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Advice to the beginning trad leader around falling - don't
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Partner cracklover


May 18, 2012, 8:53 AM
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Advice to the beginning trad leader around falling - don't
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In another thread, a poster asked this question:

ecade wrote:
I'm very new to trad, i've done 15 leads, I've finally started testing my pieces while on lead with takes and bounce tests and so far its all holding. Was planning on taking a lead fall on a piece (found a route that has bolts and a good crack thought that would be a good testing place, back up placement with bolt... thoughts welcome to this approach)

It's an important topic worth discussing, so rather than burying it on page 4 of a thread about something else, I'm responding here.

Ecade - I know you're working on aid climbing too. My advice is to keep your aid climbing and your free climbing separate. There are a number of reasons I hope you'll consider this.

1 - When trad climbing, the objective is to climb cleanly from bottom to top, placing gear as you go. This is a mindset that requires a great deal of focus, and a number of techniques that are specific to the discipline, as opposed to what you might do when sport climbing. These are habits of mind that need to be trained, just like physical techniques. Get in the habit of falling and weighting pieces, and you're creating the wrong mindset.

2 - As a new leader, some of the gear you think is bomber probably isn't. This is true for *all* trad leaders, but more so for the n00b.

3 - The place to practice bouncing on gear is 1 - On the ground, where you'll fall six inches if the piece blows, or 2 - On an aid climb, where you'll fall six feet in overhanging terrain. On a free climb, where the gear is placed much less frequently than an aid climb, and there is usually much more to hit (all those lovely free-climbing holds and ledges) a fall can be much more dangerous.

4 - There is a trend these days born of the fear than is inherent in trad climbing. I'll see if I can explain it. It goes something like this:
- Leading trad is scary.
- Fear is uncomfortable.
- People don't like being uncomfortable.
- Therefore, people look for techniques to minimize or eliminate the fear.
- New leaders are told to practice falling to gain trust in their gear.
- This does a nice job in minimizing or eliminating the fear of falling on gear.

This is the wrong approach. The whole point of it is wrong. The fear one feels trad climbing is entirely appropriate. Gear fails, and falls have consequences. Not every time, or even most times, but eventually. And some people get unlucky, and that first real fall is the last one they take. Don't test your luck, and don't train yourself to feel that testing your luck is a good thing. An old saying in trad climbing is that you've got to fill up your bag of tricks before your bag of luck runs out.

Instead of training yourself to minimize your fear, you should be training yourself to live with it and manage it. This is a much longer process, and more uncomfortable, so it's kind of out of fashion these days. But it's really not complex, and people have been doing it a long time. The technique is as follows: Work your way up through the grades, placing lots of good gear. And when the opportunity arises, follow more experienced trad leaders. Eventually, you will gain an appropriate level of confidence, know what you can do, and how to do it, and will start pushing your limits. Then falls will start happening, and if you're doing things right, they'll be happening in appropriate circumstances (right gear, right terrain, etc).

Of course you will do what seems best to you, but I hope you'll consider the above.

Cheers!

GO


ecade


May 18, 2012, 9:05 AM
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Thank you for this very well reasoned, well articulated and insightful post. I have unpacked my trad rack, it will be a sport only weekend, besides its Rumney this weekend!!!

You hit the nail on the hand with your logical argument for fear, and yes I would say I was looking for the "easier option" of extricating rather than managing fear. And I'd certainly agree much of the mentality is from sport climbing.

If rock climbing.com always had replies like the one you gave it would be an even better website and forum than it currently is.

Thank you for your time and wisdom and of course I'm always interested in other similarly experienced opinions and views


Partner rgold


May 18, 2012, 10:02 AM
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I think Gabe totally nailed it.

The only thing I'd add is that trad climbing is risky in a way that sport and gym climbing are not. When trad climbing was the only form of climbing, those who were put off by the risks never got into it at all. But now we have genres of climbing that have very little risk, and so people are attracted to climbing who wouldn't have been before.

So nowadays when people transition to trad climbing from the gym and sport genres, it is important for them to understand that they are embarking on a more dangerous form of the activity, and that in addition to learning new skills, significant changes in mental attitudes are called for, and nonchalance about falling is most definitely one of them.

I'd also emphasize that this is a transition that does not have to be made, the world is fully supplied with sport climbs, although it is true that the Northeast is not. Making this transition is a choice. Be sure you understand what you are getting into.


billl7


May 18, 2012, 10:03 AM
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ecade wrote:
... of course I'm always interested in other similarly experienced opinions and views
Not much to add except I agree with Gabe. Fear needs to be accepted and managed for the reality it may reflect, not cajoled out of the picture.


