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Andreas Schweizer and Robert Hudek

The aim was to investigate differences of the kinetics of the crimp and the slope grip used in rock climbing. Nine cadaver fingers were prepared and fixated with the proximal phalanx in a frame. The superficial (FDS) and deep (FDP) flexor tendons were loaded selectively and together with 40 N in the crimp grip (PIP joint flexed 90°/DIP joint hyperextended) and the slope grip position (<25° flexed/50° flexed respectively). Five different grip sizes were tested and the flexion force which was generated to the grip was measured. In the crimp grip the FDP generated more flexion force in small sized holds whereas the FDS generated more force in the larger holds. During the slope grip the FDP was more effective than the FDS. While both tendons were loaded, the flexion force was always greater during crimp grip compared with the slope grip. The FDP seems to be most important for very small holds using the crimp grip but also during slope grip holds whereas the FDS is more important for larger flat holds.

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Robert MacKenzie, Linda Monaghan, Robert A Masson, Alice K Werner, Tansinee S Caprez, Lynsey Johnston and Ole J Kemi

Purpose:

Rock climbing performance relies on many characteristics. Here, we identified the physical and physiologic determinants of peak performance in rock climbing across the range from lower-grade to elite.

Methods:

44 male and 33 female climbers with onsight maximal climbing grades 5a-8a and 5a-7b+, respectively, were tested for physical, physiologic and psychologic characteristics (independent variables) that were correlated and modelled by multiple regression and principal component analysis to identify the determinants of rock climbing ability.

Results:

In males, 23 of 47 variables correlated with climbing ability (p<0.05, Pearson’s correlation coefficients 0.773-0.340), including shoulder endurance, hand and finger strength, shoulder power-endurance, hip flexibility, lower-arm grip strength, shoulder power, upper-arm strength, core-body endurance, upper-body aerobic endurance, hamstrings and lower-back flexibility, aerobic endurance, and open-hand finger strength. In females, 10 of 47 variables correlated with climbing ability (p<0.05, Pearson’s correlation coefficients 0.742-0.482): shoulder endurance and power, lower-arm grip strength, balance, aerobic endurance, and arm span. Principal component analysis and univariate multiple regression identified the main explanatory variables. In both sexes, shoulder power and endurance measured as maximum pull-ups, average arm crank power, and bent-arm hang, emerged as the main determinants (p<0.01; adjusted R 2=0.77 in males and 0.62 in females). In males, finger pincer (p=0.07) and grip strength also had trends (p=0.09) toward significant effects. Finally, in test-of-principle training studies, we trained to increase main determinants 42-67%; this improved climbing ability 2-3 grades.

Conclusions:

Shoulder power and endurance majorly determines maximal climbing. Finger, hand and arm strength, core-body endurance, aerobic endurance, flexibility and balance are important secondary determinants.

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César Rendueles

Sport climbing relies materially on the existence of routes equipped with bolts: vertical itineraries with anchors that allow climbers a safe ascent. Without bolting, sport climbing simply would not exist. In many countries, bolting is an altruistic individual activity that is usually neither organized nor regulated. Sport climbing bolting requires expensive hardware and sophisticated technical skills. However, equippers earn no money or prestige for this effort, which benefits many climbers. This paper develops a sociological approach to rock climbing bolting as a common-pool resource facing a deep crisis. In its early years, bolting was ruled by generalized reciprocity. The popularization of sport climbing quickly changed this framework. A small group of very active equippers has become net providers of public goods without compensation in economic or status terms.

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Roger Bourne, Mark Halaki, Benedicte Vanwanseele and Jillian Clarke

This study investigates the hypothesis that shallow edge lifting force in high-level rock climbers is more strongly related to fingertip soft tissue anatomy than to absolute strength or strength to body mass ratio. Fifteen experienced climbers performed repeated maximal single hand lifting exercises on rectangular sandstone edges of depth 2.8, 4.3, 5.8, 7.3, and 12.5 mm while standing on a force measurement platform. Fingertip soft tissue dimensions were assessed by ultrasound imaging. Shallow edge (2.8 and 4.3 mm) lifting force, in newtons or body mass normalized, was uncorrelated with deep edge (12.5 mm) lifting force (r < .1). There was a positive correlation (r = .65, p < .05) between lifting force in newtons at 2.8 mm edge depth and tip of bone to tip of finger pulp measurement (r < .37 at other edge depths). The results confirm the common perception that maximum lifting force on a deep edge (“strength”) does not predict maximum force production on very shallow edges. It is suggested that increased fingertip pulp dimension or plasticity may enable increased deformation of the fingertip, increasing the skin to rock contact area on very shallow edges, and thus increase the limit of force production. The study also confirmed previous assumptions of left/right force symmetry in climbers.

