You heard it right. Start smearing.
Let me introduce you to some climbing lingo I’m learning. Smearing is a climbing technique used when you don’t have a foothold handy and you need to balance or gain momentum to make your next move. Basically you press or “smear” your foot over/against the wall as you move your arms and other foot to get to your next handhold.
Not sure what I mean? Go stand beside the nearest wall in your house. Rest your foot against the wall about 5 inches off the ground. Slide your foot along the wall from left to right; really press your foot against it. Now imagine you’re about to lift your other foot off the ground too. You did it. You just smeared!
I learned the value of smearing on my climb at a new gym this week. My climbing mates took me to Boulders Climbing Gym where I was truly tested. You know it’s going to be hard when getting the first foot off the floor is a challenge.
I started on the ground watching my climbing buddy go up a challenging route. From where I stood looking up, the path was clear. “Just reach up and grab that hold!”
Payback is a female dog. That’s right. Because when my turn came I couldn’t even figure out how, with my short stature, I was going to reach the first handhold. After my friends patiently waited, cheered me, and helped me strategize, I realized I would have to move awkwardly. Right foot on a hold, body against the wall, left foot smearing and then stretching almost a meter off the ground onto an angled wall – and finally jumping with my left arm extended. (I’m pretty sure I didn’t look graceful. But at least I got started!)
The rest of the climb was equally challenging. Sadly, I didn’t finish. I just didn’t have the energy or strength by the time I got to the wall overhang. And so, I learned the immeasurable value of a belaying partner you can trust and a solid figure eight knot. I’m pretty sure I slipped, lost my grip, and fell back at least three times as I tried to leap upwards.
Thank goodness for a strong figure eight knot – the key to keeping your climbing line safe. In case you weren’t a scout, aren't a hobby fisherman, or a magician trained in the art of knot tricks, check out the video of Timal (my climbing guru) teach how to tie a figure eight knot.
He calls it “I hate snowmen.”