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How It Works: The Rose Move

Learn the history and technique behind the climbing world's most infamous crossover: the rose move.

The first time I came across a rose move, I had no idea what a rose move was. Why would I? You almost never hear people shouting out “ROSE!” to their friends in need of beta. You never see climbers practicing it like they would a lockoff or a dyno. But the rose move is a technique you should know–and one steeped in history.


The term “rose” was first applied to this move by legendary French sport climber Antoine Le Menestrel. With all the characteristics of a healthy sibling rivalry, he and younger brother Marc helped revolutionize sport climbing at Buoux (also called “the Laboratory”), the famed limestone crag in southern France, by establishing countless routes at the pinnacle of the grading scale.

‍Antoine Le Menestrel executing his famous rose move. Image courtesy Mammut-rockclimbing.ch

One of Antoine’s routes, a 5.13d named La Rose et la Vampire, brought the rose move into the limelight. Well known for his propensity to chisel holds into the rock, Antoine literally created the now-famous move using hand tools. What would now be considered an unethical practice was once commonplace at Buoux in the 1980’s. And, despite its status as “manufactured,” the route is one of the most coveted 5.13d’s on the planet.

In an article written for Climbing Magazine, author Jim Thornburg describes how “in 1986, Antoine applied his ‘artistic’ talents to his masterpiece...purposely chiseling the route to require an elegant, twisting, cross-body reach.” In a quote from Matt Samet’s Climbing Dictionary, Le Menestrel himself explains the reason for naming the movement after a rose, noting how it “opens itself up like a rose petal and offers itself to the gaze of spectators.”


What It Is

The rose move is essentially a specialized crossing technique. But it’s more than simply crossing one hand under the other. It involves refined lower-body technique and, typically, a longer distance to cover between holds.

In the photo above, notice the two aspects I mentioned above: first, the distance between the starting hold (left hand) and the destination hold (right hand); second, the big dropknee I have with my right leg. Drop-knees are crucial to well-executed rose moves, so study up on your dropknee technique before you dive in.

How To Do It

While you could say it’s just a “big crossover,” the rose move should be viewed as a series of fluid motions. To practice, I recommend finding 3-4 jug holds on a slightly overhanging wall, each 2-3 feet apart and preferably along a horizontal line (see the photo above or video below for reference). Make sure the wall you choose is overhung––or dead vertical, at most––to ensure your shoulders and legs have space to move around. As I mentioned above, one of the most important aspects of the rose move is the dropknee (also known as a “backstep”), so find well-spaced, sizeable foot holds.

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In the video below, notice how I transfer my body through the movement. I start by positioning my feet with a left-leg drop-knee, which I engage as I cross my hand through to the next hold. I then pull the left-hand hold across my chest, bending my right arm in turn, while swiveling my legs around into a right-leg drop-knee to complete the motion.


Although the purpose of the rose move is to move your hands between holds, the primary action occurs in the legs and hips. Executing a fluid rose move requires you to swivel your toes and hips between opposing drop-knees, which take most of your weight off your hands. This is especially important when executing a rose move between bad hand holds. Drop-knees and loose hips are critical for staying balanced and transferring your weight through the move, so hone your footwork!

Why It Matters

I prefaced this article by noting how rare the rose move is. That being said, you will almost certainly encounter it someday. You might find yourself pulling a rose move at the gym, crossing your arm so far under the other that you’re facing your friends behind you. Maybe one day you’ll climb La Rose et le Vampire, channeling your inner Frenchman. Either way, be on the safe side and learn how to rose move. Plus, you get major style points every time you pull it off.

Got anything to add? Hit us up in the comments!

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