Sunday, February 12, 2012

Movement Analysis: Gecko Assis Swinging Heel

The first time I saw this problem was in Between the Trees. Ty Landman makes short work of it, though not quite as short as Adam Ondra's recent flash ascent.

The problem links some interesting and difficult climbing into the 8A+ stand start. The swinging heel is what I find most interesting, because it bridges between two otherwise basic body positions. Also, dynamic foot movements are interesting to learn, execute, and watch, and easily break up otherwise monotonous hand-foot-hand-foot style climbing.

Intended grade: Probably no easier than ~V3 (evidently, up to at least V14)
Ease of setting: Moderate. The sequence can come out quite awkward if placement & directionality aren't right.

The setup:

The foothold(s) are high and left, which prevents upward motion. Directionality of the starting holds is mostly leftward, making upward motion difficult. There are no available footholds underneath the starting holds, so to be set in sequence, this move would need to be traversing.

Opposition between the hands and foot is the primary tension creator, until the target hold (B) is latched. This generates enough compression to cut the feet, match the heel, and bump the right hand again.

The handholds need to be far enough apart that downward motion is difficult to generate between them; if they're in the happy range of motion for shoulders, the climber might be able to smear or campus the next move. The holds should be relatively close in vertical placement, to keep the heel swing from being overly strenuous; but a good (if extreme) variation would be an overhead heel hook.

The tension in the move is such that removal of the starting footholds creates swing, that is then used to help curl the body the opposite direction. So the starting footholds are going to need to be pretty close to the starting hands, allowing a bit of spring in the legs and spine. Also, the target hold for the heel needs to be sloped and directional enough that the climber can't miss the heel and then try again - the swing should be (for a climber of the appropriate grade) essential to stick the move.

Note that I've only added one foothold in the diagram, but a combination could be used if preferred.


Some steepness is good. The main thing is just to have the wall steep enough that the swing doesn't involve the climber smearing or navigating their knees around a minefield of painful plastic blobs. Steepness can also make the sequence much more difficult to skip.

It can help for the terrain to be convex, but too much will quickly make the move awkward, as the climber has to swing around the wall. However, on an ultra-steep prow feature, this move becomes recognizable as simply a normal compression-style heel hook, followed by a cross move.

Hold selection:

Hold A - Placed directionally facing towards the foot. Too much downwards will make the move awkward, difficult, or, if the hold is too good, allow passage directly to hold C. Too much upwards will allow a sequence skip, as well as opening up a huge foot option for a left heel. Facing to the side at just less than a 90 degree angle is about right. Two holds would also suffice (especially if you wanted to add the bumping move that occurs in the real problem before the big move out.)

Hold B - Should be relatively poor. Campusing or smearing to match should be much more difficult than the sequence. The climber should only be able to pull up on it enough to do a crunchie and get their heel up. The majority of exertion in the second move should be happening with the hand on hold A and the heel on hold B.

Hold C - Needs to be directional facing right, to force a right hand preference. Should be difficult to match on.

Troubleshooting: (as usual, for movement of the appropriate grade.)

The climber can skip to hold C from the start.
  • Try turning hold A a bit further downwards
  • Try moving the starting foot upwards, closer to the handholds, or both. If you have time to learn how to set the move, I strongly suggest just putting on 6-8 feet and trying the move from each option until you find the right positioning.
  • Try making hold A slightly worse

The climber can match on hold B. In some cases, this is okay - notably if hold C is unmatchable, and the sequence cannot be continued with the left hand on hold C.
  • If they're smearing: the terrain might not be steep enough, hold B needs to be rotated or made worse, or the distance between hold A and B needs to be increased slightly.
  • If they're campusing, hold B needs to be rotated or made worse.

The climber doesn't need to cut their foot to get the heel hook.
  • The positioning needs to be revisited; either B is too low, or the foothold is too low, or both; it's also possible that they're not far enough apart.
  • It's important to note that the swing is created not by the distance between holds A and B, but by the distance between the opening foothold and hold B.


For harder sequences, it can be good to force a "one try only" element into the foot swing. Usually this means using a poor hold for B, and rotating it to such an angle that the initial push off of the starting foothold is what allows the climber to kick their heel up, and strength through the shoulder cannot be utilized as well. This will cause the climber to need to "pop" off of the foothold,

Enter the sequence by gastoning hold A, then hand-foot matching the prior hold as the foothold to enter the sequence. The opening move could be from an undercling, from a gaston into an elevator-type move, etc. Here I've shown the elevator option.

Another great variation would be, rather than continuing right, to cross under (or rose) past hold C, to continue right. In this case, hold B must be very well selected and oriented to prevent skipping.

Exit the sequence by using hold A as a downward-facing heel hook. This would require the opening foothold to be directional facing straight sideways. More than likely this means hold C will need to be slopey, to prevent just floating sideways with their heel still on hold B.

Or, as usual, any number of other movement concoctions.. what can you come up with? Happy setting!


  1. another great movement analysis! I always enjoy these, keep up the great work!

  2. Love this sequence idea :D
    Especially the rose variation at the end!

  3. Can I get access to the video at the top of this article? Thanks