Embracing Roof Town

Bouldering to Improve Jam Crack Power

June 2023

When it comes to developing the strength needed for challenging cracks, training directly on splitter jams can be an arduous and painful journey. However, the key to overcoming difficult cracks lies not only in mastering jam finesse but also in building upper body campus strength, since very little weight is held by your feet on steep splitters. In preparation for trying a few 5.14 cracks in the coming year, I dedicated June to outside training on powerful boulder problems.

This real-rock-training-block aligns perfectly with my hometown of Flagstaff, where the finest climbing can be found on the horizontal limestone roofs. This includes the notable Priest Draw, as well as numerous “back-woods boulders” scattered throughout the Coconino Forest. This movement is an acquired taste which feels foreign to even the strongest of visitors. The problems are very sequential with oppositional holds where a balanced center of gravity must be maintained, and creative footwork is required. It takes a while to learn how to dangle efficiently.

Video edit with my favorite problems

I ignored these roof boulders for the first two years of living in town, going once or twice and getting absolutely bouted! Though last summer, I decided I better learn to love these boulders or I will run out of enjoyable challenges on just roped routes. It took about a month to adapt to the movements and achieve equivalent difficulties to a more familiar style. I learned that it actually suited me well - what I thought would be mindless power climbing was actually incredibly delicate in its own way. I find bouldering to improve my trad climbing more than sport climbing, so I am grateful for over a hundred world class V10-V14 roof boulders to keep me busy around home. 

Foot jams and finger locks on End to End while Ira cheers me on

During this training phase, my goal was to climb on (and hopefully send) as many double-digit boulder problems as possible within the month. To complement these outside sessions, I incorporated supplementary weight exercises: Prior to each session, I would warm-up with a block pull finger strength session at home, and then do antagonist exercises in the evenings. Adhering to a schedule of climbing one day on and one day off, I maintained a near-maximal effort during each session. This is likely a bit less efficient than gym workouts, but I’d much rather be out in the forest peacefully bouldering than spending day after day in the gym. 

The infamous pinch throw on The Receptionist

Burl underclings on the no-kneepad version of Cosmic Tricycle, later the same day

It was a blast to trade in my stiff katana edging shoes for a month of no-edge minimal shoes. Embracing the Mantras, which feel more like a rubber sock, I find the foot torquing and pulling of pocketed roofs to be very crack-like. The traverse problem, End to End, even features technical foot jams while shuffling across small handholds. I do believe my foot and toe strength has leveled up a bit! 

Throughout the month, I found a surprising surge of momentum and ticked off many more lines than expected. Now I head north for a month in Squamish to try out a certain 5.14 finger crack.. 

June’s Backyard Ticklist:

Sufferfish V8 Flash

Clampdown V9+

The Receptionist V10

Suplexing V10

Huffalufagus V10

The Halfling V10

OG Cosmic Tricycle V10

Longbottom Leaf V10

Lolita V10/11

End to End V11