JimTitt


May 18, 2012, 10:24 AM
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Well put.
Nice you also mention the objective is actually to climb to the top, people dogging trad routes gets on my nerves and that includes the stars, ground up onsight all the way!


jomagam


May 18, 2012, 11:43 AM
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Re: [cracklover] Advice to the beginning trad leader around falling - don't [In reply to]
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cracklover wrote:
Instead of training yourself to minimize your fear, you should be training yourself to live with it and manage it. This is a much longer process, and more uncomfortable, so it's kind of out of fashion these days. But it's really not complex, and people have been doing it a long time. The technique is as follows: Work your way up through the grades, placing lots of good gear. And when the opportunity arises, follow more experienced trad leaders. Eventually, you will gain an appropriate level of confidence, know what you can do, and how to do it, and will start pushing your limits. Then falls will start happening, and if you're doing things right, they'll be happening in appropriate circumstances (right gear, right terrain, etc).

Are you arguing that it's wrong to test in a controlled environment if a piece you placed is as bomber as you think ? I'm thinking about both clipping the bolts and placing gear in an unnecessarily bolted route, then taking a fall.


Partner robdotcalm


May 18, 2012, 12:12 PM
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Excellent post. Good advice.

It brings to mind an incident that happened ~30 years ago. A student at a local university was having a hard time learning to lead because of his fear of falling (heights?). He went to the university health center to see a psychologist about it. He told her he got scared when he was 50' up a steep wall looking down. She told him: you're normal; there's nothing I can do to help you overcome this fear; if there were something I could do, I would refuse to do it, since doing so would be unethical.

Cheers,
Rob.calm


patto


May 18, 2012, 12:13 PM
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Fear is good. Fear keeps me alive.


olderic


May 18, 2012, 12:47 PM
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Taking "safe" controlled falls is a fundamental drill emphasized in the Warrior's Way and other things of that ilk. Lots of folds swear by it. Also some (not lots but some) folks get hurt doing it. If it is what floats your boat go for it. Personally I think if your goal is trad then you'd be better off training to not let go and learning how to down climb. If you feel the need to validate your placements just do it close to the ground as has been previously mentioned - safer, quicker and more efficient.


(This post was edited by olderic on May 18, 2012, 1:46 PM)


trenchdigger


May 18, 2012, 1:28 PM
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Nice post. I couldn't agree more.

It bothers me when new leaders tell me they try not to think about falling when they're leading. It's important to ALWAYS think about falling. You need to constantly know the likelihood of a fall and know the consequences should you take one. If that balance of those exceeds what you're willing to accept, it's time to down-climb/bail.

Rational fear is a good thing. It helps keep you safe. Irrational fear that may hold back your climbing progression will fade with experience and knowledge.

Practicing falls as ecade suggests may succeed in reducing his level of fear while climbing. Unfortunately, in the process, he'll also be conditioning himself to believe that falls on gear are safe and OK. That's frequently not the case.

Rather than training yourself to deal with fear, train yourself to recognize fear that's driven by actual risk and fear that is not. Differentiating the two will help minimize the irrational fear while your rational fears keep you safe.


jomagam


May 18, 2012, 1:50 PM
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trenchdigger wrote:
Rather than training yourself to deal with fear, train yourself to recognize fear that's driven by actual risk and fear that is not. Differentiating the two will help minimize the irrational fear while your rational fears keep you safe.

One component of actual risk is how much you can trust your pieces. That's why I don't get why many in this thread frown on safe practice falls. Of course you can get overconfident, but that's your problem that you drew the wrong conclusions from your experiment.


redlude97


May 18, 2012, 1:58 PM
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jomagam wrote:
trenchdigger wrote:
Rather than training yourself to deal with fear, train yourself to recognize fear that's driven by actual risk and fear that is not. Differentiating the two will help minimize the irrational fear while your rational fears keep you safe.

One component of actual risk is how much you can trust your pieces. That's why I don't get why many in this thread frown on safe practice falls. Of course you can get overconfident, but that's your problem that you drew the wrong conclusions from your experiment.
I think BD determined that 1/10 "good placements" will still fail. Taking unnecessary falls is up to you, but they aren't required to determine a good piece


bearbreeder


May 18, 2012, 2:06 PM
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Eliminate fear of falling. Fear of falling is a natural instinct. It should remain for
good reason where the fall is genuinely dangerous due to poor gear or other
hazards that make a ground fall possible. But most of us are crippled by a fear
of falling per se, even though many falling situations are very safe. Taking safe
falls because you have pushed yourself to your physical limit is essential if you
want to reach anywhere near your potential. This irrational fear of safe falls
only exists because of unfamiliarity. You must break the cycle by practising
safe falls regularly. Donít shirk form this Ė there is no other way! Start off on
bolts, with progressively bigger falls and then progress to trad climbs where
the gear is unquestionable and backed up. Youíll need to do it often, not as a
once off. The mind needs to be constantly reminded that safe falls are safe to
avoid slipping back into a cycle of fear.


from how to climb hard trad by dave macleod ...


