Technique for Downhill Running

Techniques, Training

Running down is fun. Technical downhills are the funniest if you have a good technique, is like a dance with the elements. There’s no big secret, if you want to be a good downhill runner you need to train in the mountains, because is not about the strenght but about the feet and the vision.

Well, easy downhills where is not any technical element (dirt roads, good trails, grassy fields) are more about legs strenght so for that it can be good to work speed and quadriceps strenght. Running flat or gentle downhill will be the best training for those easy downhills.

For technical downhills, when steepness or obstacles on the path make us slow down it is another game, it becames about coordination and feet position. The first important thing to realize is the terrain under our feet. It seems obious but can take time to get the knowledge of how we need to put the feet in any surface and to feel that under our feet when we are running.

The terrain can be hard ( rock, ice) soft (mud, soft snow, deep moss) or anything in between, or a layering (rock with mud on top, rock with gravel, ice with snow… or the oposite crosty snow or frozen mud). In any of those terrains we will put our feet and apply the weight of our body on different ways. To have that is not to read in an article but to go and run on different surfaces and see by ourselves what it works the better, and practice until we can feel with our feet if we’re doing on the best way.

In general, in slippery hard surfaces (ice, wet rock) we will try to apply a vertical force (push down, not in front or to the back) to not glide and short steeps without much weight. On the opposite, on a slippery soft terrain (mud, snow) we can use the glissade to move faster, and then the steeps can be long and with a progressive low to stronger pressure. On hard terrain we will go with the middle or frontfood, in soft terrain (grass, mud, gravel…) we can go with the rearfoot. On crosty terrain, we will go light applying a soft pressure (bending the knees when the contact) but short steep to not let the time to the hard layer to break… Go out and play in different surfaces to see how your body needs to be.

The lenght of the steeps will be also depending the terrain and surface, normally more is technical, shorter are the steeps, with a better vision-feet coordination, to put the feet where and how we exactly want.

Fot that is important the visualisation. Where we put the focus with our eyes. The general rule is to look as far as possible. More we anticipate, faster we can go, but for that we need to memorize the steeps to do until where we have our vision, so more is technical shorter this focus will be. On that technical terrain, the focus should be like changing the car lights. Close-far-close-far rather fast, so we visualize far and we got reminders on what is close to us.

To practice this memorisation of the terrain we can do some exercises. Starting on easyier trails and stop look on the 4-5 steeps in front and memorize the obstacles (rocks, turns…) and then think where we want to put our feet and the lenght and pressure of the steeps: “a short one to the first rock, then a big jump a bit to the right to avoid that other rock, then turning left and short steeps because is slippery… “ And do-it without looking under our feet. Then we can do-it without stoping to think and to look but trying to do the process on our run, and finally a great exercise is to close the eyes for some seconds during our downhills, visualizing what is under our feets on our memory.

To run down we will use all our body, not only the legs but also the arms and head to keep the balance, sometimes opening the arms will make us more stable, on a turn, puting the weight of the body and arms towards where we turn will help us…

Another important skill is the path finding. Train to see from some distance where is easy to go down, more on the right or the left, on a side or other. As a skier is looking to the color of the snow and the shape of the terrain to see where is the easiest snow to ski, we need to do the same while running down. Trying not to look only on our feet but far to anticipate where we are going and the best path. Practicing speed downhill sports as offpist skiing or mountain bike are great training for that.

Last, it is important to get to know our feet. We can put the feet in many different possitions, on the frontfoot, middlefoot on the hill but also on the laterals, external and internal, we can do some steeps without weight just to keep or change the direction. For that it is important to have strong ankles. Propioception work on gym, slackline, walk barefoot and run on unstable terrain are good tools for that.

