Friday, December 9, 2011

Movement Analysis: Hulk-esque Foot Cuts

One of my favorite boulder problems ever is The Hulk, in the Happies. My first trip to Bishop, I gleefully ran laps on it. Feel free to google it - as you can tell from the results, it's a very popular problem.

What makes the Hulk so classic is its uniqueness. It's rare that a combination of holds creates such an intriguing sequence for human physiology. And, while there are multiple ways to go about climbing the Hulk, the original sequence offers a fantastic lesson in routesetting technique.

The spacing of the moves, directionality of the holds and consistent difficulty through the crux sequence are all part of what make the Hulk such a fantastic example sequence to try to set. More than once on this blog I've spoken abouts these, and here's a boulder problem which incorporates all of them in perfect synchrony.

To me, the most interesting move in the standard sequence is a huge cross-through with a toe hook. Many people find this move committing (and frustrating.) It can also be described as reachy, so the move might not be the best for a wide audience. However, for an Open route or a harder route in the gym, it's reasonably enough sized to be worth learning how to set.

Here's a route I set which involves this move. It opens with a barn door and moves through a directional pocket to set up for the toe hook. After the cut move, I've also demonstrated here an undercling cross-through, another of my favorite moves, and finish with a big foot move and a press before topping out.


As usual, the black arrows indicate the general movement direction. Blobs are holds; 2 is directional.

Hold selection:

Hold 1 must be sufficiently large enough to form a good toe hook. Suggestions: Papa Elephant, Pinchtite, Atomik Stalactite.. really, any stalactite hold.

Hold 2 must be directional and unmatchable. Could be anything; a directional pocket is great. A pinch offers the climber some extra compression while positioning their toe hook. Ideally, it's dual tex, and/or placed directionally / around terrain so that it's difficult to use as a foot.

Hold 3 must be a hold that's good enough (and interesting) to cut your feet on. A variety of holds will work for this, although in the example I've used a hold which requires some squeezing with the chest. Suggestions: Pinchtite, QED

Other suggestions: for 1 and 3: De Blocs, the Bubble Wrap wedges/ledges (for moderate difficulty) or just any large, blobby slopers (for extreme difficulty.)

For first timers setting this move, I suggest stalactite-style holds. They make great toe hooks, they can be grabbed from a variety of angles while the climber attempts to understand the move, they're fun to cut feet on, and they give the route some big feet to play with later in the sequence.


This move is generally easier to set in certain types of terrain: some steepness is needed to prevent the foot cut from being grovelly and uncomfortable. Going around an arete helps somewhat with the compression aspect of the toe hook. However, assuming sufficient steepness, the move could be set on everything from a gently overhanging traverse to a fully horizontal (or, for great difficulty, even climbing downwards) roof.

If the terrain doesn't have an arete / convex aspect to it, the majority of climbers will wind up heel hooking hold 1 to make the move. If the wall's not steep enough, the toe hook & release sequence will be scummy, uncomfortable and probably unnecessary. If it's too steep, and especially if hold 3 is placed lower than hold 1, the move can easily become the popular bat hang sequence.


The route is easiest to set if holds 1 and 3 are about even horizontally. They should be too far apart to span between (or at least not without great difficulty.) Hold 2 should be just below hold 3 and within reach of the majority of climbers.


- The toe hook is difficult to maintain: the terrain is improper; the span is not big enough (toe hooking is more difficult the closer to your center of gravity, depending on the positioning of your other foot), or the hold is simply not large enough to fit a solid toe hook.

- The climber can dyno to hold 3: the terrain isn't constricting enough for movement (try using an arete), the span is too small, or (most likely) hold 3 is too positive. Try a hold which requires extremely specific hand placement to stick. Increasing the necessary accuracy of the move will force the climber to use static beta before cutting their feet.

- The move is too easy: Try moving or rotating hold 2 to an undercling position, increasing the span distance, or making hold 3 poorer.

- The move is too hard: Isolate the difficulty and try to troubleshoot one at a time. Is the span too big? Is the swing too hard? Is the movement awkward due to poor terrain choice? etc.

That's all for now - happy setting.


  1. More movement analysis'! They're awesome :)
    Love the blog. Fantastic resource for a novice setter like myself.

  2. Been checking the blog for months, so glad that you finally posted again. Great post this month, going to go pstairs right now and try to set something simular. Thanks, Joseph.

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