Flagging – An Essential Technique

  • SumoMe

Hiya!  Today’s technical training lesson is on flagging.  One of the most basic yet essential moves for a climber’s skill set, flagging will help you retain your balance and climb with grace.  Flagging aids the climber by eliminating the danger of barn dooring.  “Barn dooring,” in climbing lingo, means to swing out from the wall as if on the hinges of a barn door.  For instance, a climber is in danger of barn dooring, and thus falling off the wall, when only their right hand and foot are on the wall.  When you barn door, your center of balance is off.  This is the beauty of flagging- it maintains your center of balance.

Imagine three holds set like a triangle: two handholds and one centered foothold.  If you are moving out right, which foot should you place on the hold?  If you place your left foot on the hold, your center of balance is off, the move is harder, and you are in danger of barn dooring if you fail to reach the hold.  Instead, place your right foot on the hold and stretch out your left leg along the wall.  Your balance is now centered, and you can reach the right handhold with ease.  The same principle works if you have a hold out left instead; simply place your left foot on the hold, and stretch your right leg along the wall.  Here is a video to demonstrate this amazingly simple concept; the girl demonstrating flags perfectly at 00:34.

 

Here is another helpful explanation of flagging from the Climbing Techniques website:

Flagging is an incredibly useful technique and quite necessary if you’re pushing into more intermediate climbs. When flagging, you use one limb (usually a leg) to point and balance your weight in order to keep from swinging out from the rock (i.e. barn dooring) or extend in the opposite direction of where the limb is pointing. You are not using this leg for support, but rather using it to shift your center of balance. It usually is not touching the rock. This is useful on big, reachy moves and allows you to gain a bit more span with your body without expending too much extra energy. This technique is also necessary when a right hand/foot combo is not possible. If you don’t flag when you don’t have a good hand/foot combo on one side, you’ll notice that your body wants to swiiiiiing out towards the side that is more solidly positioned on the rock. This is known as the “barn door” effect. If you flag with the foot that doesn’t have a good hold and point it towards the side of your body that is solid, while maintaining body and leg tension, your barn door will be easier to keep shut. Both climbers in the videos above use flagging; watching their technique is a good way to incorporate it into your climbing.

Hope this is a helpful intro to the flagging technique!  If possible, get an experienced climber at your climbing gym to show you how its done.  For this post’s challenge, try this technique for yourself and post in the comments to let me know!

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