To finish here some exercises I like to do to improve my downhill running:

  • Close eyes: as explained before. Close the eyes for 3-5 steeps to work the visualisation and memorisation of the terrain.
  • Dancing: while running down, do some 360 turns (doing one steep on our back) clap the hands on our back, move the upper body as dancing or even the legs doing some jumping “Heidi” steeps… To work on our body position, on relaxing the upper body.
  • Follow someone: to run on the steeps of another runner is a good exercise of having fast reflex. be as close as you can run, just a few centimeters apart from the feet of the one in front, to have very little time to react and cut the visualisation and anticipation.
  • Challenge yourself on the terrain, on safe terrains, run as fast as you can until falling, to test different steeps and surfaces.

Here some videos of downhill running in races:

abseiling technique on sugar snow


Some times when we are on mountains we have not the possibility to find a good place for a sure abseiling anchorage. When we have not rocks to place a belay or we have not many equipment we can recourse to other techniques for abseiling or roping down a mate. When is compact snow we can use a ejectable iceaxe VIDEO or a death body VIDEO. but when is soft snow or sugar snow and we can not trust for a belay, we can abseil down a person with only a ice axe following this technique:

– nail the ice axe into the snow vertically.

– put 2 carabiners on the ice axe top hole

– place our foots on the top of the ice axe (with crampons) Attention to put each foot on the iceaxe if we don’t want to lost our procreation capacity! a foot will be on the top of the sheet, the other on the hammer or shovel.

– put the rope from the climber who will go down into the ice axe carabiner, to the harness of climber standing and to the ice axe carabiner again, and holding with the hands, giving rope to take the other climber down.

Captura de pantalla 2015-03-05 a les 12.01.13 Captura de pantalla 2015-03-05 a les 12.02.21

Climbing alone: auto-belay


Is never 100% safe when you speed climb alone but here some techniques to be “safer” when you climb alone and want to have some protection in some meters:

1) 2 daisy or slings. Climb with a harmess with 2 daisy or long slings with one carabinner / cam on each one. On the hard or exposed steeps clip one dasy on the bolts or piton or cam: climb and clip the other higger before unclip the one down.

2) 1 long sling. Take one long sling on the hand, you can envolve the sling around the hand to make shorter. When you arrive to a expose or dificult steep, you can clip the carabinner and when you’re over on a confident place unclip.climb alone 1 climb alone 2 climb alone 3
3) With a rope. Rope fixed to a belay, pass to you harness with a belay plate (Jul, Reverso…) modified Grigri or similar, a specific device (Soloaid, Soloist, Silent Partner…) or knots system (clove hitch, eight loops).
Captura de pantalla 2018-09-22 a les 17.32.15
Captura de pantalla 2018-09-22 a les 17.32.31
Captura de pantalla 2018-09-22 a les 17.32.42

Dry Ski


What to do if you’re skiing down and you have not a rope or you want to save time or to full ski a route? Vivian Bruchez is a master on Dry ski, he develop techniques to down ski (climb) in rocky sections. 1. Back on the rock: when is narrow between rocks, put the back on the rock, searching the maximum friction with the but and the back (backpack) and with the hands climb down. The skis will be with the front part up and the back part down.

dryski 5   dryski 1

If it’s to narrow to have the skis on the snow, it’s ice or it’s to steep to don’t fall with only the back friction we can put the skis on the rock on the front, like climbing a cheminée, trying to find the maximum adherence with the skis (pushing to the rock on front with the skis as flat as possible.

dryski 2

2. Front on the rock: sometimes we will need to enter to the narrow part with the front, in this case we will go with the front part of the body (chest) to find friction and use the hands to climb down. The skis will be with the front part on the down and the back up.

dryski 7

3. Other techniques: when is not a narrow couloir but a rocky section, we will try to down climb using both skis like separate climbing foots (trying to put always on snow sections or flat on the rocks. Have the body as close to the ground possible to have the maximum friction and the hands as down as possible to hold as on down climbing.

dryski 6 dryski 3


a video showing Vivian using the skis and hands (hands and ice axe) to climb down a rocky steep :

ski to crampons to ski


You are skiing down on a couloir and is a too steep part, or completely ice, and you can not ski for some meters? You don’t have the equipment (or time) to make a rappel, here a solution to change ski to climb mode (also can be good if you climb up a couloir and you need to start skiing from a uncomfortable place).

