What Have You Learned From Different Rock Types?

This past year, I have considered myself incredibly lucky to climb on so many different rock types, angles, and styles.

It has reminded me of how climbers used to (and many still do) travel with the seasons and experience Hueco syenite, ball-bearing Joshua Tree Granite, Southern Sandstone, Western limestone and many, many others.

I count myself lucky that I learned to climb on the sandbagged, slippery granite of California. I can’t imagine how rubbish my foot work would be if I didn’t spend season after season climbing delicious and horrible granite slabs all over the state.

From granite I learned how stand on minuscule edges, trust nothing smears, and generally engage with friction. Granite climbing can be some of the most featureless rock while containing some of the most novel movements out there (i.e Honnold’s ninja kick, Ondra’s V15 crux on Silence).

This is not to be misconstrued; I love climbing on the sandstone, quartzite, and limestone here in Utah, but I don’t know if I would be able to have built the same level of precision and attention to detail in my climbing without my initial and continual internship on Granite.

I’m curious, what have you learned from different rock types and how have you applied that to your growth as a climber season after season?

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I have not climbed much outdoors, but sharp swedish granite showed me that no matter whether you try hard / commit or not you will loose a lot of skin. So the price for half assing or full assing is the same _)))


Utah granite and Pennsylvania diabase have taught me:

  • how to trust really tiny/terrible feet
  • smearing!
  • how to use holds that are barely there (bad slopers, credit card crimps)
  • climbing “featureless” boulders
  • compression climbing

New River and Joe’s Valley Sandstone:

  • the friction on rock is often better than you expect and you can in fact trust whatever hand or foothold you’re thinking you can trust

I’ve been pondering this question since you posted it @tristansipe . Great question, and I’m not sure how to answer it since I’ve gotten so many small pieces from each area. For instance:

Understanding how to stand on glassy smears started in the Red on sandstone with tons of friction, then Vedauwoo, which has small pieces of polished granite, then Yosemite, which has much longer stretches of mirror polished granite. But then I learned how to smear on overhanging slippery rock in Wild Iris, Rifle, NRG, Hueco, and finally Lander’s granite boulders.

I initially learned compression climbing by climbing cracks. The absence of holds when offwidth climbing taught me how to use compression - using a similar progression of high friction sandstone to very slippery granite, both offwidth climbing and compression climbing.

RRG definitely taught me how to use my skin to hang on the grips rather than using strength.
Granite boulders taught me to use strength rather than hanging on my skin.

RRG taught me to manage pump and rest on relatively small holds.
Wild Iris taught me to stop resting and keep moving.

Vedauwoo taught me not to romanticize what was “legendary” because it might just be easier than you’ve heard.

Joshua Tree taught me to ignore the idea of sandbagging - all of the rumors just weren’t true if you knew how to crack climb.

I’m sure there are more!