Love them or hate them, volumes are a part of route-setting vocabulary now. Typically speaking, climbing holds are fairly intuitive; in many cases, you don’t have an option on where to put your hand and fingers or in which direction to pull. But volumes can be a mystery, even intimidating.
Where are the holds? How do I navigate my body around these things? With input from professional route setters and climbers, we’ve compiled these tips for how to climb on volumes.
Some of these techniques take practice but the key thing to note is that volumes can be fun if you know how to use them!
1. Move Slowly
Speed is not your friend on holds that don’t have an obvious part to grip.
2. Get Underneath It
As with slopers, volumes are often best when you’re hanging low on them. Keep your arms straight and your body heavy and let gravity help you stick to them.
3. Use The Surface Area
Don’t be afraid to use the flat sides of a volume. Rather, take advantage of the big surface area. If you’re standing on a volume side, this means smearing with the balls of your feet or as much of your foot as you can. If you’re using it with your hands, use your palms too (then remember to chalk your whole hand).
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3. Look For Edges
Depending on the orientation and shape of the volume, edges can make good “holds.” For example, if an edge creates a kind of A-frame roof peak, you can wrap your hand over it (palm on one side, fingers on the other), creating what is sometimes called a “meat-hook” grip. A Vulcan grip (two fingers on either side) can be useful where an edge meets the lip a volume, or you might pinch it (with thumb on one side, fingers on the other). You might also open hand or crimp a straight edge.
4. Look for Bulges or Scoops
With more bulbous-shaped volumes, the surface area you need may appear as a bulge or a scoop. Looking for chalk can give you a hint of where on the volume it will feel good to grab.
5. Be Deliberate
Be deliberate and precise with your hand and foot placements. This is generally good advice but it’s especially useful for volumes. Sloppy or rushed climbing on volumes can result in some pretty gnarly skin abrasions.
6. Don’t Stand Too Close To The Wall
This is particularly relevant for vertical or slab climbs. It may be counterintuitive, but the spot on the volume where you will find the most balance is farthest from the wall. Creating this space between your foot and the wall makes it easier to lean in when you stand up, rather than inadvertently pushing yourself backwards.
7. Learn to Push and Pull
Push and pull your hands and feet in the direction opposite of where you want to go. It’s the same principle as pushing down on a foothold in order to stand up but the plane is different. This can mean pushing (or “pressing”) away from your body with the palm of your hand, say, down and right in order to go up and left. Or pushing across the front of your body to the left as you traverse right. For your feet, the concept is the same but, in addition to pushing down, you might pull (toward yourself) with the heel of a flexed foot.
8. Use Compression
On steeper walls, you may need to push with both feet on opposite sides of a volume, i.e., squeeze the volume between your feet. This is an advanced move but useful and worth practicing because it can help conserve energy as you climb.
You may find it helpful to throw various body parts up and over a volume, hang and move around this way and that, to discover what works and what doesn’t. You might surprise yourself and find some beta you (or even the setters) didn’t expect to work.
As with many holds in climbing, if you don’t believe you’re going to stay on the volume, you probably won’t.
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