By: Danny Parker
As climbing competitions trend more towards larger more robust volumes the space between these massive holds seem to shrink every year. I knew it was only a matter of time until these volumes were pressed right up against each other, making nice little crevices that these poor iron tendon folks likely wouldn’t know what to do with.
It’s hard to say when it happened first, but in my memory there was a bouldering comp where a perfect hand jam (made of two massive orbs) was set at the bottom of the problem. Several of the competitors either had previous crack climbing experience, or perfect climbing intuition and jammed their way through the fairly simple start of the problem. Shauna Coxsey, UK’s most successful competition climber attended this comp and when her turn came to attempt the problem her lack of jamming knowledge became painfully evident. She tried the classic elevator doors, some power lay backing, and even some odd arm crossed opposition magic, but alas no hand jam and therefore she walked away from the problem only looking at the top.
Since Shauna’s crack climbing fumble, she’s taken the time to properly learn how to jam a crack, and good thing too because there is now jamming purposely being set in competitions and a growing desire to see more crack related movement. There’s even been an all crack climbing bouldering comp!
I’ve been crack bouldering for about a decade now both in the wild as well as on artificial walls and in that time I’ve seen this minor niche go from a party trick, to a form of climbing some define as the only type of climbing they’re interested in.
With dedicated climbers looking to establish more crack boulders, setters intentionally putting jams in their problems, and crack climbing specific volumes now available, the world of crack bouldering is well on it’s way into mainstream climbing. So if you’re interested in getting a jump start on some crack boulders, grab your old floppy shoes, a roll of tape, and perhaps a flannel shirt and let's get out to some of the best places to jam a boulder.
Here’s a few places you can get out and try crack bouldering for yourself.
Moab is the epicenter of crack climbing specialists and therefore it has some amazing crack problems. If you yourself have a crack problem, the best way to get your fix is to head out to The Crack House. The Crack House is a 85 foot roof crack dug out and established by Dean Potter. It can be climbed from various starting points that change the difficulty and make it a perfect place to really learn this dark art. Other problems include the Kane Creek offwidth bouldering circuit, Needles area boulders, and about a hundred other isolated problems.
Danny Parker on the Crack House. Photo by Jon Vickers
Matt Farrell on the Flare. Photo by Ashley Cracroft
Danny Parker on Spite Club. Photo by Ashley Cracroft
Joshua Tree is probably one of the most iconic places when it comes to crack bouldering. The Hobbit Hole Offwidth or the Classic Thin Crack are only the beginning of a plethora of amazing cracks. Google “The Dihedral Project with Mason Earle” if you’d like to see an impressive example of some boulder Jamming.
Vedauwoo Is known for its offwidth climbing, but surprisingly it has a really good mix of wide, hand, and thin boulder cracks. Beer Crack, Cupcake, and Nat’s Three Star Roof are a great place to start for super classic hand cracks. Desiderata, Life Without Parole, and 8 Ounces to Freedom will fulfill your offwidth desires, and Psycho Shop, The Crap Artist, and Spider Tooth Circus Trick will crunch your fingers for you.
Matt Davis on Beer Crack. Photo by Ashley Cracroft
Ashley Cracroft on 8 Ounces to Freedom. Photo by Danny Parker
Little Cottonwood Canyon has a select few crack boulders, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. Razzmatazz And All That Jazz is a fists roof crack, Acracknaphobia is an offwidth to fingers roof, and I Chew Chew Choose you is a silly fun offwidth invert. The best part of crack bouldering in LCC is the community of dedicated crack climbers who take out new climbers and show them the ropes, or lack of ropes in this case.
Jake Nelson on Razzmatazz And All That Jazz. Photo by Danny Parker
Robin Fults on I Chew Chew Choose You. Photo by Ashley Cracroft
Lastly, The South Platte in Colorado is quickly becoming the epicenter of crack bouldering. Tyler Dziedzina has been developing this area and is finding some of the most stunning problems I’ve ever seen. Sleep is the bouldering version of the Vedauwoo classic Lucille, and perhaps a better version at that. The Bourbon Legend is an offwidth roof to vertical finger crack that takes my vote for the best crack boulder I’ve ever climbed.
Tyler Dziedzina on The Bourbon Legend. Photo by Danny Parker
Danny Parker on Sleep. Photo by Tyler Dziedzina
I could go on here forever, but I’m honestly itching to step away from the computer and jam a crack myself. It’s a snowy day here in Salt Lake and all my favorite problems currently have icicles in them (I checked yesterday). However my love of this art has extended to my own garage where I’ve built an adjustable wall and installed a set of Jam Walls crack volumes. I can set replicas or whatever my imagination comes up with. I hesitate to say my garage is actually the best place to crack boulder, but for the time being it’s likely the most dynamic in it’s crack bouldering abilities.
Ashley Cracroft in the “Crack Fortress”. Photo by Danny Parker
I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before there’s a great crack bouldering setup at your local gym, and I’m excited to see what this next generation does when it comes to cranking on jams. Whether you’re a crack enthusiast yourself, a comp climber, or the next prodigy who’s going to flash Ondra’s Silence, you’re going to need to learn how to jam a crack. So get after it!