Climbing Techniques

Whilst there are no official ‘rules’ to climbing, there are numerous techniques that have been developed by climbers over the years. These techniques encompass a variety of body holds, postures and movements that allow the climber to negotiate the rock face more effectively.

Lead climbing

The technique of climbing without a rope in order to attach the belay rope and anchors to the rocks so that the following climbers may climb safely. It works in the same way as top-roping, with a belayer standing at the bottom of the rock, but the rope is clipped as the climber ascends rather than being fed through an anchor at the top of the cliff.


A technique using the back of the heel to apply pressure to the foothold, allowing the climber to balance or push off to the next hold. The foot is the main instrument used in climbing, allowing the climber to lever the body up the rock. Contrastingly, the toe-hook involves hooking the toe behind a hold used chiefly for balance.


A technique where the climber places only the edge of their climbing shoe on the footholds.


The practice of free climbing up a gulley by wedging the hands and feet into a crack in the rock face and pulling upwards. The finger, hand, fist or chest jam is a method of hanging from the rock by jamming a part of the body into a crack.


The technique of climbing up two opposing rock faces, by placing the back and hands against one face and the feet against the other.


The method of climbing a corner of a rock by spreading the legs wide apart and relying on friction or very small holds for ascent. The technique of using just friction for climbing is known as smearing and dyno is a form of jumping, used to reach holds that are out of static reach.


A technique where the climber’s hands are positioned to pull on one side of a crack while the feet push in opposition from the other side of the crack, allowing the climber to ascend crab-like up the rock. Another useful technique is flagging. This is the ability to change the body’s centre of gravity by moving a leg or arm to a different positions in order to reach difficult holds.




Where the belayer stands at the bottom of the wall attached to a rope allowing the climber to be secured during the climb. There are many different ways to belay a climber but the most common one is the semi-direct belay. This requires the person belaying to tie the rope end into their climbing harness, creating a belay rope. The belayer must then attach themselves to the anchor if there is one (anchors may be needed, depending on the weights of the climber and the belayer) and should then attach a belay device to the belay loop.

Belaying is most commonly practiced with top-roping, where a rope is fed through an anchor at the top of the rock with the climber at one end and the belayer at the other.