Unlike warmer countries blessed with almost year-round rock climbing opportunities, Canada suffers from long winters followed by what seem like longer bug seasons. Staying fit under these conditions is difficult, but with indoor climbing gyms and home bouldering walls Canadian climbers can now maintain and gain fitness regardless of the outside conditions. Unfortunately, climbing on plastic brings its own challenges, including mind-numbing boredom, tendon-snapping injuries and skin shredding hold texture. Thankfully, climbers can easily avoid these plastic-climbing drawbacks by simply adding some new holds to their climbing wall. With the right shapes and texture, climbers can inject some excitement into an old wall while improving their fitness without risking injury.
Here are some things to look for when purchasing new climbing holds:
The ideal climbing hold texture should be durable and provide some grip without being so abrasive that it limits workouts because of shredded skin.
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Angle Specific Holds
Make sure the holds are suitable for the specific wall angles. Vicious slopers are ideal on vertical or gently overhanging rock but become unusable on steeper terrain. And while almost any hold can be pinched and therefore used on less-than-ideal wall angles, consider how the hold shape was intended to be grabbed.
Holds fall into four styles: realistic, training, abstract and basic.
Realistic shapes attempt to mimic natural rock formations with the best examples providing a climbing experience similar to real stone without any hateful sharp crystals or skin tearing edges. Think of them as real-rock lite.
Training holds are simple shapes with perfect radii suitable for repetitive movement and extended training. These holds are ideal for getting stronger while minimizing the risk of injury.
Abstract shapes can range from animal-based holds to shapes that look like old school telephones. These grips can often provide innovative route setting options.
Basic shapes like simple edges and straight-forward jugs are perfect filler for any climbing wall. And while they may not offer complex gripping options, they are ideal for setting specific movements or forcing certain moves.
First there were polyester based resins, then came urethanes and now there are corn and soy-based resin mixes for holds. While the various mixes have their advantages (polyester is relatively inexpensive and easily available, urethane is resistant to chipping, corn and soy-based mixes reduce the dependence on petroleum), most climbers will not notice huge differences when using the holds.
Big Blade – $80
This bizarre-looking, multi-finned hold offers several pinches and edges for almost unlimited matching opportunities on steeper walls. On more vertical terrain, the Big Blade is an easy-to-use, multi-hold jug that captures the attention of any climber. A versatile hold that embodies the Jason Kehl’s hold shaping creativity.
Claw Hold Set – $75
Consisting of two large, matchable pinches and two smaller incuts, the Claw Hold set is an excellent choice for setting challenging problems on steeper walls. Asana’s dual-texture construction combines fine-grain grippy surfaces with strategically placed friction-free panels. The result is an almost cheat-proof series of holds that require precision when grabbing or using as footholds. This is a well-thought hold set and a great example of appropriate dual-texture use.
Cough – $68
SoIll has made a name for itself by building some colourful and unusually-named holds and the Cough is no exception. This huge, fluorescent-yellow, lemon-scented hold is a feast for the senses, and its dual-texture construction minimizes foot options, ensuring technical route setting. The finely textured features create complex pinches and multiple matching opportunities, ensuring interesting route-setting on various angles. Fun and irreverent, the cough is a good choice for any wall.
Desert XL 1 – $50
Like the ripples of wind-worn desert sandstone, the Desert XL 1 holds are ideal for replicating the subtle movement found on this type of stone. The holds excel on vertical to gently overhanging terrain with some of the more positive holds being good options for steeper walls. The classic Revolution texture is grippy without being excessively abrasive. These are another winning hold set from Revolution and a great choice for setting challenging problems.
Erosion Edges – $45
Made with ultra-durable urethane and sporting a series of highly pinchable fins, the Erosion edges are a surprisingly versatile set of holds. On vertical terrain the Erosion edges present a series of positive crimps but when rotated 180 degrees offer secure pinches for steeper walls. And with their skin-friendly texture and smooth radii edges, these are a worthwhile addition for any wall.
Erosion Mini Jugs – $35
With their perfectly radiused edges, the Erosion Mini Jugs are ideal for steep cave-climbing or setting easier problems on more vertical terrain. The finger-friendly shapes are easy on the skin, allowing for extended workouts and the fine grain texture provides just enough friction when toeing onto the holds. These classic shapes are mandatory for any climbing wall.
Fat Rings – $70
Teknik’s latest series of holds are surprisingly versatile for what initially appear to be simple handlebar shapes. What makes these grips so interesting is the variable radii which changes the hold’s security depending on how the hold is grabbed. Grab the Fat Rings one way, and they are ultra-bomber jugs – switch to the other grip position and they’re suddenly unnervingly insecure. These are a great new addition from Teknik and are ideal for big-move bouldering and complex matching sequences.
Lubra – $46
Delire’s careful inclusion of subtle ripples on their Lubra slopers elevates these holds above the countless other similarly-shaped rigs on the market. Rotating the holds reveals hidden thumb catches and crimps increasing the Lubra’s usefulness on different wall angles. Although the texture is initially a bit coarse, it becomes less abrasive with some use. This is great hold set for training or complex boulder problems.
Se7ven Deadly Sins – $40 – $100 depending on set
The new Se7en Deadly Sins hold-set reaffirms that Friction makes some of the finest realistic hold shapes available. The extensive hidden thumb catches and ripples ensure each hold has a variety of grip positions and one really sweet one, no matter where it’s positioned. With their great gritty texture and thought provoking shapes these holds are perfect for complex setting on a variety of angles. Highly recommended.
Skippers – $50
Nicros calls the process of finishing a single hold with several different textures Diff-Tex. The Skippers are Nicros’s homage to the glacier-carved stones of their home state of Minnesota. The holds are mostly medium size, finely-textured pebble-like shapes mounted on a smooth dome sub-holds. The result is a series of high-relief grips that excel on steep walls as the shapes become exceptional footholds on tracking-style problems. This is an excellent set for setting challenging problems in steep caves.