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Avoiding the Gear-Placement Pump

Ahhh the ol' gear-placement pump. Find out how to best set yourself up to avoid it!

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I get pumped really quickly while I’m placing gear. Any tips for avoiding the trad burn?

—Sam Jones, London, England

Struggling with the gear placement pump on S Crack, Escalante Canyon, Colorado. Photo: Mac Praetorius.

OK, here are the checks: First, are you on the best hold? It may be that you only need to make one more move to a jug instead of fighting to get the piece in from the first available crimp or thin jam. Next, can you re-arrange your feet to get more weight on them? (How many times have you found a more comfortable position after the piece has gone in?) Are your arms straight? The classic error is to stand up and straighten your legs while holding a lock-off, when all you need to do is bend your knees. It’s not your legs that are going to pump out if the route is steep. Straightening your arms will help prevent your muscles from tiring and promote circulation to your forearm to flush the pump out. Next, are you swapping hands mid-operation? If not, one arm is taking an unfair share of the strain. Force yourself to trade out and use both hands/arms while you fiddle in gear, even if it feels counter intuitive and you are in a panic to secure the piece. Finally, are you placing gear too high? Especially on crack pitches, it makes more sense to slot the gear below your top jam, where it is both easier to reach and to see.

[Also Read Do This, Not That: Training Methods to Avoid]

Another tactical tip is to retreat to a resting position a few moves down if a placement has been particularly taxing.

If all this still doesn’t work, perhaps you need to tweak your endurance sessions at the gym. Instead of sprinting up the hardest individual routes, try doing two or three easier routes in a row without rest. Better still, slow down and hold awkward positions for up to 20 seconds at a time. Trad requires you to stop and lock off to place pro, and therefore is a slower burn than sport climbing. The more you can simulate this pace in your training, the more successful you will be.

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