May 3, 2022

What Is a Gaston in Climbing: a Powerful Move for Beginners

by Brad

An occasional adrenaline rush can be appealing and incredibly rewarding, and climbing heights offers you that. However, mastering the art of climbing requires practice, incredible precision, and good technique for a much safer adventure.

You might wonder what it means when you read climbing magazines or hear other climbers recommend “Gaston” moves. Several climbers explained what it was to us before we understood it when we first started climbing.

During climbing, Gaston is when you move your arms/palms outward rather than pulling your body towards you as you usually do. Gaston commonly occurs with the palms facing outwards and the thumbs facing downwards.

The Gaston movement becomes more popular and necessary with every increasingly complex route, especially bouldering routes. This is why climbers need to understand what a Gaston is and train for it.


Table of Contents

How to Identify a Gaston?

You can identify a Gaston by observing your thumb positioning as you grab the handles on your way up. Your thumbs usually face you while the other fingers wrap against the handle, pointing down.

Besides, you’ll feel the pulling effect, and you virtually will feel the impact of gravity, making you tired like other climbing techniques. The movements are technically lateral rather than entirely vertical. 

Alternatively, you can still identify a Gaston by observing the direction of your hands’ movements. Ideally, it should feel like your pulling some weight apart, more like in elevator doors.

And in every grip, your thumbs will appear like they’re twisting and pointing towards the ground. Remember that you will still use your legs to support your weight every time you let go of your hand and shuffle through for the next handle.

Better still, your elbow position can help you identify the movement. You place your elbows with the center of your body. If the elbows cover a wider area between your chest and appear like they’re “protruding out,” you’re likely on a Gaston.

In this position, the shoulders edge closer to your body as you try to maintain tension on the grips. However, spotting the Gaston handles isn’t an uphill task either. If the part of the hold or handle facing you produces, you’re holding a Gaston. 

A man doing a Gaston while rock climbing
A man doing a Gaston move while rock climbing

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Why is the Name of the Movement Called Gaston?

The Gaston technique derives from the prolific French mountaineer Gaston Rébuffat. People had photographed him moving and dubbed it using his first name, Gaston.

Since then, this climbing technique has become sought-after by modern-day climbers, now known as the Gaston movement. In his “On Snow and Rock” book, he describes the move as trying to pull elevator doors apart but achieve a vertical movement in the long run. 

Gaston Rébuffat started climbing when he was 14 in the Calanques in Marseilles and became a French Alpine Club member. Afterward, he started climbing the Alps and made it as a mountaineering instructor guide.

He published numerous books since 1954 and filmed himself countlessly climbing the Alps. Therefore, his legacy is worth remembering, and perhaps that’s why the climbing association opted to pay homage by naming the technique after him, which he developed.

Climbers initially named this movement technique the El Gaston or Tren De Gaston. But through the years, this technique has picked up various name versions until climbers decided to use the simpler one.

Today, most climbers refer to it as the Gaston movement, perhaps a gesture to honor Gaston Rébuffat’s pioneering spirit in mountaineering.

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When Should You Use Gaston?

Performing a Gaston requires technique, but ideally, it’s on intuition. As you make the movements, you need to listen to your body and check your balance, the positioning, and the direction your weight is pulling.

Keep in mind that this exercise is muscle-intensive, and it draws a lot of energy, thus tiring. While moving from one handle to the other, your timing must also be spot on to achieve balance.

A Gaston can be your perfect escape if a climb doesn’t provide you with the options to place your feet, but if left with pulling as the only movement option.

Besides, you can also use a Gaston for balance if your body position allows you to put your weight on your feet. Gastons can be ideal primarily as transitional aides, enabling you to plan your next move. 

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When Gaston is the Easiest and Least Energy-Consuming Movement?

If you have the chance to avoid Gastons, you should do so. Instead, you can use some pull-up techniques to forge your way up. Gastons take chunks of energy that can quickly drain you out.

That can make you expendable, particularly if you have a long way up. However, a few instances make Gastons less energy-consuming and perhaps, the easiest.

When Balancing While Supporting Your Weight with The Feet

Gastons are the easiest and less energy-consuming when seeking balance. That’s true when not supporting your weight with your hands or there’s no strain on the grips.

That way, a third or fourth limb can offer more support. That should help you stay in a safer position as you contemplate your next move.

When You Have a Wide Variety of Climbing Options

Being reliant on the Gaston movement can be cumbersome, and it helps to have a few climbing options.

Combining some crossovers, backsteps, open crimps, and pockets provide a few other workable choices that alleviate the pinches on your shoulders, making the process incredibly fun.

Alternating the techniques with the other is ideal for making Gastons more straightforward.

When You’ve Trained Your Muscles to Handle the Pressure

There’s a slight chance you’ll persevere the muscle tension and discomfort if your muscles are weak and expendable. Working against gravity isn’t an easy feat, and it helps to be more built.

An incredible way to train your muscles is doing a few push-up rounds every day or lifting a few kilos. Ideal workouts include the varied push-up forms that strengthen the core and build the shoulder and chest muscles.

Therefore, include planks and push-ups in your workout routine without forgetting to add a balanced diet. That way, gastoning becomes more manageable. 

How to Avoid Gastons?

It’s possible to avoid a Gaston, but you’ll often have no option not to. Gastons are ideal transitional aides, and most climbing boards include them to provide an alternative.

However, you can still avoid this movement if you feel like it’ll rob you of your energy. Most athletes would avoid this movement in their competitions to save their energy, and rightly so. However, you may sometimes stick between a rock and a hard place, and Gastons could be your only escape. 

To avoid a Gaston, you must lay your body to the side, and the movement becomes a pull rather than a push. Assuming that you’re holding a Gaston with your right hand ready to push, lift your right leg, find a grip right below the Gaston and use it to support your weight with your feet.

Then, lift your left leg and position it somewhere higher such that your body appears like you’re aligning horizontally and parallel to the ground. That way, you can reach the next grip with ease.

Laying in that position shifts your body’s center of gravity and seamlessly balances your weight. It becomes pretty simple to pull yourself up but keep in mind that the sheer pressure will shift to a different muscle group.

While you’ll still stain your shoulders and chest, you’ll feel more pressure on your hands and torso as you tighten your muscles for support. 

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why is it called a Gaston in climbing?

Gaston climbing is a conventional technique deriving its name from the French climber Gaston Rébuffat. It’s a worldwide climbing technique used by innumerable climbing enthusiasts, offering aided transitioning in climbing.

The technique explains the process as similar to pulling elevator doors apart to climb off widths and has become sought-after over the years.

What is mono in climbing?

Mono in climbing is a freestyling climbing technique with no consideration for the rules of the practice, often using a finger to hold and pull.

The finger finds a hole; usually, finger-wide inserts get a grip and pull up. Usually, mono climbers don’t need any gear or know their way around doing it but take on the challenge on blind faith.

What is the most challenging route in climbing?

The most challenging climbing route worldwide is the Hanshalleren cave in Norway, but a few others keep up the pace. These include Hell racer in Norway, Hyper Finale in Switzerland, and Golpe de Estado in Spain.

The best climbers in the world and the climbing fraternity voted these places as the most challenging climbing spots based on their harshest conditions.

What is a Gaston in climbing?

A Gaston is a climbing technique that uses pushing instead of pulling to get to the peaks. Ideally, the process involves gripping a handle with the thumbs facing the climber while using the legs to support body weight.

Therefore, the climber utilizes the shoulder and chest muscles, straining them to exert force with the palms as if opening elevator doors.

Final Thoughts on What is Gaston in Climbing

The Gaston movement technique involves taking up to the heights more unconventionally than most climbing techniques. The process appears more like pushing elevator doors open while pointing your thumbs at yourself.

It’s usually a strenuous process that requires strategy and unique know-how to master it and rule the heights. Hopefully, this article will help you do Gastons easily as you plan a thrilling adventure with lots of adrenaline rush.

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About the author 

Brad

Brad is a professional climber in the discipline of traditional climbing. He often jokes that he can get a book to read during the long climbs. Of course, it always goes well with a good cup of coffee. Drinking coffee is his safer hobby.

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