Twist Lock and Backstep on Steep Terrain
The twist lock and backstep are the bread-and-butter moves of a steep-wall connoisseur. As a climbing wall tilts back past vertical, it becomes increasingly difficult to place a high percentage of weight on your legs. Consequently, a greater portion of body weight must be supported by the arms—which, of course, possess less absolute strength than the legs. Use of the twist lock and backstep together helps draw your body in toward the surface of the overhanging wall. This changes the force vector on the handholds, making them feel more positive and secure. More important, this drawing-in of the body places more weight onto the footholds. However, proper execution of these moves requires practice and a significant amount of strength through the core muscles of the torso.
The twist lock is typically used to ease the upgrading of a hand on an overhanging section of wall. For example, consider the situation in which your right hand is on a good hold and you’d like to reach up high with the left hand. While you could attempt this move straight-on—chest facing toward the wall in a neutral position—it’s far less strenuous to turn your left hip to the wall before making the reach upward (see photo). Proper positioning of the feet is critical for making this move work. Since the left hip is turning to the wall, you’ll need to use the outside edge of your left foot on a hold somewhere below or in back of your body (hence the term “backstep”). Usually you’ll find a complementary right foothold to help maintain the twist-lock body position. The feet then press in unison while the right arm pulls down and in toward your torso, creating the twist lock. Finding just the right body position is the key to providing a secure twist lock; when you do you’ll notice that a surprising lack of effort is needed to reach up and acquire the next left handhold. This amazingly efficient locomotion over steep terrain is the magic of the twist-lock technique.
Granted, superlative use of the twist lock and backstep is something that will take many hours of practice. In fact, during your initial attempts at using these moves you might swear that they require more energy than basic straight-on moves. Trust that with practice, you will develop the necessary motor skills to make these moves feel quite easy. Initially limit your practice of the twist lock and backstep to boulder problems that overhangs about 20 degrees past vertical. As you acquire skill, expand use onto even steeper boulder problems as well as onto overhanging toprope climbs.
Copyright 2007 Eric J. Hörst. All rights reserved.