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I have recently taken up bouldering/rock climbing to learn some rock climbing techniques and learn rope skills. In my research, I have come across two types of climbing: static and dynamic. Although dynamic climbing seems to very fun, how often is it actually used by mountaineers (I realize that it is actually quite common for rock climbing)?

It seems like jumping from one hold to reach the next hold would have many disadvantages, especially when wearing a pack, in cold conditions, and when there is ice or snow.

I realize that dynamic movement can be very broad but I am specifically referring to jumping from hold to hold or swinging, etc. Is this a skill a mountaineer should use? Or is static climbing more the way to go when in the mountains?

  • You have been watching too many B grade Hollywood movies. Alpine Climbing with packs on rarely involves dynamic moves, and even less rarely, planned dynamic moves. – user5330 Nov 12 '16 at 20:28
  • @mattnz I haven't been watching any "B grade hollywood movies". I was just curious because it doesn't seem safe but it something that is done in rock climbing - so I was seeing if it carried over. – Danib90 Nov 14 '16 at 13:27
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The problem will be that both the terms/activities "dynamic climbing" and "mountaineering" are quite broad. Strictly speaking the answer is yes: You sometimes use dynamic climbing in mountaineering, as there are routes that you cannot do entirely statically. However this is not very helpful and even misleading, so I will try to give a broader view in the following.

TLDR:
You don't often climb dynamically, as not falling is the priority when mountaineering and the risk of falling is inherently bigger when climbing dynamically. However you will sooner or later come across something, that is only or more easily done dynamically, so it does not hurt knowing how to climb dynamically.

I personally define static climbing as a movement during which you could stop and hold that position at any time. This is nothing official and rather strict.

On ice I never heard of dynamic movements being used in mountaineering except for special cases and people pushing the limits. In ice climbing the paradigm is "do not fall" and climbing dynamically goes against that. On snow you generally don't climb but walk, so I wouldn't know how dynamic movement applies there.

On rock you quite frequently use dynamic climbing when considering this strict definition, as it can be much more efficient. E.g. reaching a hold in a kind of swing while all three other extremities are still on steps/holds is perfectly save, but needs less body tension and pulling with your arm. Still you will only do this when you are certain the next hold is good and/or you are in easy terrain without big consequences of a fall. The big difference between rock climbing and climbing rock while mountaineering is usually the protection: In rock climbing you protect in a way that you can fall without (serious) injuries, in mountaineering you can or want, due to time constraints, often only protect in a way that prevents a the entire team to fall as far as the mountain goes down (ugly description, in German we call it a "Totalabsturz"). So as in ice climbing, falling is not really an option in mountaineering. This means you take less risks while climbing and therefore tend to climb much more statically.

As for the moves you stated explicitly: Jumping to a hold (dyno) and swinging is not something you do in mountaineering on a regular basis, as both inherently carry the risk of missing the next hold/foot and thus falling. Nevertheless you might come across a situation where you need it, e.g. when having to jump over a gap or only having good holds but the rock below is blank. But as I said, that's not something you encounter regularly.

  • Interesting definition of static/dynamic... quite frankly I hadn't thought there could be several definitions. So forgive if I'm curious: If I have one very solid foot and one very solid hand, is it dynamic if I move the other foot and the other hand at the same time? Or maybe you're simplifying by avoiding corner-cases like the one I'm picturing? Anyway, +1 on your above answer. – Roflo Nov 11 '16 at 22:10
  • @Roflo Well that statement was probably not exactly true, I can't think of several definitions. But I am sure there are people who don't agree with mine. And yes, according to my definition your move is dynamic. My view of definitions may be skewed by being a physics student, but in my opinion something is not a definition unless it is definitive/exact - otherwise it is a description. And I don't think it's simplifying, it's just drawing a line on something that is continuous, as there are various levels of dynamics in any climbing move. – imsodin Nov 11 '16 at 22:28
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    I know a slightly more loose definition of static climbing: Basically, every move that you could reverse (without defying the laws of physics) at all points of the move counts as static. (Or that a really strong climber could do ;-) ) E.g.: Hanging on two good holds in addition to having a foot on a foothold? Check. Standing on a one-foot no-hands-rest? Check. One-handed pull-up with the feet in the air? Might be. Jumping: Nope. As you said, these definitions all draw a line on something continuous, so I don't claim to be "more right" ;-) – anderas Nov 11 '16 at 22:56
  • @anderas That makes sense also and on second thought, I completely agree on not including a restriction on how many holds/steps you use. – imsodin Nov 11 '16 at 23:42
  • @anderas yeah and since ice climbing is in the mix a figure 4 is quite close to the one handed pull up scenario you mentioned and probably harder to reverse. – Erik Nov 12 '16 at 4:42
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Dynamic climbing is never recommended when mountaineering. The most dynamic you'll get is jumping over a gap. The first rule of trad climbing and ice climbing or any other form of high exposure climbing without fixed pro is don't fall.

