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Height dependence, ratings, ape index, go-go gadget arms, etc .
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By Darren Mabe
From Flagstaff, AZ
Oct 9, 2009
wham bam hand jam. Wrapping up the final moves of Twist of Fate, Oak Creek Canyon. <br /> <br />photo: Blake McCord
ok. my questions are somewhat simple. but i am sure there is no black and white answer. but the discussion might be entertaining...

how much does height really affect the difficulty of a climb? i am sure i have heard it all before, arguing for or against this topic: ("that climb is harder if your short", "this route is reachy", Lynn Hill is 5' 2", blah blah blah)

now, i understand certain pro placements or bolt stances can be height dependent (ie, several pins that Kor has placed). but i cant imagine God created rock to be best suited for climbers 6' or taller. so a climb is a climb, but how much does a rating change if you cant "easily" reach the holds? in my experience this can vary between a number grade, to a letter grade, to it almost not being possible at all! so if there is no expectation of the grade, and you climb rock for what it is, is there still "height dependence"? and if so, is it just a comparison? or maybe i just answered my own questions... that the silly world of ratings are all about comparsion/consensus, anyway!?

there are obvious direct parallels to "hand/finger/knee/body-size" dependence in crack climbing. but that usually adds/subtracts a +/-.

some more info. i am 6'2", +4 ape index. i have climbed with many climbers of all different heights. and i by no means consider myself abnormally tall. but why is it that i cant think of a time that i say to myself "if i could only reach THAT hold?" instead i just get more dynamic, or find another solution.

or should i just admit to the fact that i may sandbag ratings for shorter folk? i have been accused of this in the past and i certainly own it on many occasions.

ok now i am rambling. your turn. examples welcome too!

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By Tits McGee
From Boulder, CO
Oct 9, 2009
How I Send
ask Too Tall Tim

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By Peter Franzen
Administrator
From Phoenix, AZ
Oct 9, 2009
Belay
Don't forget that there are plenty of moves/problems/routes that are harder if you're tall.

I'm ~6'1" and I have a +4 Ape Index, and that means that it takes some serious leverage to get my biceps to fully contract. I think that shorter climbers have it much easier on very steep terrain than those of us with long arms.

Maybe someone can double-check my physics, but it seems that for a given amount of muscle tissue it's going to be harder for someone with long arms to do a pull-up than someone with shorter arms. Same goes for other static/tension positions such as an iron cross or, god forbid, a mantle.

Just some food for thought...

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By Phil Lauffen
From The Bubble
Oct 9, 2009
RMNP skiing. Photo by Nodin de Saillan
I think there are benefits both ways.
If you are taller, you have a longer reach, longer stem, etc.
But if you are shorter its easier to get in closer to the wall and you have less weight to throw around.

I climb with a friend who is 6'4" and weighs less than I do. Its funny to watch him climb because he resembles a rag doll, but man can he reach those nice holds. I'm 5'10" on a good day, and I find that I can really extend my reach by getting my feet up high. I've been able to reach holds my taller friends couldn't on very steep walls because of this fact. They simply couldn't get their feet as high because there is a lot of leg in the way.

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By slim
Administrator
Oct 9, 2009
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.
i think being tall is really over-rated. how many of the super cutting edge climbers are very tall? not that many. most are around 5'7" to 5'10".

there are plenty of disadvantages to being tall, just as there are advantages. i think it mostly evens out, unless you are insanely at one end of the spectrum or the other (ie 3 feet tall or 8 feet tall).

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By JPVallone
Oct 9, 2009
I love this route description, I climbed this route this summer it is quite good, just short.

Veedauwoo Kelmans book, route 94 on the Northwest face right end, Nautilus

Dual 9-. Climb a 5.7 handcrack in a slot to a shelf and belay (30)feet. Get back into the crack on the left (crux) and continue on sutstained jamming and stemming to the top. The crux is height dependendent (9+ for under 5'4" and 7+ for over 6'3")

I'm 5'4" Thought it was honest 5.9 for Veedauwoo, been climbing there since 1993, Great route but funny description.

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By JPVallone
Oct 9, 2009
I think Ape Index is an incredible advantage, more so than your height, Tall or short doesn't always matter, but a positive index will always be advantageous in my opinion

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By pfwein
Oct 9, 2009
slim wrote:
i think being tall is really over-rated. how many of the super cutting edge climbers are very tall? not that many. most are around 5'7" to 5'10". there are plenty of disadvantages to being tall, just as there are advantages. i think it mostly evens out, unless you are insanely at one end of the spectrum or the other (ie 3 feet tall or 8 feet tall).


Cutting edge climbers as defined by the guys winning the comps tend not to be tall, but I think that may be because comp routes are set not to have extremely height dependent moves. With different route setting, you could have a comp where all the guys who win are very tall.
How tall are the guys who win dyno comps?

Seems to me that being short is a "general" advantage but can be a "specific" disadvantage on certain routes. That is, being short will give you an overall more favorable strength-to-weight ratio (all other things being equal, such as body-frame size and percentage body fat). But if a route requires a "long" reach, that move can be anywhere from slightly to incredibly/impossibly harder for the short climber (imagine a climb having geometry such that there is a good hold that can be reached statically but cannot be dynod to b/c it is "blocked" by other rock--such a move could be essentially impossible for climbers who can't make the static reach).

One thing I'm curious about: how often do really short (say 5'2'' or below, but that's an arbitrary number) climbers who have climbed hard stuff get shut down on "easy" height-dependent routes? Would Lynn Hill get shut down on a V2 (or V5 or whatever) that has a really long move and no real opportunity to use intermediates? I would guess so, but I don't mean to underestimate short-person power!

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By YDPL8S
From Santa Monica, Ca.
Oct 9, 2009
Bouldering at right side of Sun Deck
All of the shorter guys I've climbed with had other strengths and skills that the longer lanky guys didn't.

Seemed to be better at pulling over lips because they could get their center of gravity over faster, didn't "barndoor" in laybacks as much. But the most frustrating of all (and this is especially true of shorter females), when I was trying to mantle on a small 1 inch sloping ledge, they would simply place their foot next to their ear and stand up, a move that would make me eject back into space before I could think about it.

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By Sergio P
From Idaho Springs, CO
Oct 9, 2009
World Champion NY Giants logo
Ask Lyn Hill. She is 5' and change. I've heard she is a preaty bad ass climber.

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By JPVallone
Oct 9, 2009
Who's Lynn Hill?

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By slim
Administrator
Oct 9, 2009
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.
pfwein,

are there any cutting edge outdoor climbers (sharma, paxti, dani andrada, caldwell, honnold, etc) that are tall? i can't really think of any. i think that the height range around 5'10" seems to optimize strength to weight and reach. that's my theory at least. but that's coming from a tall guy with the strings hanging out of his shirt sleeves.... :)

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By Chris Bastek
Oct 9, 2009
Ratings are all subjective and always up for debate and argument(that is unless we have bolting issues to discuss). I try to use ratings as a guideline as to whether or not a route is within my ability. I am 5'7"
and have been accused of sandbagging routes I've established(lots get rated 5.9+)that are not close to my peak ability. I've come to realize that I can no longer tell most 5.8-5.10c sport climbs apart from each other, thus explaining the 5.9+'s. That being said I think ability and climbing style have more bearing than height. Some holds might be easier for a tall person to reach, and some holds might feel bigger to smaller hands.

So, does anyone want to discuss bolting?

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By pfwein
Oct 9, 2009
slim wrote:
pfwein, are there any cutting edge outdoor climbers (sharma, paxti, dani andrada, caldwell, honnold, etc) that are tall? i can't really think of any. i think that the height range around 5'10" seems to optimize strength to weight and reach. that's my theory at least. but that's coming from a tall guy with the strings hanging out of his shirt sleeves.... :)


Would D. Potter count, at least in his prime (no offense to him if he's still in his prime, I just don't know)? I suspect his height may help in speed climbing (just like a longer stride may help in some types of running), but I don't know that.
Someone like Kor would be interesting to consider: cutting edge in his prime.
I saw that Honnold is about 6'--that's within your range, but on the tall side rather than the short side.



I think your theory that 5'10'' seems to optimize strength/weight ratio and reach is interesting to consider. That's of course also about the average male height. It could be that that is an effective height for human beings to be from an evolutionary biology viewpoint, it could also be that lots of top level climbers tend to be of about average height, which one may expect if height is not strongly correlated with climbing ability.

Apologies for too much rambling: I've climbed a lot with people of significantly different heights and so have given this some thought. I try to save the "I'm too short" excuse for rare occasions!

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By Paul Hunnicutt
From Boulder, CO
Oct 9, 2009
Half Dome
My friend who is over 6' tall couldn't fit thru the Harding Slot on Astroman. His partner, who in every other aspect was a weaker climber had to lead the thing. So it goes both ways.

However, I would imagine for the majority of situations it doesn't hurt to have more reach and more height. I would think there are more reaches then squenched-up (spelling?) sections of climbs. Lynn Hill is pretty amazing, but I bet there are a lot of really hard climbs out there made that much more difficult for her do to the huge reaches involved. You just have to be talking about the 5.14 range for her probably. I have a hard time believing a V2 could shut her down, but I get your point.

If you have ever watched kids climb...they have to do twice the amount of moves. So yes height does matter. A lot of times it just doesn't matter enough to warrant a grade change.

Consider that also the taller you are the more mass you are pulling up generally.

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By Brent Apgar
From Out of the Loop
Oct 9, 2009
Me and Spearhead
I guess that in the end it really doesn't matter since, unless you're still going through puberty or opt for some very radical surgery, you stuck w/ the body you've got and simply have to find techniques and styles to suit the problem at hand.

Interesting thought about taller people maybe having an advantage when it comes to dynos... but don't really believe that height is the variable that's the deciding factor. Dynoing comes down to grip strength and overall power production. The question is can you accelerate your body as fast as possible to get the distance and not rip yourself off the wall at the same time. A pretty good one to watch for this is seeing Alex Johnson and Alex Puccio climb, Johnson is about 6' tall while Puccio is 5'3", but Puccio can consistently stick huge moves that Johnson struggles w/. (Side note to the comment about comps being set not to necessarily have big moves: The Alex/Alex example comes primarily from comp problems. And all the comps I've been around usually have monstrous moves w/ crappy feet when it comes to the mens problems.)

I think that ultimately when it comes down to numbers and absolute difficulty of climbs, success or failure has more to do w/ a persons ability to flawlessly execute movement and having ridiculously strong hands.
My two cents worth is that all in all being taller is preferred to being shorter. You can train flexibility and strength but you're never going to stretch someones skeleton to get 3 more inches out of it.
Interesting question, thanks.
BA (For the record I'm 6'0" and have a +5 index)

As a side note for anyone still reading (Chris B) my curiosity w/ bolting is this. In the realm of routes developed purely as a sport climbs; it seems that there are routes out there that were bolted such that the stances were intended that the draws already be in place vs being able to reach the bolt to hang the draw from the stance.

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By Matthew Seymour
From 1996 Dodge Van, USA
Oct 9, 2009
Summit Shot <br />Courtesy of Jesse Zacher
Seams like everyone here has a POSITIVE ape index, well I'm 6'0" with a NEGATIVE 3 ape index. I climb at the same level as my main climbing partner of the same height and a +3 ape index. So how important is all this really? Probably not at all unless your chasing 5.14, seeing as how most of us are no where close to climbing at our genetic potential anyways. In the end I think technique is way more important than these factors. At best these things give us something to whine about when we fall.

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By Brandy Persson
From Vail, CO
Oct 9, 2009
Everybody's body is perfect. It's a simple matter of learning how to move within in.

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By Marc H
From Lafayette, CO
Oct 9, 2009
The Cathedral Spires in RMNP, left to right: Stiletto, Sharkstooth, Forbidden Tower, Petit Grepon, The Saber, The Foil, The Moon & The Jackknife.
Great topic!

I'm a relatively small climber at 5'4", 0 ape index. I can usually find my way through "reachy" moves; occasionally I get shut down for lack of reach. I find laybacking to be much easier than most of my taller climbing partners and hand-foot matches suit me perfectly while many struggle with them.

IME, one of the beauties of climbing is that a great diversity of people in all sorts of shapes and sizes can achieve great things in all of the disciplines climbing has to offer.

--Marc

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By Tready
From Laurel, MT
Oct 9, 2009
Perhaps the reason you see more of your cutting edge climbers in the 5'10" range is because, well, there are just more climbers around that height? I've never put much stock in height being a determining factor.

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By Kevin Stricker
From Evergreen, CO
Oct 10, 2009
I think that in some ways being tall is a disadvantage. It allows you to reach past hard moves without learning the proper technique. You can cheat your way past many moves and think you are a great climber. I had to force myself to start climbing short to really learn better body positioning. Focusing on footwork and flexibility mostly through slab climbing made me a much better climber.

I will admit that it is a real nice ace in the hat to utilize high feet and long arms now though. It's hard to deny that a good ape index is an advantage once you learn proper technique.

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By DaveB
Oct 10, 2009
Vitruvian Man (da Vinci)
Marc H wrote:
...one of the beauties of climbing is that a great diversity of people in all sorts of shapes and sizes can achieve great things in all of the disciplines climbing has to offer. --Marc

Good comment, and I agree.

We all have challenges - at 5'5" mine is usually displayed on slabs where more reach would be nice. However, I've found what isn't in the hands is usually in the feet. - Now, only to remember that when in the "moment" - and that's in the mind.

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By Monomaniac
Administrator
From Morrison, CO
Oct 10, 2009
Insurrection, 5.14c.  Photo Adam Sanders.
Great topic!

Generally, I think height is irrelevant. There are certainly a few routes out there that favor taller or shorter folks, but 98% of routes are climbable within a + or - letter grade by folks of all heights.

Its easy to forget that with shorter arms (usually) come shorter fingers (a clear advantage in crimping, though a disadvantage on wide pinches). I don't buy the "biceps" talk. If you're climbing with your biceps, you've got more important issues to address than your height.

...But all the whining about being "too tall" really makes me chuckle!

Mark, 5'7"

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By Aimee Bates
Oct 10, 2009
Gripped...
I have had more of a problem indoors than outdoors. Much easier to adapt outdoors. Indoors I would say that I have felt tremendously sandbagged on routes labeled 5.9+ where every move is a dynamic move/smearfest. Wah...
We all have different strenghts/weaknesses, making it impossible to rate a climb for everyone.

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By Shawn Mitchell
From Broomfield
Oct 10, 2009
Splitter Jams on the Israel/Palestine Security Wall.
Aimee Bates wrote:
We all have different strenghts/weaknesses, making it impossible to rate a climb for everyone.

Or to solve life's challenges!

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By Aimee Bates
Oct 10, 2009
Gripped...
Shawn Mitchell wrote:
Or to solve life's challenges!

Werd!!
Edit: Why can't we all just be alike!? ; )

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