Mountain Project Logo

Lieback Technique


Original Post
Bob Johnson · · Philadelphia, PA · Joined May 2014 · Points: 98

As a Gunkie, there aren't a lot of opportunities for developing vertical crack skills. Liebacks might be the crack move I feel the least comfortable with. This might just be a mental thing - there's not really any way to save yourself if a foot slips, so lieback moves feel very committing to me. Anyway, I took a fall this weekend in Moab when I blew it during a lieback.

I know liebacking is described as "the technique of no technique" but there's gotta be a little more to it. From physics, I understand that you want your feet to be somewhat high so that they are applying a force that is close to perpendicular to the rock surface. So I was trying to do that. But I think my foot slipped when I was reaching up to a higher hold. I suspect that I started pulling downward on the hold instead of out, which took some weight off my feet and caused me to slip.

Any lieback tips? Do you just keep getting feet high? What happens when you need to reach a higher hold (like when the crack isn't continuous)?

Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 2,745

Sometimes you can dig the toe of your lower foot into the crack for a bit more support. AS I recall there's a good look at this in the BD video of Dean Potter in (I think) Zion. The video where he lobs something like 40-50 ft onto a C3 cam.

Edit - Found the video, but he's doing something totally different that what I remembered. Quite interesting actually.

youtube.com/watch?v=VmJUx_A…

Adam Gellman · · Jersey City/Burlington · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 140

Several good routes to practice this at the gunks at varying grades. Of course layback, at the nears, has some easy liebacking. Inverted layback has some interesting moves if not a traditional lieback. I have also found that retribution by the uberfall can be laybacked at the crux, though some people choose to stem. I'm sure there are many more at the gunks at every grade should you choose to look for them.
For technique all i can think of is keeping your feet high.

Roy Suggett · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 6,480

Rock & Ice 98 Utah special edition has a really good tutorial by Ralph Ferrara.

john strand · · southern colo · Joined May 2008 · Points: 1,640

Pure lie backing is mostly bull. there's pretty much always a hold of somekind and a partial toe jam helps a ton.

Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 290

Yeah, keeping your feet high is the main deal, but contrary to popular opinion, when laybacking gets hard and / or steep then lots of subtle technique comes into play relative to how high, which way on the hands, placement of feet, use of subtle features, etc, etc.

mbk · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 0

I agree w.r.t. the commitment aspect.

My first fall on gear was on Airy Area, ironically because I tried to climb the face rather than commit to the lieback. In my defense, it almost went!

My second fall on gear was a few minutes later and a few feet higher on Airy Area, ironically because I tried to climb the face rather than commit to the lieback. In my defense, it almost went!

So, I can heartily recommend Airy Area (P1) as a good Gunks climb to learn to commit to the lieback.

Bob Johnson · · Philadelphia, PA · Joined May 2014 · Points: 98

Oh yeah...I remember feeling quite uncomfortable on Airy Aria. I always told myself I'd go back, lead it and then toprope it 5 times in a row afterward. Lieback therapy!

Acmesalute76 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 55

Golden dream has almost no lie backing unless you want to make it really hard on yourself. Honestly I think almost any route with a vertical crack will have lie backing because it's often hard to get good jams on the cracks here. Rhododendron has some spots. There's a really short Boulder problem in peterskill in quarantine area that is a vertical crack. Slot machine (next to golden dream) is an offwidth that is better to lie back.

I agree that it feels scary and committing and even on toprope I used to have a hard time with it. The scariest lie backs I've been on are in Yosemite where the rock is like glass and you have to do it for like 40 feet. In the Gunks it's usually just a couple moves and there are footholds or at least some texture, followed by a horizontal to rest on.

Jcastleberry · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 60

The technique of no technique

khalifornia · · Colorado · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 0
Jcastleberry wrote:The technique of no technique
Yep, he acknowledges that.

Growing up in the Gunks I didn't get great layback practice either, but once I learned, I went to Moab and tried to layback everything...whoops. I found it to be valuable to take off the blinders and jam where applicable,, with a layback once in a while when appropriate. As mentioned above, there are subtleties and techniques for climbing laybacks. Should you cross hands? Shuffle hands?

Run some laps on Mr Clean up at the Bark eater cliffs in the dacks.
Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 290

Again, the technique of no technique until you need technique and then there is subtle technique in spades.

aikibujin · · Castle Rock, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 294
Bob Johnson wrote:From physics, I understand that you want your feet to be somewhat high so that they are applying a force that is close to perpendicular to the rock surface.
This is true when you have absolutely no option for your feet other than smearing on the wall and relying purely on friction. The closer you get your feet to your hands, the more normal force you can apply to your smears and increase the frictional force. But laybacking in this form is very strenuous, require quite a bit of core strength, and pretty much impossible to look at your gear placement. I would avoid laybacks like this as much as I can.

Luckily on the easier routes you generally have a lot of options for your feet. Even if you can't find anything other than the crack for your hands, you often can use much smaller stuff for your feet. Look for little edges, notches, depressions, irregularities in the crack, basically anything that will give you a bit more purchase than replying purely on friction. This will allow you to keep your feet a little (or a lot) lower, put less weight on your arms, and reach higher without your feet blowing. Don’t just focus on the area immediately around the crack, look further out for any opportunities for stemming/backstepping, or turn the layback into a sidepull if you can find face holds for your other hand. If you’re in a corner, you’ll be surprised on how little you’ll need (sometimes no more than a shallow depression) in order to stem your feet out and get most of the weight off your arms.

I think this is the route you had trouble with. Based on the photo, I’d say you probably missed a few opportunities for your feet if you were trying to get your feet as high as you can in a smeary layback.

Bob Johnson · · Philadelphia, PA · Joined May 2014 · Points: 98

Thanks aikibujin. Yeah, it looks like that picture is Top 40. My issue was actually at the beginning. The wall is sandy at the bottom and that probably also contributed to the issue. But I would love to go back and try that route and also 30 Seconds Over Potash with an eye out for stemming opportunities.

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 483
Healyje wrote:Again, the technique of no technique until you need technique and then there is subtle technique in spades.
Best post in the thread.

When it does seem glassy and I have to get my feet very high I get as much of my inside shoe in the crack as possible. Even if it's just a pinky toe rand smear that can take some pressure off your hands.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply

Log In to Reply