SylviaSmile


May 18, 2012, 2:20 PM
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bearbreeder wrote:
Eliminate fear of falling. Fear of falling is a natural instinct. It should remain for
good reason where the fall is genuinely dangerous due to poor gear or other
hazards that make a ground fall possible. But most of us are crippled by a fear
of falling per se, even though many falling situations are very safe. Taking safe
falls because you have pushed yourself to your physical limit is essential if you
want to reach anywhere near your potential. This irrational fear of safe falls
only exists because of unfamiliarity. You must break the cycle by practising
safe falls regularly. Donít shirk form this Ė there is no other way! Start off on
bolts, with progressively bigger falls and then progress to trad climbs where
the gear is unquestionable and backed up. Youíll need to do it often, not as a
once off. The mind needs to be constantly reminded that safe falls are safe to
avoid slipping back into a cycle of fear.


from how to climb hard trad by dave macleod ...

I could see this being one way to get over the fear, but couldn't another way be simply to take a deep breath and step over the fear as best you can? Because reinforcing "it's safe to take this fall" as a way of managing fear doesn't prepare you for the situations "where the fall is genuinely dangerous"--what do you do if fear strikes then? It seems like you'd be mentally unprepared to deal with "I must not fall but I am not going to freak out about that fact" if you've gotten in the habit of taking practice falls. I obviously speak from zero experience.


notapplicable


May 18, 2012, 2:38 PM
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bearbreeder wrote:
Eliminate fear of falling. Fear of falling is a natural instinct. It should remain for
good reason where the fall is genuinely dangerous due to poor gear or other
hazards that make a ground fall possible. But most of us are crippled by a fear
of falling per se, even though many falling situations are very safe. Taking safe
falls because you have pushed yourself to your physical limit is essential if you
want to reach anywhere near your potential. This irrational fear of safe falls
only exists because of unfamiliarity. You must break the cycle by practising
safe falls regularly. Donít shirk form this Ė there is no other way! Start off on
bolts, with progressively bigger falls and then progress to trad climbs where
the gear is unquestionable and backed up. Youíll need to do it often, not as a
once off. The mind needs to be constantly reminded that safe falls are safe to
avoid slipping back into a cycle of fear.


from how to climb hard trad by dave macleod ...

You will, of course, notice that the title of his book is not "Advice for new trad leaders"


sandstone


May 18, 2012, 2:41 PM
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bearbreeder wrote:
[..] This irrational fear of safe falls only exists because of unfamiliarity. You must break the cycle by practising safe falls regularly. Donít shirk form this Ė there is no other way! [..] from how to climb hard trad by dave macleod ...

If the context is that of an expert pushing his limits, then that is relevant. In the context of a new trad leader, it's bad advice.


bandycoot


May 18, 2012, 2:48 PM
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notapplicable wrote:
bearbreeder wrote:
Eliminate fear of falling. Fear of falling is a natural instinct. It should remain for
good reason where the fall is genuinely dangerous due to poor gear or other
hazards that make a ground fall possible. But most of us are crippled by a fear
of falling per se, even though many falling situations are very safe. Taking safe
falls because you have pushed yourself to your physical limit is essential if you
want to reach anywhere near your potential. This irrational fear of safe falls
only exists because of unfamiliarity. You must break the cycle by practising
safe falls regularly. Donít shirk form this Ė there is no other way! Start off on
bolts, with progressively bigger falls and then progress to trad climbs where
the gear is unquestionable and backed up. Youíll need to do it often, not as a
once off. The mind needs to be constantly reminded that safe falls are safe to
avoid slipping back into a cycle of fear.


from how to climb hard trad by dave macleod ...

You will, of course, notice that the title of his book is not "Advice for new trad leaders"

Yeah, I totally agree. Hard trad climbing is like hard sport climbing. It's often steep with nothing to hit on the way down. If you have good gear, you place two and running it out isn't dangerous. Dave MacLeod's quote, while insightful and helpful for those trying to climb HARD trad is not necessarily applicable to this thread which does say "beginning trad leader" in the title.

Josh


bearbreeder


May 18, 2012, 3:25 PM
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i am not advocating beginners go out and fall on gear ... but at some point you WILL fall on gear ... and the only way to know if itll hold is experience of previous falls ... even placing "bomber" gear on the ground doesnt mean it or the rock will hold ... its all theoretical till you take an actual fall

the trick IMO for someone who knows what they are doing is knowing where it is safe to fall and where it aint ...

if you dont want to fall ... then dont climb ... anyone, experienced or newbs can fall on even the easiest ground

there are 3 ways around it IMO

- place solid pro ... a lot of pro ... you can still get hurt or die

- become a stronger climber ... mentally and physically ... which you cant really do if you are shaking everytime you get a few feet above yr last piece because you are afraid of falls

- wuss out with yr tail between yr legs ... of which there is nothing wrong with and is sometimes the wise decision

as for beginners ... make sure yr gear is solid (which you wont know unless someone who can hopefully tell follows you up yr climbs and sometimes not even then unless theres a fall), get strong on TR as much as possible on the climbs, and eventually you WILL have to take the risk of leading and falling

fear can kill you as much as lack of fear can ... just watch someone with elvis legs on a lead .. they are more likely to fall and get hurt than someone who climbs it with more confidence


(This post was edited by bearbreeder on May 18, 2012, 3:26 PM)


trenchdigger


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jomagam wrote:
trenchdigger wrote:
Rather than training yourself to deal with fear, train yourself to recognize fear that's driven by actual risk and fear that is not. Differentiating the two will help minimize the irrational fear while your rational fears keep you safe.