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Phillip Baxter Watts and Megan L. Ostrowski

The purpose of this study was to measure oxygen uptake and energy expenditure in children during rock climbing activity. 29 children (age = 10.9 ± 1.7 yr) participated in the study. A commercially available rock climbing structure with ample features for submaximal effort climbing provided continuous terrain. Participants were instructed to climb at a comfortable pace. Following an initial 5-min rest, each child climbed one sustained 5-min bout followed by 5-min sitting recovery for a total of 10 min (SUS). This was immediately followed by five 1-min climbing + 1-min recovery intervals for a second total of 10 min (INT). Expired air was analyzed continuously. Energy expenditure (EE) was determined via the Weir method for 10-s intervals throughout the full protocol. The total energy expenditure in kilocalories during the 10-min SUS period was 34.3 ± 11.3 kcal. Energy expenditure during the 10-min INT period averaged 39.3 ± 13.1 kcal and was significantly higher than during SUS (p < .05). The mean total EE for SUS + INT was 73.7 ± 24.2 kcal. EE was correlated with body mass; r = .86. The rock climbing tasks employed in this study produced EE levels similar to what have been reported in children for stair climbing, sports/games activities, and easy jogging.

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Bruce Erickson

The concern for style in climbing has been a long-standing debate in the climbing community, ranging from discussions around the politics of bolting routes to what exactly constitutes a first ascent. These debates, when read through Lacanian psychoanalysis, illustrate a larger concern for the construction of identity within rock climbing. Style becomes a strategy of differentiation that works through the signifier of whiteness to promise wholeness to the identity of the climber. Descriptions of the events in August of 2000 when four American climbers on a North Face expedition in Kyrgyzstan were taken hostage by members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan illustrate that whiteness only covers up deficiencies in the subject and creates a constant state of insecurity. Through the concept of whiteness as a logic of difference, it is possible to understand how this event illustrates the construction of whiteness, and specifically, the moments when whiteness fails to provide being to the subject.

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Franck Quaine, Luc Martin and Jean-Pierre Blanchi

This manuscript describes three-dimensional force data collected during postural shifts performed by individuals simulating rock-climbing skills. Starting from a quadrupedal vertical posture, 6 expert climbers had to release their right-hand holds and maintain the tripedal posture for a few seconds. The vertical and contact forces (lateral and anteroposterior forces) applied on the holds were analyzed in two positions: an “imposed” position (the trunk far from the supporting wall) and an “optimized” position (the trunk close to the wall and lower contact forces at the holds). The tripedal postures performed in the two positions were achieved by the same pattern of vertical and contact forces exerted by the limbs on the holds. In the optimized position, the transfer of the forces was less extensive than in the imposed position, so that the forces were exerted primarily on the ipsilateral hold. Moreover, a link between the contact force values and the couple due to body weight with respect to the feet was shown.

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Matthew A. Kilgas, Scott N. Drum, Randall L. Jensen, Kevin C. Phillips and Phillip B. Watts

Rock climbers believe chalk dries the hands of sweat and improves the static coefficient of friction between the hands and the surface of the rock. The purpose of this study was to assess whether chalk affects geometric entropy or muscular activity during rock climbing. Nineteen experienced recreational rock climbers (13 males, 6 females; 173.5 ± 7.0 cm; 67.5 ± 3.4 kg) completed 2 climbing trails with and without chalk. The body position of the climber and muscular activity of the finger flexors was recorded throughout the trial. Following the movement sequence participants hung from a standard climbing hold until they slipped from the climbing structure, while the coefficient of friction and the ratio of the vertical forces on the hands and feet were determined. Although there were no differences in the coefficient of friction (P = .748), geometric entropy (P = .359), the ratio of the vertical forces between the hands and feet (P = .570), or muscular activity (P = .968), participants were able to hang longer after the use of chalk 62.9 ± 36.7 s and 49.3 ± 25.2 s (P = .046). This is advantageous because it may allow for prolonged rests, and more time to plan the next series of climbing moves.

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David Giles, Joel B. Chidley, Nicola Taylor, Ollie Torr, Josh Hadley, Tom Randall and Simon Fryer

Rock climbing requires repeated isometric contractions of the finger flexors, which are responsible for flexion of the metacarpophalangeal and interphalangeal joints. 1 These contractions cause regular periods of ischemia in the forearms; the extent of this ischemia and the subsequent recovery

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David Giles, Vanesa España Romero, Inmaculada Garrido, Alejandro de la O Puerta, Keeron Stone and Simon Fryer

Purpose:

To examine differences in oxygenation kinetics in the nondominant and dominant flexor digitorum profundus (FDP) of rock climbers.

Methods:

Participants were 28 sport climbers with a range of on-site abilities (6a+ to 8a French Sport). Using near-infrared spectroscopy, oxygenation kinetics of the FDP was assessed by calculating the time to half recovery (t 1/2 recovery) of the tissue-saturation index (TSI) after 3–5 min of ischemia.

Results:

A 2-way mixed-model ANOVA found a nonsignificant interaction (P = .112) for TSI by sex. However, there was a significant main effect (P = .027) of handedness (dominant vs nondominant FDP). The dominant forearm recovered 13.6% faster (t 1/2 recovery mean difference = 1.12 s, 95% CI 0.13–2.10 s) than the nondominant FDP. This was not affected by 6-mo on-site climbing ability or sex (P = .839, P = .683).

Conclusions:

Significant intraindividual differences in oxygenation kinetics of the FDP were found. Improvements in oxygenation kinetics in the FDP are likely due to the abilities of the muscle to deliver, perfuse, and consume oxygen. These enhancements may be due to structural adaptations in the microvasculature, such as an increase in capillary density and enhanced improvement in capillary filtration.