Reflections & Commentary:  Page 3.1

Ethereal Bouldering

No-Hands Problems
French Analysis of Foothold 1930s


Kamps 1

Kamps 3

Kamps 3

Bob Kamps was the master of these balance problems. Here we see Bob at Stoney Point about 1960. He's being observed by his frequent climbing partner, the mathematician/gymnast/climber Dave Rearick. Bob was the most skilled rock climber I knew when it came to the use of marginal footholds and pure balance technique. We had great fun trying to outdo one another tip-toeing up the boulders.

The idea was to maintain the least contact with the rock while ascending. The use of arms, hands, shoulders and stomach were discouraged, but frequently it was virtually impossible to avoid contact with parts of the lower body above the feet. Nevertheless, the goal was minimum contact with the rock.

There is no existing grading structure for such climbing divertissements, for the need does not arise in discussions of bouldering among contemporary climbers - almost all of whom interpret bouldering as merely microclimbing with some additional dynamics.

I find it a little puzzling that slacklining has become popular, when no-hands climbing, which seems to attract very few boulderers, is so much closer to traditional rock work. But then, the latter requires no special equipment.

Photos courtesy Bonnie Kamps

Gill 2 Gill 1
Sometimes, extending the no-hands approach to actual climbs can be challenging . . . as in the first no-hands ascent of the Needle in Estes Park in the mid 1960s. It was hard for me to keep my left shoulder away from the rock.

On my no-hands eliminate problem on Falling Ant Slab at Jenny Lake in the mid 1960s, a slip could mean a painful tumble down a steep slope and into the lake 40 feet below.

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