One component of actual risk is how much you can trust your pieces. That's why I don't get why many in this thread frown on safe practice falls. Of course you can get overconfident, but that's your problem that you drew the wrong conclusions from your experiment.

Maybe it's the engineer in me, but I've never found it very difficult to assess the quality of a placement. To those that it doesn't come natural to, practice with someone experienced and have them review your placements. Really, the physics is simple.

The most unpredictable factor in the strength of a placement is the rock quality. Still, experience and careful assessment will tell you a lot about that too.

Another poster mentions an unreferenced "BD study" that claims 1 in 10 "good" placements fail. In 9 years of climbing (mostly gear protected) and probably 2-3 dozen lead falls, probably about the same number of hangs on gear, countless anchors, and even a little simple/basic aid, I've NEVER had a placement fail under load in any of those situations.


patto


May 19, 2012, 7:04 AM
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trenchdigger wrote:
It bothers me when new leaders tell me they try not to think about falling when they're leading. It's important to ALWAYS think about falling.

I think you've hit the nail on the head there on what bothers me about some new leaders. I've seen people take a blase attitude toward leading. One girl I know shattered her ankle in a small trad fall. I doubt that she ever thought about falling and the possible consequences.


trenchdigger wrote:
jomagam wrote:
trenchdigger wrote:
Rather than training yourself to deal with fear, train yourself to recognize fear that's driven by actual risk and fear that is not. Differentiating the two will help minimize the irrational fear while your rational fears keep you safe.

One component of actual risk is how much you can trust your pieces. That's why I don't get why many in this thread frown on safe practice falls. Of course you can get overconfident, but that's your problem that you drew the wrong conclusions from your experiment.

Maybe it's the engineer in me, but I've never found it very difficult to assess the quality of a placement. To those that it doesn't come natural to, practice with someone experienced and have them review your placements. Really, the physics is simple.

The most unpredictable factor in the strength of a placement is the rock quality. Still, experience and careful assessment will tell you a lot about that too.

Another poster mentions an unreferenced "BD study" that claims 1 in 10 "good" placements fail. In 9 years of climbing (mostly gear protected) and probably 2-3 dozen lead falls, probably about the same number of hangs on gear, countless anchors, and even a little simple/basic aid, I've NEVER had a placement fail under load in any of those situations.
Completely agree. Also an engineer.

That BD study worries me, the conclusions that it draws is poor science. Pieces don't fail with a random probability. The physics and engineering of climbing gear is well known and understood. A good piece in good rock won't fail.


Partner rgold


May 19, 2012, 10:06 AM
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patto wrote:
That BD study worries me, the conclusions that it draws is poor science. Pieces don't fail with a random probability. The physics and engineering of climbing gear is well known and understood. A good piece in good rock won't fail.

I disagree. Saying a good piece in good rock won't fail is simply offering a definition of a good piece. The issue of failure happens when a human being has to judge whether the piece in question is good, and in that situation there is always a non-zero probability of failure.

Given the fact that extremely long runs of a particular outcome are unlikely but possible, the fact that this or that individual has never experienced a failure means nothing in this context, although of course appropriate skill---which is not necessarily the same as experience---can have a big effect on the probability of failure for an individual placer.

The reference to the BD study is wrong on two accounts. First, the study was done by the developer of Metolius cams. Second, he observed a 1 in 20 failure rate for cams judged to be good, but he did make placements in all types of rock and in various conditions, including wet conditions. The color-coding of Metolius cams to help inexperienced people with placements was one of the outcomes of this study.

In any case, this thread is about advice to the beginning trad leader, who is, by virtue of being a beginner, not going to be anywhere near as good as the designer of Metoiius cams in judging good placements. If there is any one thing those climbers should understand clearly, it is that their judgement skills makes the probability of failure of a piece higher than 1 in 20, and they have to adjust their mental game, and their physical skills to that reality.

Not accounted for in this discussion is the the fact that some gear is never bombproof. I think cams in the finger sizes down fall into this category. There is so little difference between good and bad placements in these small sizes that they can never be viewed as bombproof. The skills and practice involved in climbing over gear that will work under certain conditions but is not bombproof is where trad climbing diverges from sport climbing and comes into its own.

