Under My Thumb

The climb, if not absolutely overhanging, is less than by only a few degrees: 170, 175.  Any person shown the problem would say that the whole is thing is climbed upside down, which is true, but I point out those 5 to 10 degrees for they indicate the direction one should move: beginning in a cave and climbing up and out.

The following is the fine tuned beta I used and developed to send this project.  Naturally there are variations that may be more suitable for people of different sizes and strengths.  “Strength”, not in the sense of muscular capability, but in the assets of the climber; be them technique, balance, core-strength, height, wing-span, power, ability to read a sequence, flexibility, etc…  If you are intending to figure this problem out on your own, treat the following as a spoiler, read on only for directions to reach the problem, but once I sit below the start holds you should stop reading.

Getting There:
Take I-476 N to the Quakertown exit.  Take a left onto 663 N, follow this road until it merges with 313 E, follow 313 E through Quakertown, taking the gentle jog left to stay on 313 just past town center.  At 563 turn left to follow the road North.  Drive for a few miles.  Just after Boulder Rd is Harrisburg School Road, turn left.  Take the first right onto Kinzler Road.  At the deadend turn right, take note of the family who has been doing years of renovation on their house, they have a firewood pile to be envious of and an awesome outdoor chimney; you’ll pass the park entrance as the road bears right.  Just after driving under 563 there is a three car pull out on the left, if this lot is full continue 100 yards to the parking lot for the Frisbee golf course.

Walk back up the road, making sure to don your hunter’s orange if it is not a Sunday; walk past the gate, cross the shallow stream either by way of rock hopping or walking straight through on the concrete slab.  A fire-road of sorts takes you up towards a light green water tower.  A hundred yards before the tower there is a well beaten, but smaller trail that leads off to your left.  Take that.  Walking for less than a minute you come to the first climbable boulder.  It is ten feet at most, but I think of it as very important.  It is the sentry to this side of Haycock: the run and jump.  Some people think they should climb it at the end of the day with their crash pad still on their backs.  I don’t feel like I have earned entry until I send the goofy problem.  As the name indicates, it is a run and jump.  The top is a bad sloper, but the rock is diabase, so long as it is reasonably dry and cooler (30’s to 50’s) the friction will keep you on.  Once passing this trial, continue on the trail as it meanders through storm fallen trees and what not.   You’ll come to Hanger 18, which hosts many classic problems, skip them, you want to keep fresh for Under My Thumb.  Pass the climb Black Angus (V8) and follow the path into the “clearing” (it is filling in, but the change in canopy is obvious).  The path goes out and then there is a fork, turn left, after 5-10 minutes there is another fork, turn right onto the smaller trail, here you will reenter the woods.  To your left will be BoCow Boulder (V7) and when you walk a little further and down hill you will see Little Fluffy Clouds (V5).  Once you can see Little Fluffy you will be near the split for the Caves Trail.  The split is a little invisible, there is a two-rock cairn indicating the turn left.  Follow the widely spaced cairns and disappearing and reappearing trail that weaves up and down, around and over rocks.  You’ll eventually see a 15 foot face with obvious crack features.  This is a good V0 warm up.  Just below this problem on the trail are Dubec, Becdu, and the Scream; two, very frustrating but classic climbs and the Scream (which I have no opinion of).  The trail drops down to the left of these climbs.  About five more minutes of walking leads you to two well made cairns.  At the second, turn up and off the path towards an impression in the ground and many boulders just beyond.  You will come up just right of a boulder.  There is a climb here called High Jinx (V0) also a good warm up, also a little scary.  Continue past these and through the cave passing the chalk of Pele (V8) and Honeybun Arete (V2).  Just past Honeybun Arete climb up onto a 3’ boulder, jump to the next, clamber onto another, and continue making your way up and a little left, up hill.  In less than a minute you’ll see a living room sized boulder with a wide crack down the middle.  That is our beast.  The climb is on the far side, beneath the rock in the little cave made by the perch of the boulder upon his neighbors.

The Climb
Two crash pads, three is nice.

I begin low down, in the recesses of the cave.  There is an obvious serving plate sized flake for a start hold.

Lay low (there is a bread box sized rock that you can put your feet on while you adjust your position) on your high back with arms fully extended, the right hand holds the triangular feature of the flake, and the left holds in a convex under-cling.

My left toe box is jammed in the flake’s crack just left of my left hand.  I won’t hook with this toe so much as smear straight into the ceiling, as if performing a lay back, only we are upside down.  The knee of that left leg shifts ever so slightly right so that the hip shifts left.  (Some people ignore this clever toe hook, there is an eighth inch thick edge for that foot half a foot below the flake).

The right foot has a dime thin edge to also smear on.  There is often a tick mark there.  I do not edge on that foot hold, but also smear into it, but with more focus on the inside edge of the toe box.

Now give it some gas, because although the hand holds are big the move takes a little more than you would expect.  You are pulling your ass off the ground and slapping the left hand off the blank face of a 90 degree cube, then from that slap bumping the hand into a horizontal crack at the top of the cube (where it meets the ceiling).  The hold is good, but a bit slopey.

Keeping the right hand, wriggle the left toe out from the flake and place it on the half inch thick foot mid-flake.  The right foot comes to the edge of the flake just below the right hand and scums the side of the hold to keep the climber from swinging out.  This is enough to bring the right hand up into the same horizontal crack with that left hand.

Move quickly, it has only been three moves, but you need to keep some power.  You’ll have something of a rest in a moment.

