better at crimping even if the pinch is considered to be a better hold. Pinches come in varying widths. Thin pinches are often incut on both sides (positive) while wide pinches generally slope off at the end (negative). If you are collecting holds for your first at-home wall, make sure to grab some pinches of varying widths to practice each type of hand position.
No home climbing wall is complete without climbing holds! Make sure you understand the different types of climbing holds so that you have a nice variation and understand how to use them.