I also disagree with those who say that you can't learn how good gear is until you fall on it. Ground-school bounce-testing can tell you an enormous amount about placements, and top-rope practice aid climbing, which also involves vigorous bounce-testing, but also forces the climber to use what they have when the ideal piece may not be available, can give provide a huge increase in judgement abilities.

A further benefit of top-rope aid climbing is that the climber will learn the skills needed to get out of various jams when they happen, and sooner or later something always does happen.


jt512


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rgold wrote:
The reference to the BD study is wrong on two accounts. First, the study was done by the developer of Metolius cams. Second, he observed a 1 in 20 failure rate for cams judged to be good, but he did make placements in all types of rock and in various conditions, including wet conditions. The color-coding of Metolius cams to help inexperienced people with placements was one of the outcomes of this study.

Does anybody here have a copy of this study or know where one can be obtained? These statistics are useless if we can't evaluate how they were produced.

Jay


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Unfortunately, no. I'm reporting the results of a private communication from a third party. The chance that the study met any standard conditions for statistical validity are, I suspect, small. For all I know, he made twenty placements and one pulled, although the impression I got from the letter is that far more placements than that were involved.

I wouldn't ascribe much significance to the 1 in 20 number, although it is nice to have something to wave around when people speak about bombproof cam placements. I wouldn't be even a little surprised if 1 in 20 was right for small cams.

What is significant is that someone with enormous expertise finds, on experimenting, that he cannot always predict that a cam placement is good. That is all any beginner (or any expert, for that matter) needs to know in terms of calibrating their own approach to safety questions.


(This post was edited by rgold on May 19, 2012, 12:03 PM)


bandycoot


May 19, 2012, 12:29 PM
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Re: [rgold] Advice to the beginning trad leader around falling - don't [In reply to]
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In reply to:
I wouldn't ascribe much significance to the 1 in 20 number, although it is nice to have something to wave around when people speak about bombproof cam placements.

So.... if I've had less than 1/20 fail in many many more falls than 20, is my judgement better than average? Wink

Did that study make it in one of the magazines at some point? Those results seem familiar, and I seem to remember being skeptical of them then. I understand the point for new leaders: gear will pull sometimes when you least expect it. I've had it happen to me exactly once. But, if someone has sound judgement then "good" gear will not be pulling 5% of the time...

From my experience, and my friend's, that's a very inflated number. I've climbed/fallen a lot on all rock types, dry, wet, have whipped on 00 TCU's, taken 40' falls on less than optimal placements, and I've only had 3 pieces pull on me ever in a lead fall:

1. A piton on Romantic Warrior, it was somewhat expected that if i fell the thing would pull.
2. A #2 TCU under that same piton on Romantic Warrior (It was a good fall!). I placed it blind at my ankle quickly on the onsight attempt and inspecting the placement on the way back up I saw it was totally bunk. I in no way judged it to be "good," I was just trying to get anything at that point.
3. A "perfectly" placed #3 TCU in Arapiles. Wow was that a surprise. My one and only "factor 2" fall in my climbing career and it wasn't fun.

My friends who also fall on gear, although possibly less than I do, have had even fewer pieces fail on them and most of those were probably known to be marginal when they went in.

If you throw around statistics that aren't scientifically gathered (I know, essentially impossible to gather real experimental data in climbing) then it might hurt your argument as opposed to strengthen it.

I completely agree with your last paragraph, and think that's a much better argument when trying to convince a new trad climber to be careful than the number.

Josh


(This post was edited by bandycoot on May 19, 2012, 12:30 PM)


patto


May 19, 2012, 3:01 PM
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Re: [rgold] Advice to the beginning trad leader around falling - don't [In reply to]
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rgold wrote:
What is significant is that someone with enormous expertise finds, on experimenting, that he cannot always predict that a cam placement is good.

Then the most relevant conclusions to draw here aren't about cam failure, it is about ONE individual's ability to assess gear.

I believe I could place and test 100 pieces and all 100 pieces would hold. A bomber piece WILL hold. It is all about your ability to asses pieces. At least 50% of my gear I place on lead would ft into this category. But it really is climb and rock dependent.

That is not to say every piece I place on a climb will hold. I lead an 'X' rated route a couple months ago which I felt was safer than indicated. Even still my first 3 pieces over 10m off the belay were small, I would give them 80% chance of holding. It wasn't until I placed a "big" 0.3 C4 that I felt I could breath easy.


I've fallen on and weighted gear many dozens of times. I've NEVER had gear pull. Also I pretty much don't climb sport, only trad.


(This post was edited by patto on May 19, 2012, 3:36 PM)


shimanilami


May 20, 2012, 12:39 AM
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cracklover wrote:
My advice is to keep your aid climbing and your free climbing separate.

