BETA BOARD from Escape Climbing – Hangboard Review

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BETA BOARD from Escape Climbing - Introduction

Escape Climbing was founded in 2006 by Ryan Angelo, a climbing enthusiast who needed holds for the woodie he'd built in his barn - so he decided to make his own. Since then, the company has been enjoying considerable success and sells not only holds but also wall supplies, all sorts of climbing accessories, T-shirts, and most importantly, hangboards [1]!

Early this year, Ryan very kindly asked me to try out what I think is one of Escape Climbing's most iconic products - the BETA BOARD. Detroit Rock Climbing Company originally developed the BETA BOARD design (DRCC) somewhere around 2011, at least that's when the majority of reviews and discussions around the board date back to [2][3][4]. Back then, it was named the V5.12 Hangboard, a clever way of saying that it's suitable for both boulderers and sport climbers around the V5 and 5.12 levels, which is around 6C/+ and 7a+/c in Font and French scales.

In 2017 Escape Climbing purchased the design and changed its name to BETA BOARD. Over the years, this characteristic fingerboard with a futuristic look resembling a sci-fi work of art has acquired legendary status. So let's dive in and see if the BETA BOARD lives up to its reputation!

Video 1: BETA BOARD from Escape Climbing – test video [5].

BETA BOARD - Individual hold description

Although the BETA BOARD looks minimalistic at first glance, it offers a good variety of training holds. The hangboard is divided into four training zones: pinch, incut, flat, and sloper, moving from the outside towards the inside, as shown in Figure 1. The difficulty increases from top to bottom across three levels in each zone, making the board easy to navigate. Let's now take a closer look at each specific hold.

BETA BOARD Hold Layout

Figure 1: BETA BOARD hold layout.

Hold 1: Thin Pinch

I practically don't use this position. Mainly because your hand rests against the wider bottom part of the pinch grip when you hold it. In addition, you can let go with your thumbs, and you'll likely still be able to hang on by compressing the board with your shoulders.

Hold 2: Wide Pinch

When it comes to pinch training, this is my favorite position. What's important is that it doesn't allow you to let go with your thumbs by compressing the holds with your hands from the sides. That ensures that your pinch grip is always fully engaged. You can experiment and grab the holds only partly or leave some fingers out to make it harder.

Hold 3: 38 mm (1-1/2") Mini-Jug

Great for doing pull-ups, warming up, and for some beginner endurance training drills or BFR.

Hold 4: 29 mm (1-1/8") Incut Jug

That's an unusual and versatile hold. On the one hand, you could use it as a shallower jug, but I find it helpful in developing 2-finger strength because of its varying depth.

Hold 5: 12 mm (1/2") Incut Edge

I think that all the holds in Row 3 will pose quite a challenge on a V5 climber, and the Incut Edge is the easiest one. Although it's 12 mm deep, the way it's incut and textured slightly reduces its active surface. I don't think I would dare to use it for heavy MaxHangs, but it's excellent for Density Hangs, any kind of Repeaters, or BFR protocols at reduced body weight. It also works well with Emil Abrahamsson's protocol. Just remember to chalk up before you hang because it does get a bit slippery.

Hold 6: 38 mm (1-1/2") Flat Edge

It's an easy flat edge that you can use for all kinds of endurance drills and pull-ups.

Hold 7: 29 mm (1-1/8") Flat Edge

That's one of my favorite and most versatile holds. For a V5 climber, it'll work well with pretty much any protocol, including Density Hangs, MaxHangs, Bechtel's Ladders, and Repeaters. Advanced climbers may use it as a rest hold when doing endurance drills. You can grab it using half-crimp, full-crimp, and open-hand positions.

Hold 8: 12 mm (1/2") Flat Edge

This one is pretty tough! But if you're into improving your open hand positions, I think this hold could be pretty helpful. Just as Hold 5, it can get pretty slick if your fingers are sweaty.

Hold 9: 50 mm (2") Sloper Edge

This easy sloper is best used for assisted one-arm hangs. When you hold it with both hands, your thumbs get too close together, which is awkward and carries the risk of a shoulder injury.

Hold 10: 31 mm (1-1/4") Sloper Edge

Medium difficulty sloper best used for assisted one-arm hangs for the same reasons as explained for Hold 9.

Hold: 11 mm (1/2") Sloper Edge

This hold is excellent for training open hand finger strength. However, I think it can be pretty tricky even for V5 boulderers unless they specialize in fingery climbing. As with the two other slopers, the hands come close together, but there's a bit more room in this case. And because you're unlikely to use heavy loads, the risk of shoulder injury is also more negligible.

Training two finger pocket finger strength on the BETA BOARDS

Figure 2: Training two finger pocket strength on the BETA BOARD Hold 7.

Reversed orientation

Since the BETA BOARD has a gritty texture both at the upper and bottom surface of the holds, one might get the impression that you could get an entirely different board if you put it upside down. But, unfortunately, that's not truly the case. If you reverse the board, the pinches become practically unusable. In addition, since the bottom rows are now the widest, the top row is inaccessible. Of course, you might use the middle row if you absolutely want to, and the bottom row is fine, but it doesn't differ much from the original setting, so reversing the board is not worth the trouble, in my opinion.