Keeping the hands and the left foot, step as high as your elbows with the right foot.  There is a large slopey nubbin for the big toe, place the toe precisely and put pressure on the thing, you are going to turn knee cross your core, up and then against that rounded point in the ceiling.  The right hip will come up in this process.  This knee bar should be bomber, so don’t settle for less.  I had Tom hold me up so I could feel the knee bar just right when I was working the problem out four years ago.  And it is a little painful unless you can get your knee up really high.  I am not thrilled by the pain so I taped a pack of notecards together with duct tape, wrapped them in my cloth hunting cap and taped this to my right thigh.  I used to my small red journal with all my ideas, but the binding started to break from the abuse.

This is the rest so to speak, though I wouldn’t bother shaking out; and it has only been four moves, so don’t stop the flow.  You’ll be tempted to release the left toe from that half-inch edge, because you easily could, but don’t.  It is as important as the knee bar.  Some people keep the left hand in the horizontal crack.  My wing-span is not long enough for the next move if I do this, so I shift it to the blank face just left of my right knee.  I reach high so that all my fingers, my palm, and a portion of my wrist are palming the rock.

Then keeping the pressure on the knee bar and pushing down on that left big toe reach out for the split in the rock; incidentally also the end of the overhang.  The crack is good for that right hand, but you want the chunky sloper just left of it (it is a jug from this angle).  I find that I hit the crack first and bump my hand once, sometimes twice to the sloper.  The pressure on the left foot’s big toe is the key for readjusting the right hand.

Now for the meat of the problem.  Adjust that left hand so that it is down on the bottom edge of that face, now holding the rock like a sloper undercling.  Shift the knee out from the bar and be strong with both arms, there is a lot of compression in this move, not quite as severe, but like the reverse of an iron cross.  Cross the left foot over the right leg and place the toe on a very small pebble or chip.  It is nothing bigger than pea.

Swing the right foot, knee, hips, one hundred and eighty degrees round to the right and thrust the foot over and just right of the right hand into the V-notch made by the split in the rock.  Get it as high as it will go that first push, the foot should wedge between the two sides of the crack.

Congrats!  There are two limbs over the overhang.  Your body is going to swing some now, its ok.  Keep the right and left hands strong with the compression fierce.  The right foot can share some weight, but don’t let yourself sink too low or your butt will dab the crash pad just below you.

Your left leg will want to flag out far right, let it.  Do that serious back flag out towards the open air!  Actually, this is the best position to get that right foot higher in the crack.  How high?  Can you get it as deep as the knee?  Or further even?  The deeper the better.  I used to mess around with a little foot chip for the left toe near crotch once you’ve rotated, but that is no good.  The flag is easy, and with a little screaming the right foot shifts up nicely.

We are nearing the finish, so don’t bail if you’ve come this far.   I found practicing the next couple of moves before working the beginning gave me the confidence I needed to send.  Plus it is super fun for people climbing V2 or higher to work even if they are shut down by the rest of this; it is also great for climbers with fears of climbing high.

Release the left sloper under cling.  You will swing, but its nice, you got that right leg up there good right?  Between that and the right hand and a little core strength this is no problem.  Match the left hand with the right.  That way you straighten out so your head is in line with crack.  Pull in with your arms, digging down with that right leg, lock off and slap the sloper bulge on the arête of the face right of the crack with your right hand.  You might grab it first with you thumb up, I usually shift it to a thumbs down meat hook. 

Still strong in the gut?  Bring the left leg in and above the right.  Get it even higher than the other.  Get the right leg out and let that one flag.  Get the left leg as deep as your crotch.  Bring the left hand on to the same arête as the right.  This is a little bit of a battle.  Once I’ve pulled up a bit I usually stick my ass on the opposite face to take some pressure off before reaching for the juggy horizontal crack.

Yeah mother-fucker!  Match the hands, swing up the feet onto the face, then hand foot match, with the right foot.  Reach up with the right hand to a two inch incut groove, stand up and top out!

That is Under My Thumb.  I don’t like the song, or the Rolling Stones.  The boulder problem gets only one star out of three in the guide book, but I think it is the best climb I have ever seen.  It has taken me four years to send.  Though I only really committed to working it a few times four years ago and then a half dozen trips in the last two months.


Arête: “a small ridge-like feature or sharp outward facing corner on a steep rock face.” [Wikipedia] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_climbing_terms
Beta: information about the movement of a climb
Crash-pad: open and closed celled foam encased in a cover that unfolds as a landing surface for climbers who are bouldering.  They usually wear the pads on their backs as they hike.
Flake: “a thin slab of rock detached from the main face” [Wikipedia]
General-endurance: as the name indicates, one’s ability to keep going.
Knee Bar: a move where the climber wedges their leg from toe to knee between to rocks to help hold body weight.
Layback: a move usually done on a crack or flake where the climber has hands pulling in opposition to feet pushing.  Think of climbing a coconut tree using this technique- the butt sticks out, as opposed to the technique where one pinches the tree with the insides of the feet and butt is close into the tree.
Lockoff: pull up and keep the arm in as you move the other.
Power: ability to use strength (often for explosive movement); muscle recruitment
Power-endurance: ability to use power repeatedly over time
Problem: a climb, specific to bouldering
Send: successful climb of a problem or route (rope climbing climb) maintaining the conditions prescribed to the style of climbing
Sloper: “a sloping hold with very little positive surface.  A sloper is comparable to palming a basketball.” [Wikipedia]
Strength: Isolated muscular ability
Strengths: (as a climber) the tools you have to work with, either a result of work or predisposition.
Toebox: mostly around the big toe, but also extending down the inside and outside edge of the toes.
Undercling: a hold you grab from below, with palms up.
Wing-span: (aka “ape index”) length of your arms (or length of your arms in relation to your height)
V0-V16: boulder problem grades.  The difficulty of these problems begin with V0 and continue to V16+.  A V0 is already a very challenging climb.  By nature bouldering is difficult.  “V” stands for “ver

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