Strictly speaking, this is good advice. However, when I took up aid climbing, it changed my free climbing perspective significantly. Seeing how my placements worked under load exposed much of my unfounded fear during free climbing. Placements that I previously believed were "dicey" were shown to be bomber. My appreciation and trust of a good nut placement, for example, which I really learned during aid climbing, has enabled me to truly *free* climb through situations where I was previously bound by fear. It is no longer a question of whether the placement will hold. It is all about whether I can hold on. In other words, aid climbing has educated me on what the actual boundaries of safety are, reducing the grey zone and expanding my view of what I am capable of.

For me at least, aid climbing upped my free climbing abilities by at least one full grade. For this reason, I believe that aid is a fast track for improving one's trad free climbing ability, and so I recommend it to everyone.


Partner j_ung


May 20, 2012, 10:27 AM
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Re: [shimanilami] Advice to the beginning trad leader around falling - don't [In reply to]
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I don't agree with anybody who says fear is inherently good. It's an instinctual reaction that impairs logical thought, and henceómy opinion hereóit is antithetical to safe climbing. Respect for your situation... thoughtfulness... experience... these are the things it's good to have, not fear. When I'm afraid, sure, I might back down and "live to climb another day." But just as likely, I'll attempt to "manage the fear," fail at it and make gear and movement mistakes. I'll overgrip and waste energy. I'll keep my slings short when I should extend them. I'll... well, you get the point.

Of course, I'm almost certainly arguing semantics here and not actually disagreeing at all.


sandstone


May 21, 2012, 1:24 PM
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Re: [shimanilami] Advice to the beginning trad leader around falling - don't [In reply to]
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shimanilami wrote:
[..]when I took up aid climbing, it changed my free climbing perspective significantly. Seeing how my placements worked under load exposed much of my unfounded fear during free climbing. Placements that I previously believed were "dicey" were shown to be bomber[..]

The new trad leader also has to learn to constantly think about his protection as a whole system. Placements that are bomber for a downward pull can get whipped right out by an outward or sideways pull of the rope when the system goes under tension.


patto


May 21, 2012, 2:19 PM
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j_ung wrote:
I don't agree with anybody who says fear is inherently good. It's an instinctual reaction that impairs logical thought, and henceómy opinion hereóit is antithetical to safe climbing.

Fear itself does not impair logical thought. Panic impairs logical thought. Fear places emphasis on survival rather than other goals without it focus on other goals may distract somebody from what matters.

Fear keeps us alive out there.


Gmburns2000


May 21, 2012, 3:06 PM
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shimanilami wrote:
cracklover wrote:
My advice is to keep your aid climbing and your free climbing separate.

Strictly speaking, this is good advice. However, when I took up aid climbing, it changed my free climbing perspective significantly. Seeing how my placements worked under load exposed much of my unfounded fear during free climbing. Placements that I previously believed were "dicey" were shown to be bomber. My appreciation and trust of a good nut placement, for example, which I really learned during aid climbing, has enabled me to truly *free* climb through situations where I was previously bound by fear. It is no longer a question of whether the placement will hold. It is all about whether I can hold on. In other words, aid climbing has educated me on what the actual boundaries of safety are, reducing the grey zone and expanding my view of what I am capable of.

this ^^

In reply to:
For me at least, aid climbing upped my free climbing abilities by at least one full grade. For this reason, I believe that aid is a fast track for improving one's trad free climbing ability, and so I recommend it to everyone.

haha! I wish Laugh

but yeah, I learned that aid climbing increased my ability to climb confidently by a substantial margin. I totally agree with your post.

edit: fixed cheesetit


(This post was edited by Gmburns2000 on May 21, 2012, 3:10 PM)


moose_droppings


May 21, 2012, 3:31 PM
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Re: [patto] Advice to the beginning trad leader around falling - don't [In reply to]
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patto wrote:
j_ung wrote:
I don't agree with anybody who says fear is inherently good. It's an instinctual reaction that impairs logical thought, and henceómy opinion hereóit is antithetical to safe climbing.

Fear itself does not impair logical thought. Panic impairs logical thought. Fear places emphasis on survival rather than other goals without it focus on other goals may distract somebody from what matters.

Fear keeps us alive out there.

But there is a couple different kinds of fear. An irrational fear can cause panic and has no place in climbing and I believe is more akin to what jay was speaking of. A healthy fear (rational) is indeed needed and should be acknowledged frequently to help keep us alive.


(This post was edited by moose_droppings on May 21, 2012, 3:36 PM)


blueeyedclimber


May 25, 2012, 5:09 PM
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Re: [cracklover] Advice to the beginning trad leader around falling - don't [In reply to]
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Excellent post, Gabe.

Not much to add, except for this. I don't have trust in any SINGLE piece, no matter how bomber. But, I do have trust in the system, which includes the entire protection system as well as my judgement of it.

