Crack climbing has resurfaced as a popular style of climbing in the last few years. You may have heard of The Wide Boyz, Pete Whittaker, and Tom Randall or watched some of their content surrounding this lesser-used style.

Many indoor rock climbing gyms have crack volumes or a wall section where you can practice jamming. Some of the most famous climbs in the world feature cracks. Even the most challenging route in the world, Silence (5.15d), sent by Adam Ondra, has a crack at the crux. To learn more about crack climbing, you must know how to use the negative space of the walls efficiently. 

man outdoor climbing

How to Start Crack Climbing

It would help if you first learned the different techniques to begin your crack climbing journey. There is a lot to learn, and unlike face climbing, it could be more intuitive, but you may find that crack climbing is your jam!

What you need to crack climb

All you need to crack climb is a pair of climbing shoes and, if you want, some tape or crack gloves. Use neutral climbing shoes to help you jam your foot in the cracks more easily.

Remember that you will also need traditional climbing gear to lead cracks. This article is only to help you learn to crack climb and is not a resource for starting to place gear.


When jamming, climbers position their hands, feet, fingers, and sometimes entire body inside crack features. Once inside, the climber engages their limb to create a constriction within the crack.

This style of climbing may sound uncomfortable, but many crack enthusiasts argue that the best jam is better than the most enormous jug.


Stacking is used when the crack is more expansive than a single hand or foot. You must use multiple limbs since you can’t create a constriction with just one. 

A hand stack involves pressing the hands against each other in a crack to fill the space. That applies opposing forces to propel the climber upward.


Stemming is used when a crack is larger than the climber’s body and includes pushing all four limbs outward to hold them. Progress is slow and delicate, as the weight must be transferred to each limb.

Using your back and hands as opposing forces, you can stem with feet on opposite sides of the crack or the same. When you see a chimney route description, expect to need to stem.


Off-width climbing feels more like fighting against the rock to make your way up. Progress is typically slow-going.

This technique is used when you can fit your body into a crack, but it’s too narrow to stem. Use your knees, palms, elbows, feet–anything–to inch up the crack.

Tape/Crack Gloves

Crack gloves are a great way to save the skin on your hands when jamming. They’re easy to slip on and come in a variety of sizes. Crack gloves loop through your fingers so you can still grab onto holds.

The back of the gloves has a barrier of thin rubber or similar material to relieve your hand when you jam. They last longer than tape gloves and give you some added comfort.

If you want to save money on something other than crack gloves, make your own out of tape! A tape glove works the same way: to relieve your hand when jamming.

How to Make Tape Gloves

Step 1. Tear 7-8 strips of tape 6 inches long.

Step 2. Wrap a few strips around your thumb and back toward the back of your hand.

Step 3. Stick pieces of tape from your knuckle to your outside wrist. You’ll want to cover the entirety of the back of your hand.

Step 4. Wrap a long piece of tape along your knuckles. Wrap around the knuckles and across the back of your hand diagonally.

Step 5. Wrap it around your wrist loosely so you don’t cut off any circulation.

Step 6. Then, wrap it in a counter-diagonal position opposite the previous diagonal.

Step 7. Wrap a small amount around the front of the hand and rip it off. Tuck that slight excess underneath the tape on the palm of your hand.

Step 8. Pat it down so it all lays nice and flat.

Tom Randall has an excellent video demonstrating this tape glove method: Wild Country Climbing Tips: Tape Gloves From the Wide Boyz (youtube.com)

Crack climbing with tape gloves requires a lot of tape, so reuse them when you can to limit your waste. You can easily reuse your tape gloves by cutting off the wrist and rewrapping them when you climb again!