Chimney Climbing Technique – Explained Thoroughly

You go as high as you think you can. Rock climbing is a zombie apocalypse life skill. More than that, it is the best possible sport for the mind, body, and soul. In order to transcend every mountain, you lay your eyes on, you must be prepared for whatever hurdles the mountain has to offer. Attaining skill and proficiency in every possible technique or move is essential for succeeding at whatever may come forth.

What is Chimney Climbing?

Chimney refers to a sort of crack, breakage, or fissure in the structure of the rock that has enough width for your body to fit inside and utilize it for ascending. The fundamental principle to ascend chimneys is by using the counterforce as protection from falling. 

Most climbers consider chimneys to be the easier portions of tough climbs. A well-qualified climber must master this aspect of climbing as this is a common foreseen feature of many famous routes. 

The size, length, and width of chimney structures distinguish them into subtypes. Each subtype will require specific techniques along with common sense and innovation. The direction you face while spanning the wall will depend on the chimney width and where the holds are available and accessible, you will either face a chimney wall or face into a corner or towards the outer side.

Chimney climbing requires a thorough analysis of the fissures and cracks and a mental map of the location of holds so that the climb is well planned and smooth on the rocks.

Types of Chimney Climbing

Squeeze Chimneys are the chimney structures with lesser width so that they are not able to fully admit the climber’s body. The climber must lodge his body into the gap and squirm his route to the top while utilizing handholds on the outside edge of the inner corner of the structure.

Arm locks, arm bars, and T-configuration footholds are some techniques to span squeeze chimneys.

In a fissure wider than the squeeze chimney you finally have more space to put more techniques to use. Your hands and knees can push one wall of the chimney as your back and feet push the other wall and you can spank your way up. Another technique can be applied where you lodge your upper body as you raise your feet and knees so that you wedge them later and raise your upper body further.

In a chimney of moderate width, the technique of facing the wall with the back to another wall will again work. The counterforce may also be supplied by pressing hands on the opposite walls or by the two feet on opposing walls or the two feet against one wall with the buttocks on the opposite wall.

A wide chimney will require counterforce between the left hand and foot of one side and the right hand and foot on the other side. The rule of three contacts is followed to span up the structure.

Reaching too far inside a chimney could get you lodged in a portion without any escape and the transition to the top of the ascend may also get difficult. More hand and footholds are usually present towards the outer portions of the chimneys rather than the insides.

Chimney Climbing Techniques

Use of Counter-force

Chimney climbing is mostly about finding the right spots to exert opposing pressure on the rocky walls while using your hands, knees, feet, and back. Climbers ascend to the top by patiently pulling and pushing on the sidewalls and taking short accurate steps instead of swift big moves.

Both walls of the chimney or a dihedral are used to exert pressure and lodge the climber’s body in a way that will help him ascend while conserving energy at the same time.

The ‘three-point suspension’ rule states that a climber’s ‘two feet and one hand’, or ‘one hand and two feet’ should rest at the rock surface during the climb. 

Your hands should hold your weight in the balance as you move your feet up and shift the weight towards either hand while going upward.

Always keep three of your limbs in contact with the walls while applying pressure and shift the fourth limb upward.

Squeeze movement

A squeeze chimney’s width is so narrow that a climber’s body barely fits inside the fissure and the upward motion may only measure up to a few inches at a time. The fundamental movement while ascending a squeeze fissure is to use a heel-toe technique which is also practiced in cracks that are off the width of chimneys. The heel of one foot is pressed against one chimney wall while the toe of the opposite foot faces downward as its front end pushes the opposite wall and this combination of pressures creates a slight upward movement. 

Use your dominant hand to guard the tighter portions of the chimney so that you don’t slip into them. Your hands should be busied finding edges and crimps and for smearing on the wall face. The heel-toe cam should be used in sections with lesser width so that it appears like you are standing. A T-shape heel-toe cam can also be used where the feet are perpendicular to each other and the heel of one footrests in the arch of another.

Back and Foot movement

Chimneys that are wider than squeeze chimneys can be climbed using this technique wherein the climber pushes his back against one wall of the chimney and his feet against another. The pressure exerted by the climber’s feet on the wall while shifting them up will be used to slide his back upward on the opposite wall. When one foot has ascended after a push, the other foot takes its turn and is placed on top. The climber’s hands also play a part in pushing the body upwards as the locked knees maintain the force under his feet.

Froggy Style

This movement is also used in fissures that are wider for squeeze but not wide enough to use the stemming technique. The climber’s back presses against one side as his knees press against another and the soles of his feet put pressure on the wall on their backside. 

chimney climbing

The climber leans his upper body forward and pushes downward and outward with his hands and feet so that his lower back and hip follow the ascend. 