Josh


billcoe_


May 27, 2012, 8:10 AM
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Great advice Cracklover. I've only seen one guy die due to gear failure. The young Canadian man had a piece pull on a 5.10 route which he had earlier followed. First the top piece which he had already dogged on yoinked out, then 3 more ripped (some of which he had also dogged on earlier) and the resulting 70 foot auger into the dirt was too much. 20 min of futile CPR followed until a Dr showed up and pronounced him dead. Autopsy later said that the aorta had ripped out of the heart at impact, thus, our efforts were futile.




jt512 wrote:
Does anybody here have a copy of this study or know where one can be obtained? These statistics are useless if we can't evaluate how they were produced. Jay

Jay, I read that 1 in 20 stat Rgold references in a climbing magazine article which interviewed Doug Phillips, founder and President of Metolius.

Searched and got this off RC.com. (appears to have been copied off of a gripped mag article which isn't online anymore. Doug Phillips speaking)

In reply to:
1. No matter how good a placement looks, you can never be sure it will hold.
During my tests, about one in twenty good-looking placements pulled out when loaded. The challenge is to figure out why the cam pulled, and what could have been done to prevent this from happening.

To understand why cams fail, we classify pullouts into six basic categories:

Lubricants (water, dirt, dust, moss, ice)
Poor rock quality
Cam movement (walking, misaligned)
Poor placement
Cam design
Poor maintenance
Lubricants
Anything that gets between the aluminum cam lobe and the solid rock wall can act as a lubricant reducing the friction. Water is an obvious lubricant as is dirt or fine dust. A dirty seeping crack with a thin layer of moss can cause an otherwise good placement to consistently pull out.

Poor rock quality
There are three categories of rock to avoid: soft, smooth, and weak:

Soft rock tends to crush under the load of a fall. The crushed particles act as a lubricant causing the cam to slip. After this type of failure, the cam lobes will often be coated with a thin film of pulverized rock.
Smooth or polished rock will not allow the cams to grip. Smooth stone can be found in water polished cracks as well as glacier polished stone. It is very unnerving to watch a cam consistently pull out of a super smooth crack that would otherwise be a perfect placement.
Weak or fractured rock will break, causing the cam to loose traction. When a cam pulls out of seemingly solid stone, I often find a small piece of fractured rock near one of the cam lobes. Occasionally a larger chunk of stone gets blown out of the crack due to an existing fracture or weakness in the rock.

Cam movement
Cams will move from the motion of a passing climber, rope action and impact from a fall. This movement can lead to pullout failures, as the cam is no longer positioned to hold a fall. To prevent this, place the cam so it has room to move and still remain in a good camming position. A long sling will reduce unwanted movement and allow you to fall on the next piece without putting any outward tension on the lower cam. Cam pullout failures commonly occur with a sharp outward or sideways pull rather than the downward pull you had intended.

Poor placement
Wide flares, bottoming cracks and irregular rock features make it difficult to get solid cam placements. Help optimize the security of a placement by maximizing cam-to-rock contact. Place good gear before and after difficult-to-protect sections. In my tests, I have occasionally been surprised by a bad looking placements that hold when drop tested. Most of the time however, if a cam looks bad, it will pull out.

Cam Design
The brand of cam makes a difference. Metolius cams are made with holding power as the primary design criteria. The main variables are cam angle, aluminum alloy, surface contact area, and cam alignment.

Cam angle
The cam angle we use is 13.25 degrees. This sacrifices range, but increases outward force, making the cams harder to pull out.

Aluminum alloy
Our aluminum alloy is 7075 for small and midrange cams and 6061 for larger sizes. The 7075 is stronger, maintaining cam shape under load in the small sizes. This is less of an issue in the large cams, so we switch to the lighter weight, less expensive, 6061.

Surface contact area
Surface contact area is important. More surface area will create more friction increasing the camís security. Also, more surface area spreads the load more, improving holding power in soft or weak stone. Our Fat Cams were designed with this in mind.

Cam alignment
Maximize holding power by lining up the cam lobes with the direction of pull. The original Friends did this by using a rigid stem. The Metolius camís relatively stiff ďUĒ shaped body aligns the cam lobes with the direction of pull.

Poor maintenance
Like all technical equipment, cams require maintenance. This includes cleaning, lubrication, replacing old or worn slings and repairing frayed trigger wires. Be sure to retire worn out cams.


2. Place two good cams at critical spots
Because one in 20 cams pull, reduce cam pullout by putting in a second good piece. This gives you a 99.75% chance that one placements will hold. Equalize them if possible.

3. Place the cam in as fully retracted a position as possible without getting it stuck. This is the green zone on our Range Finder system.
Tight placements help to guard against the following types of pullout:

Pullout due to cam movement
Rope movement shifts cams. Long slings help, but you can increase security by placing the largest cam possible. If the cam moves to a wider crack section it will still have good contact with all four cams.

Pullout due to poor rock quality
If the rock on one side of the crack fails the cam lobes on that side will begin to slip. A cam with a tight placement (green zone) has a better chance of holding. If the rock on both sides of the crack fails, the lobes dig into the rock. The tighter the placement, the more the cam can expand before failure.