High altitude rock is not like what you may be used to climbing at a sport crag. You aren't guaranteed to be pulling on "clean rock" once you start climbing away from the graded routes. I've watched people pull boulders the size of refrigerators off of cliff faces just while scrambling up an easy face and pulling on a juggy hold. I always demonstrate to people how unreliable old rotten rock can be by pulling what appears to be good holds clean off a rock face when I recognize one. Climbing dynamically in an environment like that is a disaster waiting to happen.

The big difference between sport climbing an alpinism/mountaineering is sport climbing is all about the style of climbing. It's about the moves, the beta, the grade, and the strain on your body. Alpinism is about conquering the mountain, the freedom of the hills. When you're planning your route to the top, you're typically planning to take the path of least resistance, and doing everything as safely as possible. You're much more likely to get yourself killed climbing dynamically on an exposed alpine route.

That being said, there is a relatively new discipline of alpinism known as extreme alpinism where people take things to the next level and try to speed climb the worlds hardest mountains. Climbs that originally took weeks to summit, and have claimed hundreds of lives (many still claim lives annually) are now being done in on a couple hours by guys like Ueli Steck. But even though he's going for speed records, you'll notice when you watch him climb that he's not climbing dynamically as a sport climber would, he may throw out a dynamic move once and a while, but he's also arguably one of the best alpinists to ever live. The average guy wouldn't even think about it.

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    Trad climbing is not always, or even generally "do not fall". Rather "always know if your pro is bomber or not". A trad route (ie crack) can be better protected than a sport route. – Guran Nov 14 '16 at 12:04
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    -1, for the reasons given by Guran – Ben Crowell Nov 14 '16 at 16:50
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    @Guran, ` A trad route (ie crack) can be better protected than a sport route.` Most trad gear is rated to 14kN or less, bolt hangers are rated to at least 25-30kN. You could put more gear in more frequently if you want to be like these guys: youtube.com/watch?v=SauXG_pDnGk but that doesn't mean your better protected. Not everyone climbing trad is following a nice clean crack. Go up some rotten dolomite with no clean lines then try to tell me you feel comfortable taking a whipper on your gear. You can still get hurt falling even if your gear does catch you. – ShemSeger Nov 14 '16 at 21:39
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    @ShemSeger Well, it depends. True, a bolt hanger is higher rated than a cam, but the bolt behind it might be rusted through... And not all sport routes are well bolted. I've seen plenty of bolted routes with ledge fall potential. So as usual in climbing: it depends. A well placed 10kN piece at chest height is far better than a bolt of unknown age two meters below your feet. But in the end, hardware doesn't keep you safe. Knowing when you can go for it and when falling is not an option does. (End of rant, your answer is great apart from my nitpicking) – Guran Nov 15 '16 at 8:47
  • @ShemSeger Sorry for the ignorance but does pro = rope? – Danib90 Nov 15 '16 at 16:33
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So this isn't the type of dynamic climbing you'd see in a bouldering problem, but one "dynamic" climbing technique that I could see being used on a mountaineering route is a pendulum. This is pretty much what it sounds like one person swings back and forth on the end of the rope so they can get to a climbable line. Here is a video of one being done on El Capitan:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dE0h1EmGDAI

Out of all the "dynamic" moves or techniques this is the one I'd most expect to see on a major expedition style climb.


I'm not sure why my YouTube link isn't one boxing. If someone knows how to make it do that I'd appreciate the edit.

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