Footwork is essential to all climbing, and crack climbing is no different. Hand-cracks tend to offer great foot placements, but you have to twist your feet into them. Start with your knee facing out like you’re sitting cross-legged, and bring your foot roughly level to your other knee. With your foot tilted sideways, pinky toe at the bottom, insert as much of your shoe into the crack as you can. Then weight the foot by twisting your big toe downwards and bringing your knee more parallel to the crack.
This can put a lot of pressure on your ankles and will likely feel uncomfortable when you first try it – but will become easier and more painless the more you get used to it.
Inserting finger knuckles into a constriction in the crack is known as a finger-lock. Like a solid hand-jam, a well-placed finger-lock can feel like you could hang off it all day.
For a thumbs-down finger lock, look for a place in the finger crack where it constricts and start with your elbows pointing away from you. Insert the knuckles of your index and middle fingers as deep as possible and then turn your elbow down as you twist your hand and sink in your finger-lock.
For a thumbs-up finger-lock, use the knuckles of your pinky and ring fingers. Again, lock them into position by twisting and bringing your elbow down.
Footwork on finger-cracks can be challenging. Climbers usually resort to trying to use their feet as they do in hand-cracks: start with the knee facing out, and then torque the foot into the crack by bringing the leg parallel to the crack and twisting the foot. Even just a tiny bit of purchase from twisting your toes into the crack can take some weight off your arms. Keeping your heels low can increase the surface area of your climbing shoe in the crack.
Another technique is to stick your big toe, pointing up, in the crack, in the hope of finding some friction. Having any foot contact with the rock is better than having none. Remember also to make use of any holds on the face that might be available.
For cracks that are slightly wider than your fingers, a technique called the ring-lock can be used. This is a hard skill to master and can feel somewhat tenuous but will be vital when trying a size that climbers call “rattly fingers”.
Start with your elbow facing out, and cross the tip of your index finger on top of your thumbnail. Insert this into the crack, stacking the rest of your fingers over your index finger as the crack allows. Now when you pull your elbow down and twist into the ring-lock, your fingers should wedge against your thumb inside the crack.