Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hold Review - Atomik Font Pinches

I had the pleasure of reviewing the Atomik Font Pinches recently. Here's a primer on how I review holds.

Set Overview / Summary

Two small yellow bubble pinches (quite poor) - I mostly used these as bumps. They'd make for great technical holds on a vertical wall.

One red blob edge - A great directional slimper, great smear foot when used directionally. The most directional of the bunch, and probably my personal favorite.

Big green rail pinch - By far the most positive. A comfortable narrower pinch, with plenty of surface area for hand foot matching or crossed-pinch matching. Possible jug / rest hold horizontally.

Big green - the jug of the set

Big blue pinch, wider, shallower - could make a good, hard match; very comfortable wide pinch.

Big red sloper pinch - probably the trickiest hold. the thumb catches on this one were not as intuitive as most of the others, so it presented more of an actual pinch-strength challenge.

Big blue knobby pinch - vertically, makes for fantastic matching. one of the depressions is a perfect huge thumb catch, making it very easy to force moves that require strong oppositional thumb pressure to cancel barn doors or hold tension.


Pinches are always strange territory for directionality, as they naturally come with more than one plumb line. The setter has to be cautious with the use of feet, and the angle of the pinch. Comfortable pinch plumb line + solid foot in a perpendicular body position = fat rest point. One factor that can make this a bit easier on the routesetter is when pinches are angled slightly triangular, as many companies do these days. (Incidentally this tends to have two other advantages: 1) it makes the hold more ergonomic for the best-case grip; and 2) it offers a much harder, much less comfortable worst-case grip for ergonomically disinclined, crueler routesetters to employ.) All of the Atomik pinches fit this bill except the juggiest pinch. Simply being mindful of the feet around that hold and the travel time of moves to and from that hold made it easy to deal with.

For the hardest problem I set of the day, the red sloper pinch gets the honorable mention. Even with foreknowledge of the move I found my body wanting to contort to get the thumb catch just right. The climbers I had helping me out experienced the exact same puzzle. Once the thumb was dialed, the move followed naturally. Cool.

For pinches, I consider these to have better than average directionality: body positions are forceable, without creating uncomfortable hand positions or requiring excess consideration by the routesetter.


Any pinch worth its weight in urethane should make up for its lack of directionality in versatility and movement inspiration.

Going in to reviewing a pinch set, the big things on my mind were my bread and butter pinch moves - wide open compression, close-in hand-over-hand matches, big crossovers, barn doors. Moves that require using both directionalities of the hold simultaneously to create body tension. The set didn't disappoint, with the red slimper offering just enough forced directionality to diversify against the rest of the set. The green ledge could easily be used as a finish jug or rest hold horizontally, but placed vertically on a gently overhanging wall it required just enough "oomph" to stack up with the slimmer pinches for a hard route.

The yellow holds were great for "just enough" holds, offering easy fixes to bump moves, and each of them were tri-directional for easy tweaks to move difficulty. The difference between a move being possible off the first bump, and encouraging the climber to move to the second bump before committing their other hand was two 120 degree rotations away. Nice.

When trying to set routes with one set, a wide variety of difficulty can be somewhat of a curse. The red slimper-pinch (slincher?) was a good cure every time I found myself set into a corner. This broad difficulty offered a challenge, but one that would quickly turn into advantages when the set's combined with other similar sets, or doubled up.

Best of the bunch: directional, aesthetic, comfortable.

Difficulty: On a vertical wall, could offer V0 with sufficient feet. Severe overhangs would turn these pinches extremely nasty with the quickness. My preference was about V5-7 on a 25˚ยบ° wall.

Movement variety: Great. Nothing I tried to do seemed like it wouldn't go with some tweaking, with the set having a broad mixture of good and poor holds. The only move that seemed dire was to force a frog on a steep wall, as most of the pinches could be smeared on top. Geological discrepancy aside, the set could be combined with a larger pinch like the Granite XXL pinch to force a move like this. A foot-cut to the big pinch (or moving into it off dual tex sidepulls) to cancel out potential feet, followed by delicate slopey pinch moves above the big pinch would be a great sequence, and one I fully intend to get back to.


Shaping: Clearly some thought went into the shaping of the knobby pinch and slopey pinch, as their thumb catches were intuitive and puzzling respectively. Switching out similar holds with slightly different thumb catches is a great alternative for a setter to quickly bump or reduce the difficulty of a move to hit grade.

Structure: The holds were solidly built, with no errors or blemishes. Washers were all set parallel to the wall. I had no issues with spinning or stripping. Bolt depth was good, with all bolts being shallow enough to be ratchet or impact-accessible. (Extremely deep bolts, a la the very old EPS holds, are somewhat of a pet peeve for me - and I'm sure I'm not alone there.)


I had the choice between earth tones and bright colors. Being a route aesthetics junkie, I picked bright. Primary colors look great against the drab beige of climbing wall obscurity. The similar bumpy shape made the routes I quickly set and tore down intuitive and quick to read for my test audience, even though I never taped a problem or even pointed out the holds. This sort of snappy no-tape-required intuition is a huge asset of any hold set's aesthetic. The earth tones would be a good choice for a darker, artificial-tex wall.

As it was, the bright colors were distinctive without joining the ranks of the ubiquitous neon blobs. This also makes the chalk look better on the holds. Yes, I'm a design geek.

As far as shape looks go, this set would look great combined with almost any font set, but the standouts are definitely the Atomik XXL font sloper, which can easily be used as a pinch when placed vertically, creating some style parity. The even bigger font XXXL set at a 90 offers great compression potential, which could be traversed through using the rest of the pinch set as collateral.


Texture: a comfortable in-between point, perfect for pinches. Any slopier on the worst slopey pinch and the two small yellow fellas and I would have wanted a bit more grit. The texture ensured pinch strength was a primary emphasis of any route the set went in to, which is its main job.

Ergonomics: other than the difficulty of the slopey red pinch, all the thumb catches felt great. Edges were well spaced, with pressure falling naturally in between finger joints. None of the holds seemed tweaky or strange to grasp.

Movement: As I said before, I went for an emphasis on moves requiring the use of thumb opposition. My favorite of the quick problems I set was on a gentle overhang: open with a big move from the red slope pinch and red slimper (as an undercling) to the blue knob pinch, requiring immediate barn-door-cancel tension. The red slimper undercling became a smear for a big cross to the green jug pinch. The cross position ensured the green pinch (the best of all) would not be easily used as a rest point on the route. From there a big rockover on a decent foot gave way to the wide shallow blue pinch. Bumping into the first yellow hold allowed a "float" move to set a heel hook on the big green. Another bump to the next yellow hold and then the lip finished the route up.

All in all a pretty solid set. I'd be eager to set with them again.

These holds were provided to me by Atomik for the purposes of this review. Thanks guys!

No comments:

Post a Comment