Crack climbing, in general, is uncomfortable. In fact, when I first learned, I was told, “If it hurts, you’re doing it right,” but Vedauwoo climbing is particularly unforgiving. The granite is sharp and jagged, formed by tightly-packed, hard crystals that feel as though you’re cheese grating your skin and stoning your limbs…
It’s not all a suffer-fest, I swear!
I’ve climbed this area more than a few times now, and each time it’s a new challenge for my mind and body. There’re a few different ways to mitigate the pain of Vedauwoo climbing with the right preparation, gear, and positive attitude.
1. Wear Long Sleeves & Pants
Wearing long sleeves and pants is part of the Woo’s seemingly cheeky way of subverting typical climbing protocol. Leave those cute tank and bra tops at home, and prepare to sweat through some layers, because protecting your body in Vedauwoo climbing is all about covering exposed skin. This is because the Woo is off-width country where using your entire body to squeeze into a chimney, inch-worm up crevices, or wedge knees, elbows, forearms and shoulders are often all part of the jamming jive. I’m often shoulder deep in a crack, and grateful for sleeves that soften the scraping.
I have one kind of climbing shoe, and I use it for everything: sport, trad, bouldering, slab, whatever. This is mainly because I’m poor, and shoes are expensive, but if you plan to crack climb a lot and it’s your calling, you might want to consider investing in a shoe that keeps the challenges of trad in mind. My strong crack-addict friends have been loving the Anasazi Moccasym Climbing Shoe because it’s the slipper of crack climbing–easy to pull on and off, and slim to slide into cracks. You could also check out a high-top shoe like La Sportiva TC Pro which offers great ankle protection against the skinning and bone bruising capabilities of granite–Evolv Astroman do a similar service. If you’ve got some pocket change, this is a good investment.
OH Woo, and your glorious, wild west weather, how you throw climbers for a frigging loop. I can’t think of a Vedauwoo climbing trip that didn’t involve unexpected conditions. One minute, it’s sunny, the sky a cerulean blue, the wildflower meadows do a little jig in the breeze, and the next minute, dark clouds bloom out of the plains and dump buckets of rain, even hale. Luckily, these storms pass almost as quickly as they arrive, and they are incredible to witness. They don’t call this area Thunder Basin for nothing, folks. Stuff a winter hat and a warm layer in your pack. Keep an extra pair of socks and a shirt in your car–you’ll be happy to have a dry set waiting for you in the car if you get soaked. And if you don’t bring anything else, bring a rain jacket!
4. Tape Up!
Unless you’re out to prove something, you’ll make tape gloves for a couple of reasons. Most of all, tape gloves provide structural support for your tendons, joints, and muscles, and protect your knuckles and wrists against meat-grinding. Tape gloves can also prevent bleeding. Blood on holds, gross!
My friend, Alex, tapes his shirt-sleeve hems to his gloves to better protect his wrists. I’ve seen some climbers put a layer of duct tape on the backs of their hands, over their tape gloves, for added protection. You can even shave the backs of your hands so that the tape has a better grip to your skin and doesn’t slip off once you start sweating. Though this isn’t the way I make my gloves, here’s a great how-to method from Climbing Magazine. Like any gear, there’re debates on tape as well. Metolius makes climbing tape, but good ‘ole athletic tape works too–Outdoor Gear Lab did a review on top ranked climbing tape.
5. Embrace the Pain
Finally, in the words of a dedicated Vedauwoo climber: “Embrace. The more you engage, the more you adapt.” Vedauwoo climbing, like most climbing, is mental. Approach the area with a playful, open, and willing mindset. Grades are subjective–don’t let them get you down! Have fun, laugh through the mishaps, put on a good try face, and if you’re lucky, you’ll go home muddy, challenged, and smelling like rain-soaked sage.