  • Important to hold the ice axe all the time when you’re doing the transition, when you have only one crampon or one ski on the floor.
  • This technique requires experience in extreme skiing and the use of the equipment in uncomfortable situations. Try this technique on some non exposed terrain before using it on more difficult terrain.

How to Climb and Belay Alone a Multipitch Route



Mountain is hazardous.

Rock climbing is dangerous.
Climbing alone is even more dangerous (e.g., Serious Accident.
I use to climb integral solo without belaying, with two gold rules : being able to climb-down every step, and no objective hazard (no stones falling, solid rock).
2008 I decided to test auto-belaying. To climb harder than 5b (my climbing-down limit). And to be able to escape from a high and long route, if my partner was wounded, and if a short section was too difficult for me to climb it alone
The method explained below is not recommended by device makers, and has no safety garanty: if you use it, it is your responsibility. According to a device manufacturer, auto-blocking funtion is made to block the second climber: rope over blocks rope under. However, when a first climber falls, the huge energy will force rope over side-by-side with rope under. The rope-to-rope friction will make rope to melt, and breal..
The ONLY device I think is correct and safe is the Silent Parner, Wren Industries. But it is expensive ($250) and heavy (450g). I do not use auto-belaying frequently enough to buy it, but I think you should.
Grigri is less expensive and lighter, but less safe I guess (see the Grigri solo belay: C2C 2010 in French). See also a tested system with a Grigri plus a Shunt Système Grigri + Shunt Grigri ouvert vu de près + noeud

Well, after this necessary preliminary,let’s explain: To belay I use ATC-guide or Reverso (used as the auto-blocking X, click climber on the left). They are very similar, but for solo belaying, ACT is better. “My” method, explained below, comes from Epicurie, forum C2C 2004 (in French).

1- Clip small loop of ATC or Reverso to the harness with a carabiner
2- Clip a second carabiner to a neck collar (it’s better to make an-8 harness on shoulders, carabiner hanging on the sternum. Leave 3-4 fingers space between carabiners).
3- Clip the second carabiner to the rope loop (out of ACT/Reverso) and the ACT black wire or the large Reverso loop

ACT-solo system (see Reverso system down)
ATC-guide – ATC-guide – ATC-guide

– One rope end is free (the “hand” side on Réverso or ACT). It will flew while you climb (secure the end with a knot)
– The other rope end (the “climber” side on Réverso or ACT) is attached to an anchor at the belay down. If the first steps from the belay are hard, insert a shock absorber or add some rope length for elasticity (tree, anchor below first peg…). Check the autoblocking properties by clipping your rope in a first anchor over your head: when you sit down, rope blocks you.
Reverso system (ACT-guide above)
Reverso – Reverso – Reverso

– When arriving to a new anchor during the climb, pull several times on the rope attached to the belay down there, to free enough length to clip the anchor above. It’s tedious, and much easier to clip the point when you are above it.
– If you fall heads up, it blocks nicely the rope (see pictures above). I did not test it with great falls already. If you fall head down the system does not block the rope (French stroy of an accident on C2C website). To block a head-first fall, make a knot on the main rope below the ACT-guide, and shift it when possible
– This system can use a single large rope, or two thin ropes (more dynamic, but heavier).

ACT-solo system blocking after falling – / – Blocage par le Reverso après une chute
ATC-guide – Reverso solo

Other Autobelaying Solo Systems
– The ONLY device I think is correct and safe is the Silent Parner, Wren Industries. But it is expensive ($250) and heavy (450g).
– With Grigi and rope-man: Solo : Grigi+ropeman /Avranches
– Barnet System (Machard knot + pulley): Solo: Machard+poulie /Olivier Humbert