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In this new fantasy setting I'm building, then after getting the tectonic plates and their movements covered, I've found that the land would be very mountainous, plus numerous valleys, and the islands would be mostly just oceanic mountains and volcanoes. There are of course many plainer lands that aren't mountainous, but the majority of the land is just mountain and valley.

With this in mind, then humans--just assuming humans would still evolve with a little handwavium I'm sure won't overly offend--would likely need to evolve to be better climbers than earth humans, at the expense of a little of their sprinting abilities. But what adaptions would be most important for that, and still be viable for a human species?

What I've come up with so far are grip strength and upper body strength, more dexterous feet, and possibly less need for a lower center of gravity. Have I got it on the mark, or should there be some other things to consider?

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    $\begingroup$ ((I assume that you mean "tree" climbers. If you mean "rock" climbers then I simply don't understand what big animal is even comparable with us.) For animals of our size, humans are exceptionally good climbers. We are less good at climbing trees than our kissing cousins the chimpanzees, but they are about half as heavy as us. We are about as good at climbing trees as our second cousins the gorillas, maybe even a little better. And a human with increased upper body strength and more dexterous feet is basically an overgrown chimpanzee; chimpanzees are not known for their glorious civilizations. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Nov 1 '18 at 20:57
  • $\begingroup$ I was speaking more in terms of mountain and cliff climbing. It's 100% possible that trees and other plants will grow on these mountains, of course, though I doubt that trees that grow up sheer mountains and cliff faces would be a super viable manner of navigating mountains when hunting or gathering. $\endgroup$ – Dead Knight Nov 1 '18 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, and what animal comparable with our size is better at climbing rocks and has comparable endurance? The specific adaptation of Homo sapiens, back when we were still ordinary animals, is endurance. We are uncontested champions at long distance running, long time working, following long plans, focusing our attention on a problem for a long time. We are the relentless pursuers. In order to adapt for endurance we had to shed a lot of muscle mass and reduce the density of muscular fibers, so that we can carry on running or working or climbing and remain in aerobic mode. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Nov 1 '18 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP I used to have a Roborovski hamster, and pound for pound, it would have completely obliterated me (an avid runner myself) in distance running :) $\endgroup$ – Alexander Nov 1 '18 at 22:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Alexander: Ah the joy of weighing 20 grams... $\endgroup$ – AlexP Nov 1 '18 at 22:40
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One of the best adaptations for climbing is simply length of arms and legs (arms may or may not be necessary depending on the type of climbing). For example, my daughter was a great climber when she was younger and loved those huge indoor rock walls, as well as outdoor climbing. But she was limited because of her size (not only was she young but she was small for her age). Technique and strength and tiny little hands and feet can only take you so far.

When you climb, you have a better chance of success if you have more hand and foot holds to choose from. If your arms and legs reach further, you have more choices of where to put them. It's that simple. And obviously this is an easy evolutionary adaptation.

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I'm thinking a bit lighter, perhaps the ability to flatten the body a bit for jumping and "gliding" (syndactyly of the fingers and toes, perhaps one across lat muscles and upper part of the arm????), perhaps better oxygen management for higher altitudes, in fact maybe more hair covering if it's colder. Eye sight improvements to see detail across great distances?

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At this point I admit that I'm occasionally a climber. I'm not the best climber, but one of the things I notice holding me back is that, what with years of competitive kayaking, I'm a fairly big chap. It's one of those square cube rule games, for my increased height and weight I have to be disproportionately stronger. The good climbers tend to be much smaller and leaner.

  • Reduced average weight by 30% - 50%, height can go down without much penalty to achieve this.

Balance is the next thing that's a big issue. While we have our techniques like flagging to maintain balance, an extra limb would come in very handy, perhaps:

  • A prehensile tail, good for balance, useful for a little extra support.

Climbing prolonged overhangs is also difficult, your feet tend to slip off and it's really quite awkward. You can wear more aggressive shoes but they're uncomfortable and I'm too old and casual for that sort of thing.

  • Prehensile feet, with full ankle rotation so you can just climb down head down and see where you're going.

I seem to have described a fairly bright monkey.

Humans have evolved to run across the plains, if you need to keep them in the trees then you might as well start with monkeys. In practice as already mentioned, humans are quite good climbers. The most important factor may be to make them smaller as weight really is a problem.

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Humans are already very good climbers, how to make them better is going to to depend no how you want them to be better and how much you are willing to change them. Really tool use can make for very good climbers once humans can make rope everything else id details.

To be slow low risk climbers humans are pretty good. You would want to make the fingernails more claw-like although not too much to grip smaller cracks or ledges. Stronger hands will help although making them larger will not, longer hands help chimps because they are climbing trees which have round branches, also if you change human hands very much tool use will suffer.

Make the feet more handlike, the heel is very bad for climbing, preferably they will be able to rotate much more as well, imagine being able to flip your food around the way you can your hand.

The biggest place we suffer is in climbing downwards, we suck at that. A longer neck will help a lot (although then you want to add a tail for counter balance because our heads are heavy), we have a much harder time climbing down because we have a hard time seeing down in the direction we are going while climbing.

If you want something more like mountain goats and mountain cats, fast moving, you have a much harder time, humans are really bad at that. Quadrupedal is much better than bipedal for distributing forces when moving fast and non-linear on rough terrain. They need to be able to generate strong forces and absorb the impact of long drops, we are too top heavy, our legs are too weak, and too much stress is pushed through the legs and back, so you need to make those stronger without making them heavier.

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Hugh Herr is a double amputee who lost his legs. He wears prosthetics when he goes rock climbing. According to Forbes:

Herr swaps his feet out to suit his needs. He generally walks on flat carbon-fiber springs inside his shoes but sometimes replaces them with longer carbon bows for jogging. When he goes rock climbing–often scaling cliffs of expert-level difficulty – he switches to one of multiple pairs of climbing legs he’s built himself, including small, rubber feet on aluminum poles that stretch his height beyond 7 feet, spiked aluminum claws that replace crampons for ice climbing or tapered polyethylene hatchets that wedge into crevices.

Height is important because it gives you more reach. The other adaptations mentioned abobe can be achieved by turning nails into ever longer, stronger claws (like a velociraptor's), adapted to act as crampons and hatchets.

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