Offwidth Technique: Leavittation

 

Randy Leavitt performing his namesake technique on Paisano Overhang (5.12c) in 1985. Photo: Karin Leavitt

Leavittation

In 1977, John Long of the Yosemite Stonemasters made the first ascent of a four- to six-inch-wide, 20-foot-long roof crack called Paisano Overhang on the Sunshine Face at Suicide Rock, California. The route was the area’s first 5.12, but that’s not what made it revolutionary. Long had burled his way through using two pairs of gloves and gobs of tape because the crack was too “off” for typical offwidth strategies. Randy Leavitt and Tony Yaniro, visionaries known for their hard-core training techniques, were mystified by the climb, and began preparing for it by climbing 45-foot-long concrete beams in a California parking garage that resembled real wide cracks. They worked out a unique system of hand/fist stacks and leg/calf locks that they dubbed “Leavittation”; it involved jamming the hands, bringing a knee up to “lock” it into the crack, and then hanging by that knee to shuffle the hands along the crack. They took this new method to Paisano Overhang to make its second and third ascents.

Leavittation is perhaps the single most groundbreaking technique in offwidth history. It presented a practical and even elegant alternative to the normal struggling and thrashing in wide cracks. Without the use of Leavittation, Bob Scarpelli could not have established his Vedauwoo masterpieces Squat or Trip Master Monkey. Leavittation is now a requisite skill for serious offwidth climbers, as well as the foundation for the radical feet-over-your-head inverted climbs like Belly Full of Bad Berries (5.13a), Gabriel (5.13c), and Century Crack (5.14b), all in Utah.

Whyclimb upside-down? Is it masochism, is it fun or is it simply a 5.17 circus-trick? Well, all of the above but it is also necessary in order to surmount offwidth roofs. How is it possible to climb out a roof crack that is offwidth — that is too large for a fist jam and too small to chimney? When it is necessary to resort to hand/hand or hand/fist stacking in a roof it’s usually time to “invert.”Inverting requires getting your feet above you head and hanging upside-down by them allowing the climber to advance their hand-stacks across the roof. It will depend upon your hand, fist and foot size when you need to invert, but most climbers  need to invert when the roof is approximately 5” wide.

Note: My description of Leavittation is part of a larger article published in Climbing Magazine about the American Offwidth Mecca, Vedauwoo, Wyoming. You can read that article HERE.

Invert Methods

There are a few methods for inverting. One of the most common method of inverting, or kicking-over, is off of a hand/fist or a fist/fist stack.  Kicking-over requires a bit of momentum and a lot of core strength. It’s easy to rely on your hip-flexors for power while inverting but this movement it predominately instigated from your lower abdominal muscles. Activating your lower abs not only gives you more power to invert but also protects your lower back. I recommend that when learning to invert you start on offwidth boulders as placing gear while inverted is a bit perplexing.

Matt Kuehl demonstrates a full-inversion while Offwidth bouldering
http://mattkuehl.blogspot.com/

In the sequence below I am getting inverted on Spatial Relations  in Vedauwoo, WY. I place my gear in front of myself in case I fall right out of the inversion (but not so that it will be in the way of my feet), get a solid hand/hand stack and kick-over. As soon as my feet are wedged above my head I can drop my hands out of the crack and rotate my upper body to the other side where I can continue to pivot right-side up.

Image 1: Placing gear in preparing to Invert on Spatial Relations, Vedauwoo, WY Photo: Tom Kingsbury
Image 2: Setting up my hand/hand stack on Spatial Relations, Vedauwoo, WY Photo: Tom Kingsbury
Image 3: “Kicking Over” on Spatial Relations, Vedauwoo, WY Photo: Tom Kingsbury
Image 4: Getting a solid heel/toe placement. Spatial Relations, Vedauwoo, WY Photo: Tom Kingsbury
Image 5: Pivoting around my feet and advancing my hands. Spatial Relations, Vedauwoo, WY Photo: Tom Kingsbury

Here is an excellent example of  kicking into an iversion as demonstrated by Kris “Odub” Hampton on Trench Warfare 12d.

Kris “Odub” Hampton getting inverted on Trench Warfare 12d, UT

There are other methods of inverting: it’s possible to invert off of a chicken-wing placed over your head. A chicken-wing is a common technique for climbing offwidth cracks in which you  insert your arm bent at the elbow into the crack and use counter-pressure between your palm and the triceps to remain in the crack.

Climbing out Gabriel 13c on a chicken-wing.  Photo: Jim Thornburg

For more about climbing inverted see:

Matt Kuehl: Life Inverted
Leavittation: The Offwidth Renaissance

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8 comments

  1. Gabriel looks amazing, way to kill it.
    i’m going to Zion in April and would love to scope this beast out, also are there any other O.W. you would suggest?
    Thanks Pamela!!!

    1. Danny — Gabriel is an awesome route — let me know if you need directions?! I’m super psyched you want to check it out! If you are looking for another invert check out “Sex With A Midget 5.12+” Whether you end up climbing it or not it’s worth it just to ask the Park Service for permission to climb the route lol. It’s a cool, short invert. I haven’t been on it yet, but I hear that the Silverback on the Temple of Sinawava is supposed to be amazing! Let me know how you like Gabriel!!!

  2. Pamela, I would love directions for Gabriel! and I will make sure to ask the park service if I can “get on sex with a midget” exactly like that:) as well as climb it too. I hope to someday meet you, if your ever around Salt Lake and looking to do Trench Warfare I live just outside that canyon and am always down to get back on it.

    1. Hey Danny, Yes the Park Service will probably laugh at you as much as they laughed at my partner asking for permission for “Sex With A Midget” which they even announced over the Park radio lol. Directions to Gabriel — I will send them to your email address asap 🙂 I haven’t been to Trench Warfare yet but am super psyched to get on it so, yes, let’s keep in touch!! Cheers, P.

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