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How To Pull Off a Successful Bat-Hang

How to lock off and bat-hang like a boss.

Disclaimer: hanging around like a vampire can be dangerous. When practicing this technique, make sure to have either a spotter or a crash pad beneath you—or both, preferably.

For the next entry in the How It Works Series, I want to teach you one of rock climbing’s most underrated moves. It’s a move that few people can achieve, and that most people write off as useless—which is utter poppycock. Many have tried to learn this technique in order to enter the upper echelon of our mystical subculture . . . and most have failed.

It is the Bat-Hang.

What It Is

The move itself is incredibly simple: hang upside down from the wall using only your toes. Pretty easy, right?

Well, not necessarily.

‍Spiderman (Chris Summit) on Savage Oracle, a 70 foot V8/5.13 in Sonoma County, CA.

Achieving perfect form is a difficult task, and any error you make in the setup could be the difference between hanging stoically and falling on your head. You must let go of fear, empty your mind, and let the spirit of the bat flap and screech into your soul.

Unicorn Dust (Fine)
Unicorn Dust (Fine)

How To Do It

All you need to pull off a bat-hang is a steep wall and a large hold to hang from. Look for a flat or incut jug wide enough for both feet, from which you can envision yourself dangling. Now, follow the lead of FrictionLabs Athlete Ty Fuller, clearly a master of his craft:


There are four essentials to keep in mind when attempting a strong bat-hang:

  1. Place the edge of the hold just above your toe joints. This is the strongest, most stable, and least painful area on the top of your foot.
  2. Try to keep your feet and toes rigidly perpendicular to your legs. Lock your knee and your hamstring, and flex your thighs and calves. Envision pulling your toes back toward your knee.
  3. Keep your legs as straight and tense as possible. If you let any tension out of your legs—by bending your knees or loosening your ankles, for example—you’ll find yourself in a pile on the ground.
  4. Try to keep your upper body in control as well. You can range your torso considerably, from bent upwards to parallel with your legs, if your legs are locked into the bat-hang properly. If you flop backwards into the position, or let your arms flail about, the added momentum could pitch your skeleton to the unforgiving earth like a bobbled wine glass. So stay tight.
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Why It’s Important

It’s not important.

No no, it is. It is. There are two (somewhat) practical applications of the bat-hang:

  1. Resting your arms while sport climbing. If you find that perfect feature—a nice grungey limestone shelf; maybe a couple of sandy huecos—stick your feet in there, invert, and shake those arms out. Conversely, fold your arms together and pretend you’re invisible.
  2. Sometimes crafty route setters will try to force a certain sequence, which almost always implies climbing feet-first to a jug (or two). Here’s the idea: while facing outwards, swing your feet up towards a jug and latch it with double toe hooks; keeping tension in your legs and toes, climb into said jug. You might classify this as more of a double-toe-hook move than a bat-hang, but the fundamentals are similar.
‍You can also bat-hang when you’re feeling metal. Bryan Rafferty on Overlooked in Pawtuckaway, New Hampshire.

Polish Your Skills Safely

As I mentioned already in the disclaimer, the bat-hang is somewhat risky. There is an offhand possibility of falling awkwardly—possibly on your head or neck. So practice the move from a safe height, with a spotter and a pad beneath you. And before you actually hang upside down, just pull your feet up into the position. If your mind automatically says Nope!—then stop! If your gut says it’s possible, give it a shot.

The gratifying pleasure of a successful bat-hang borders on the absurd. It’s fun. Tell us about your favorite bat-hanging experience and share your photos in the comments!

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