I've not seen a board geared toward the V5/5.12 climber that is more friendly, more effective, or nicer looking.

K. Hampton

BETA BOARD vs. Moon Fingerboard

When it comes to comparisons, I think that the BETA BOARD would be the most similar to the classic Moon Fingerboard. In general, the BETA BOARD is more accessible and more versatile. In addition, it offers a wide variety of easy holds that are great for novices and for doing endurance training drills. The Moon Fingerboard is a bit better suited for sloper training, although the big middle sloper suffers from a similar issue as the slopers on the BETA BOARD - it's pretty narrow. The secondary pair of slopers on the Moon Fingerboard is just sick hard - it took me quite a while to realize that you could even use them for training!

As far as crimp training is concerned, I like the Moon Fingerboard better, but again, the Moon edges are too small for a beginner climber. The BETA BOARD is better for 2-finger training because it has a much wider assortment of holds to choose from, plus it includes variable depth edges, which let your double digits nestle neatly. I also very much appreciate the dual texture of the BETA BOARD. The holds are rough but skin-friendly at the same time. In contrast, after several years of training, the Moon Fingerboard can get a bit worn out and slippery. Finally, the BETA BOARD incorporates pinches that are very useful for all sorts of training routines.

In Table 1 below, you will find my subjective comparison between the two boards. I think they're both great, but each has its pros and cons.

 BETA BOARD Moon Fingerboard
Endurance Training
Slopers
Crimps
Open hand
Pinches
Double dynos
Texture
Difficulty
Presentation

Plastic vs. wooden hangboards

The hangboard is an indispensable tool in training for climbing. In essence, we may divide hangboards into wooden and plastic. Both types have their pros and cons. Wooden boards usually comprise sets of simple edges and pockets that may vary in depths and edge radius. That makes them great for standardization purposes, and the Lattice Rung, with its heinous 20 mm edge with a 10 mm radius, is probably the most widely used hold for MVC measurements [6].

On the other hand, plastic boards usually offer a wide variety of hold shapes that mimic pockets, pinches, and sharp crimps that you're likely to encounter when climbing natural rock. However, textured resin is not as skin-friendly as wood. That doesn't necessarily have to be a disadvantage when you aim to toughen your fingertips in preparation for the climbing season [7]. Still, if your skin gets folded on a sharp hold edge, that may lead to a flapper and prevent you from training for the next few days. The BETA BOARD solves this issue with its unique dual texture. That means that the active part of the hold is rough, and the edges are smooth and glossy. That way, your skin doesn't get caught on the hold edges, and the risk of getting a flapper is significantly reduced, allowing you to always give your 100% to the workout [3]. Plus, it looks way cool.

Wooden boards are typically a better choice in the summer months when the temperatures are high, the air is humid, and the fingers get sweaty. Wood absorbs some of the moisture from the hands, limiting the formation of a slick grimy film on the hold surface. Still, the gritty texture of the BETA BOARD makes it possible to train in such conditions effectively. The situation is reversed during the winter. If you train in a garage or a barn, you know that wooden hangboards become as slippery as glass when it gets cold. That's the time of the year when plastic comes in handy.

One final thing to consider is the price - plastic hangboards are less expensive, so if you're on a tight budget, you might want to take this into account.

BETA BOARD - Review summary

The BETA BOARD from Escape Climbing is an excellent option for beginners and intermediates. It has a skin-friendly texture, and a large variety of moderate difficulty holds to choose from. However, it will also work well for honed boulderers, as it has a row of small 12 mm holds. The difficulty can be increased by mounting the board on a small overhang or adding thin spacers to decrease the edge depths, as explained by Kris Hampton in his review [2].

I think that for advanced hangboard training aficionados, no board can replace a simple 20 mm wooden edge, but the BETA BOARD can serve as a reliable secondary unit. Still, beginner to intermediate climbers will find it to be an outstanding primary choice, particularly if they're into endurance training.

Initially, I planned to write the review and mount my trusty Moon Fingerboard back in its place, but on second thought - I'm keeping the BETA BOARD for another training cycle!

References

  1. escapeclimbing.com (link)
  2. K. Hampton, Power Company Climbing - Review: V5.12 Hangboard from Detroit Rock Climbing Company, Mar. 26, 2011. (link)
  3. Will S., Mountain Project - Review: DRCC V512 Hangboard, Mar. 26, 2011. (link)
  4. www.youtube.com, Detroit Rock Climbing Company - V5.12 Hangboard, May 19, 2011. (link)
  5. BETA BOARD from Escape Climbing – test video, Nov. 29, 2021. (link)
  6. Lattice Testing and Training Rung - latticetraining.com (link)
  7. Weber N., NinjjaWarriorX - The 6 Best Hangboards for Beginners in 2021 (Buyer’s Guide To Finger Strength), Feb. 02, 2021. (link)
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