I have a thief like character, who needs to climb over a wall. No rope, ladder, or other such tools. How would he potentially get over the wall without outside assistance. He needs to leave no trace from a rope, ladder, etc. I was thinking about having him use daggers to stick into the wall and climb, maybe somehow attach them to the fingertips of gloves.

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    $\begingroup$ Use chauk dust. $\endgroup$ – candied_orange Feb 6 '18 at 3:59
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    $\begingroup$ I would just half the size, or double the thickness, if I was to scale them that is. $\endgroup$ – ArtisticPhoenix Feb 6 '18 at 6:05
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    $\begingroup$ While interesting and possibly useful for writers, I don't see how this question is related to WorldBuilding. $\endgroup$ – G0BLiN Feb 6 '18 at 8:30
  • $\begingroup$ Are you scaling the walls in medieval times or is it modern day and you're approaching walls which may not have been kept to a high standard but were built to a more medieval design? $\endgroup$ – Ludo Feb 6 '18 at 10:47
  • $\begingroup$ How about inside assistance? Bribe the guards to open the gates or let down a rope. $\endgroup$ – nzaman Feb 6 '18 at 13:35

Take a look at Alex Honnald.

With the right level of skill, anyone can climb nearly anything. Here's what the Rhodes medieval walls look like in Greece:

enter image description here

As you can see, plenty of hand holds there. But not all walls are going to be the same.

In Spain for instance, there's this:

enter image description here

These walls are worked so that the mortar is even with the stone, so it would be difficult to get a hand hold, and in fact, a lot of the Spanish walls were built this way.

I'd say your climber is going to be able to handle most medieval walls if he's skilled enough, but there's just enough variation that, well, not all walls are created equal.

As Brythan suggested, even then, corners and curves in design can make things easier. None of it is impossible at a high skill level!

You do not want to give your climber gloves with blades on. I have climbed in the past myself and I can tell you that a bare hand is the best tool you can have, along with a pouch of chalk at your belt to keep your hands dry.

One thing I have noticed with novice climbers is this: in general women tend to do better than men. At higher levels guys can outstrip the ladies, but ladies are better to begin with for a couple of reasons.

We don't rely on upper body strength to solve problems. Guys tend to as a default because they HAVE upper body strength, so they make the mistake of using their arms to pull themselves up rather than using their legs to push themselves up. This leads to muscle fatigue fairly quickly. Novice women climbers chose their handholds really carefully as well, thinking things through a few more steps ahead, while the novice guys tend to get cocky and stuck in a bad spot more often. Upper body strength and grip is important but you've really got to choose when you use it and let your legs do most of the work. That way when you really do need the upper body you can use it and your muscles won't be fatigued. Overall, women have less lower body strength than men, but because they rely on it more, to begin with anyway, they are better climbers. At higher levels of skill, men far outstrip the ladies.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Would it not be reasonable to suggest that the walls would normally have been maintained to that high standard and the ones without mortar are just the result of hundreds of years of rot with minimal maintenance? $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Feb 6 '18 at 8:01
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    $\begingroup$ Not sure how the last bit, comparing male and female modern climbers, is of use to answering this question. $\endgroup$ – Ludo Feb 6 '18 at 10:45
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    $\begingroup$ As Seperatix has already mentioned the walls we see today are not as they would have been in the medieval period. Castle walls and similar were protected by rendering them with some kind of protective mortar in the UK lime wash was common. buildingconservation.com/articles/lime-harling/lime-harling.htm This made the surfaces of the walls far smoother and lacking cracks than people expect when they see modern ruins or castles today.The centuries since then, and a Victorian fashion for exposing the stonework means we don't see many castles as they once were. $\endgroup$ – Sarriesfan Feb 6 '18 at 11:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Sarriesfan This is true but there's difference between rough stonework style and smooth walls. There are differing styles of stone work. There can be jagged stonework. The space between might be covered, but the difficulty will vary. Using corners is a way around this. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Feb 7 '18 at 0:28
  • $\begingroup$ Even that smooth Spanish wall is probably climbable, if one chimneys up the angle between the wall and tower (at the far left of the picture). WRT smooth coatings & such, I think you mistake the purpose of a castle. It's not to keep out single climbers sneaking in, but to hold off invading forces. Even a rough, easily-climbable wall is a good defense if you have people on top with sharp pointy things. Not to mention pots of boiling oil and such :-) Then too, the attacking force is likely to be using scaling ladders instead of trying to climb... $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Feb 7 '18 at 2:36

First, most medieval walls are going to be rough enough that a good climber can just climb them. That is to say that they are similar to a cliff face, with enough holds to allow climbing.

Even if we assume that your thief cannot do that. Look for narrow chimney-like spaces created by the fortifications. It's possible to climb those even without handholds. Some tips from rock climbing. The basic idea is to use pressure to maintain height and shift position frequently.

I'm not convinced that knife blades in gloves is what you want. Knife blades in boots makes more sense to me. Carrying actual daggers in one's hands makes more sense to me than trying to put small, breakable blades at the end of one's fingers. Or even better, use picks that are tied to your belt by a slack rope. That said, most rock climbers go the other way and wear thin footwear and thin or fingerless gloves so as to be able to better feel the rocks.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, climbing medieval walls is not going to be a problem, at least judging by the extant examples I've seen. Any reasonably good rock climber should be able to do it. The real problem with medieval walls is that they tend to have folks on the top who stick sharp pointy things in you when your head pops over the wall. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Feb 6 '18 at 4:42
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    $\begingroup$ Weren't many medieval walls/castles coated in a plaster whitewash (that has long since worn away)? So I'd think the exterior surface would actually be fairly smooth. Granted, you could still chip through it but that'd make a lot of noise/mess. Medieval folks were not idiots, if a wall was so rough than anyone could climb over it then they would do something about it. $\endgroup$ – Jason K Feb 6 '18 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ Most medieval walls as they look today are not the same as when they were built and maintained as an active defense. i0.wp.com/travelwithkat.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/… is a more accurate example of how smooth a castle wall could be, and that's before it's further covered in plaster to smooth it even more. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Feb 6 '18 at 16:45

Run up the wall.

Can you run up walls like these freaks?

running up walls

This dude runs up a wall that I estimate to be 20 feet high. I am impressed.

Here is a tutorial on how to do it; this wall running is a parkour move. https://parkour.wonderhowto.com/how-to/do-tricky-wall-up-wall-climb-parkour-move-377108/


Spring Heel Jack style would work, never found a concrete trace of the guy

Just leap over the wall.

Issue 2 cover of 1904 Aldine Spring Heeled Jack Library

  • $\begingroup$ Mst medical fortifications had walls higher than the 10ft walls Spring Heeled Jackmwas said to be able to jump over, besides which it's debatable as to if he was real or a case of mass hysteria. $\endgroup$ – Sarriesfan Feb 6 '18 at 11:31

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