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.
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.
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.
Here is an excellent example of kicking into an iversion as demonstrated by Kris “Odub” Hampton on Trench Warfare 12d.
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.
For more about climbing inverted see: