Building an Encyclopedia of Tactics

Recently on a trip to the New, I was listening to the Kerry Scott interview. Hearing Kerry and Chris talk, my mental concept of Tactics changed. I was only including heel/toe hooks, drop knees, etc (all the easy ones) in my concept of what a tactic was. And I was super excited with the idea that I was using tactics I did;t realize and there was so much more I couldn’t think of that was out there for me to find. After my trip, getting back to training for spring rope season on the spray wall, I wanted to expand my knowledge of tactics and try to train by seeing if I could be using more tactics than there are holds in a climb, and identifying when I have the option to use one or another. How efficient can I be? How creative can I be?

I decided I wanted to build an encyclopedia/dictionary of tactics, but I ran into a roadblock- how can you find what you don’t know exists? Kerry talked about how crews around the world have unique tactics with colloquial names and how you can learn a lot by climbing with new, and especially strong, people.

My question for you is, what’s a tactic you learned from someone that you had never thought of? I’d like to add it to a working document which I hope to turn into an online repository, like urban dictionary for tactics.

One last thing- I’ve done some research to see if something like this exists and I didn’t find anything, but if I’m missing some holy grail somewhere please let me know.

This may not be what you are looking for. Or it’s too rudimentary. But one of my favorite on the wall tactic is shaking out the hand you are going to clip off of before you actually go to make that clip.

As a self-proclaimed scaredy cat, I always found clipping while pumped to be really daunting, but realizing that I was fit enough to basically burn one arm so I could clip from the other was a revelation.

Another great thing that I picked up from listening to Jonathan Seigrist was making sure to alternate grip positions while going up the route (i.e. if the crux of your project requires full crimping then try and open hand your way up to the crux and vice versa).

Also non-climbing on the wall tactics (stick clipping, ticks, etc.) are huge game changer.


I don’t think anything is too rudimentary. Those are great additions. I’ll add them later. For now, here is my first pass scouring the internet for terms and definitions. I may just stick to climbing specific though, or make a denotation of non climbing specific tactics that are useful.

NOTE: This is a WIP so there are some terms without definitions and sources, as well as lots of missing info overall.

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Are we talking tactics or techniques? I’d consider heel hooks and such a technique more than a tactic. I think Kerry and I referred to techniques in this way. Certainly a similar idea applies to tactics, but I’m not sure I’d consider the two the same thing.

I guess I’m mixing up the definition of each. Would you consider, for example, compressing to be the tactic and heel hooking to be the technique in an example like that?

I felt like it was an interesting idea to encompass any specific climbing position, maneuver, etc as a tactic and see how many I could really come up with if I looked.

Contrasted with something like Chess- there are very formal definitions for tactics vs strategy- tactics being a sequence of moves that will limit your opponents progression in a predictable way. There are 8-12 depending on who you ask, and its considered an entry level concept to learn all the tactics.

I guess my real question is what would you consider a tactic vs a technique?

Just to add, I’ve been climbing for about 6-7 years on and off, I climb v6-v7 outside and 11d 12a on sport. I’ve only coached 5-7 year olds as well, so my knowledge may not be too deep in experience but it isn’t too shallow either.

I would consider a tactic to be any off-the-wall decision that dictates how you are approaching or preparing for a climb vs a technique that would be something you are doing while actually on the climb.

Heel hooks, drop knees, kneebars = technique
Decisions about whether or not to do things such as overlapping links, brushing, power spots = tactics

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What @Adamtilos said.

Tactics are a decision about how you will approach a climb.
Techniques are the various maneuvers you use during the execution that directly relate to how you are climbing.

Those definitions are very rough.

You can employ a tactic that you will purposely try new techniques, but in my eyes they are different.

So if I changed this to an encyclopedia of techniques not much would need to change (other than more entries), but it’s very far from an encyclopedia of tactics.


If I’m slipping off of a foot, or I know that it’s really important to keep tension on it, I’ll brush it thoroughly before my next attempt, even if it doesn’t need to be brushed. It forces me to think about the foothold for a few seconds before I even chalk up. I tend to pull on and weight brushed feet much more effectively. Maybe it’s for the reasons that I listed, but maybe it’s something else :man_shrugging: