Story by Jon Vickers /
You squeeze, push, and pull to try to expand your body to fill the void between the rock you’re swimming in. The size is wrong for any single body part to jam, so instead, you must resort to unusual combinations of body parts to create the perfect shape to stick. For many, offwidth climbing is miserable at first, and is often perceived as the masochist’s climbing style of choice. Despite its reputation, there are some who describe offwidth climbing more like a dance with the rock, and they are banding together to show others how fun offwidths can be.
One adventurous soul at a time, Danny Parker has introduced many to the ways of the wide. Driven by an impressive amount of personal passion for offwidth climbing, he and his girlfriend Ashley have taught clinics at Momentum, developed an offwidth bouldering circuit in Little Cottonwood, and regularly organize community gatherings around offwidth climbing.
Danny, sometimes referred to as ‘Offwidth Danny,’ started crack climbing several years ago at Momentum Sandy, and has used its cracks, the Wasatch, and Utah’s desert as his training ground ever since. More recently, Danny refined his focus even more as he developed a taste for the widest of cracks, commonly known as offwidth.
As his obsession for offwidths grew, he began training in a parking garage that had roof cracks of different sizes on each floor: number fours on the bottom floor, number fives on the middle floor, and number sixes on the top floor. Unfortunately, the garages were straightened out, and he lost his perfect training zone. Despite his access to the tools and terrain he desired, finding partners for such a strange style of climbing quickly became the crux of feeding his offwidth hunger.
“I had two regular climbing partners move out of state the same week,” recalls Danny. “I was basically out of people to climb [offwidths] with overnight. So, I started an effort to get more people out climbing because I really only want to climb offwidths…. It was a slow process, but I was eventually able to get people more and more interested.”
With offwidth climbers in limited supply, Danny started on his mission to make them. He spent a lot of time showing people how to climb the cracks in the gym, and started organizing what quickly became known as “Wide Whiskey Wednesdays” outside and in his home gym. These Wednesday evening sessions welcomed anyone who wanted to learn offwidth technique or just liked to drink whiskey. Danny and others would spend time bouldering on the wide cracks in Little Cottonwood or training on his crack machine… and of course, drinking whiskey. It was from these lowkey sessions that the Offwidth Army was born.
Even with instruction, Danny admits that starting to offwidth climb can be discouraging and painful. The techniques are unusual, the climbing is often uncomfortably slow, and when you do it wrong, your skin and body suffer. Despite its steep learning curve, Danny insists that if you can accept the initial failures and can tolerate the pain of learning, wide climbing can actually be pretty comfortable… even restful.
Ashley, who has dated Danny since 2014, remembers the first time she climbed offwidths with Danny, “I was one of the people that Danny found to start teaching offwidths to. It was really hard to go from feeling like I knew what I was doing as a climber to all of a sudden just getting destroyed on the easiest of offwidths. It felt like taking a big painful step back and there were some meltdowns, but you do learn the technique and it makes a huge difference.”
The Offwidth Army has become more than just a group of climbers that swap beta and techniques: it’s a group of friends that enjoy getting outside, learning from one another, and enjoying all that climbing has to offer. Its humble beginnings as a handfull of climbers learning to climb the wide cracks at Momentum Sandy quickly branched out to climbing boulders that almost touch in Little Cottonwood and has even included trips to offwidth destinations like Vedavoo and Moab.
“I think my favorite part of the Offwidth Army is when you get everyone together and the excitement everyone has and everyone learning together,” says Ashley. “Different sizes and different people create that much more beta opportunity. People enjoy sharing the techniques and strategies because it is so technical and unique.”
The Offwidth Army has grown even beyond Utah, with wide crack enthusiasts from around the country commenting on @offwidtharmy Instagram posts and writing Danny letters to ask about technique and describing local cracks they hope to do.
“There are a lot of people in and out of the area that like offwidth climbing and there are a lot of things going on now that don’t even involve us and I think that’s great!” says Danny. “Anyone can just band up and be part of ‘the army,’ or if you want to come join [me and] Ashley on one of our escapades that’s even better. I just want a new generation of people that are tight-knit and want to come together around such a great type of climbing.”
While the original intent was simply to find some psyched partners, Danny’s passion has snowballed into something more than just climbing partners. The Offwidth Army has developed into a community of climbers that are psyched to try something new and share it with others.
Danny says the biggest success the Offwidth Army could have is if a similar group started elsewhere or if he was visiting somewhere that had its own Wide Whiskey Wednesdays. He and Ashley also agree that the more people who start climbing wide, the better we can build awareness about the need for Black Diamond to bring back #9 cams.
Follow Danny and the Offwidth Army on their social media below.