The hands should be placed low on the wall to provide leverage as the climber’s upper body exerts pressure and lifts the lower half upward.


In the stemming technique of climbing, you exert force with your hands or feet on the opposing wall surfaces and utilize the counterforce to stay in balance. Place your right foot against one wall and push while your left foot pushes into the opposing wall. This will let you stand erect while creating a bridge between the gap in the chimney. This method can get you past blank sections of rock in the least tiresome way possible. Your hands will be used for finger-locking cracks or palming the surfaces for going up the wall while riding on frictional forces.

The thrust for stemming climbing comes from the large muscles of your lower limbs. Using your hands for a similar move is known as palming. Your fingers or the palm of your hand can be used to force yourself into a corner. Stemming can also provide rest on climbs without proper holds to rest.

One thing to remember is the right way to exert force while climbing a chimney. The climber must exert the force perpendicular to the surface area of the wall, which means, the pressure should be exerted through the wall, not downwards. 

Workouts for Chimney Climbing

We have listed a set of exercises to build strength in your lower body, upper body, and core and to make you a pro at spanning chimneys of all widths and heights.

Toeing in: These exercises will increase your toe and calves’ strength so that you can hold your weight on the smallest portions of the rock face. This will enhance your balancing abilities and stabilize your performance on tough chimney routes.

Catcher’s calf raises: A baseball catcher’s position is assumed with knees pointing in an outward direction, the heels are then raised up and down in a smooth manner.

The Squat lift and the Dead lift: This exercise is very important for rock climbers. The bar is grasped in hands and supported upon a straight back while the head and chest face forward and the hips are turned outward. The weight is lifted in a squatting motion.

The deadlift uses your glutes, calves, and strengthens your core. The weight is lifted in a squatting motion by holding the bar close to the chest.

The squat lift and the deadlift can also be practiced without weights and they enhance strength by increasing repetition or duration of the workout.

Continuous calf jumps: Jump up and down on your toes while only slightly bending your knees.

High stepping: This set of exercises improves balance, strength, and flexibility and is extremely helpful for climbers.

Bulgarian lunges: Place a bench behind your body and extend one leg backwards while placing the toe portion of that foot on the even face of the bench. 

Take a double in your hands and do a forward lunge in order to bring your front knee at an angle of 90°.

This challenge is leveled up by increasing the distance in the midst of the front foot and the bench.

Weighted box steps: Find a box as high as your shin and step upon it with your left leg, eventually followed by your right leg while taking care to place your whole foot on the box. Now that you are standing on both feet, step down from the box in the same sequence of steps and then continue by repeating the first step with your right leg.

Hanging knee lifts: To increase your flexibility and strengthen your core, take a bar in both your hands and hang from it. After this, raise both your knees towards your chest, up to as much height as possible. 

Multi-directional lunges: Take an upright stance with a tight core and step ahead in a lunge, after this, come back to the start. Use the same leg to step out in a lunge at an angle of 45° and then again return to the starting position. Extend this leg towards one side at 90° followed by again coming back to the start. Practice similarly with the other leg.

Core-to-toe side lunges: Stand erect and lunge ahead using your right leg while holding the left leg completely straight. Bend as deep as possible and on coming back to the start position, don’t place your right leg on the ground. Lift it upward on the right side, as high and straight as you can.

Planking: This exercise builds resistance to strengthen your core by holding your body up on your forearms or hands and keeping yourself straight throughout.

A one-minute standard plank is good exercise for core build up.

Dead hangs and Pull-ups: Start with aided pull-ups while keeping your feet elevated upon some support. This will increase your finger strength while building up your shoulders, and forearms which you need to exert pressure on the walls on your way up a mountain. 

Yoga: Yoga is one superb method to comfort the muscles that are tensed all day while climbing slopes. Downward dog, eagle, bridge pose, and warrior pose are efficient in increasing flexibility while providing comfort.

Tips to Transcend a Chimney

Many devices can be used for protection up a chimney, slinging block, nuts, cams, face holds. Though it is not easy to fall off a chimney because you can always swiftly brace yourself against a wall to prevent a downward go. 

It is possible to ascend a chimney solely by exerting pressure with your limbs in the opposite direction without using the more prominent edges and supports but it is advisable to use the footholds and the handholds wherever they are available because you need to conserve energy for the rest of the climb.

It is important to plan your journey up at the bottom of the route. Decide which wall of the chimney you are going to face and analyze the prospects which seem easier.

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