Pullout due to lubrication
When the cam pulls because of wet or dirty conditions it will move through several inches of crack before failure. If only one side of the crack is wet or dirty, the cam lobes on the wet side will tend to slip first. If the cam is in an open position the cams on the dry side will tip out and the placement will fail. In a tight placement the cams on the dry side will not tip out, greatly increasing the chance the placement will hold. Iíve observed a tight cam placement jamming just below the original placement.


Good advice for cams. Nut placements have their own little set of intricacies...."rules" you could say, and guidance for good placements that is often not so obvious. Note that the 4 pieces I saw pulled out were all med-large wired nut placements. I suspect Rgold could nail that down.


notapplicable


May 27, 2012, 8:22 AM
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^^That^^ should be mandatory reading for anyone buying their first set of cams.

Good work digging it out of the archive.


fieldskel


Aug 30, 2012, 8:29 PM
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Why test it? We know that if you've done everything perfect or close to it all works- we pay them to test it so that we don't have to risk, you know, dying. Just make it your priority to practice holding on rather than falling. You'll appreciate effort spent practicing down climbing when you are run out above ledges and for one reason or another the little gear you did have falls out- practicing falling will really seem like a waste then. Not to mention you can get way more climbing in if you don't waste your time sitting on your ass in the air...that's how you actually get better at rock climbing, by rock climbing.


AuburnClimber


Sep 3, 2012, 3:58 PM
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cracklover wrote:
In another thread, a poster asked this question:

ecade wrote:
I'm very new to trad, i've done 15 leads, I've finally started testing my pieces while on lead with takes and bounce tests and so far its all holding. Was planning on taking a lead fall on a piece (found a route that has bolts and a good crack thought that would be a good testing place, back up placement with bolt... thoughts welcome to this approach)

It's an important topic worth discussing, so rather than burying it on page 4 of a thread about something else, I'm responding here.

Ecade - I know you're working on aid climbing too. My advice is to keep your aid climbing and your free climbing separate. There are a number of reasons I hope you'll consider this.

1 - When trad climbing, the objective is to climb cleanly from bottom to top, placing gear as you go. This is a mindset that requires a great deal of focus, and a number of techniques that are specific to the discipline, as opposed to what you might do when sport climbing. These are habits of mind that need to be trained, just like physical techniques. Get in the habit of falling and weighting pieces, and you're creating the wrong mindset.

2 - As a new leader, some of the gear you think is bomber probably isn't. This is true for *all* trad leaders, but more so for the n00b.

3 - The place to practice bouncing on gear is 1 - On the ground, where you'll fall six inches if the piece blows, or 2 - On an aid climb, where you'll fall six feet in overhanging terrain. On a free climb, where the gear is placed much less frequently than an aid climb, and there is usually much more to hit (all those lovely free-climbing holds and ledges) a fall can be much more dangerous.

4 - There is a trend these days born of the fear than is inherent in trad climbing. I'll see if I can explain it. It goes something like this:
- Leading trad is scary.
- Fear is uncomfortable.
- People don't like being uncomfortable.
- Therefore, people look for techniques to minimize or eliminate the fear.
- New leaders are told to practice falling to gain trust in their gear.
- This does a nice job in minimizing or eliminating the fear of falling on gear.

This is the wrong approach. The whole point of it is wrong. The fear one feels trad climbing is entirely appropriate. Gear fails, and falls have consequences. Not every time, or even most times, but eventually. And some people get unlucky, and that first real fall is the last one they take. Don't test your luck, and don't train yourself to feel that testing your luck is a good thing. An old saying in trad climbing is that you've got to fill up your bag of tricks before your bag of luck runs out.

Instead of training yourself to minimize your fear, you should be training yourself to live with it and manage it. This is a much longer process, and more uncomfortable, so it's kind of out of fashion these days. But it's really not complex, and people have been doing it a long time. The technique is as follows: Work your way up through the grades, placing lots of good gear. And when the opportunity arises, follow more experienced trad leaders. Eventually, you will gain an appropriate level of confidence, know what you can do, and how to do it, and will start pushing your limits. Then falls will start happening, and if you're doing things right, they'll be happening in appropriate circumstances (right gear, right terrain, etc).

Of course you will do what seems best to you, but I hope you'll consider the above.

Cheers!

GO

DidoÖ

I am 45 y/o. Climbing Trad since I was 12 y/o. I used to use 1 inch webbing for a swami belt , crappy shoes, EBs then Fire, and hip belaysóI took a number of 40 foot falls as a kid on that setupóit hurt. It hurt to arrest a fall almost as muchÖ.. I always climb not to fall while leading trad. I have taken a number of falls over the years and got hurt. Climbing to fall on trad can get yourself killed. Fear is good. Fear has gotten me out of many bad places. I took a few years off from climbing and now Iím getting my 5 year old into the sport. Great sport, but be respectful and safe.


ecade


Sep 20, 2012, 12:59 PM
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Howdy,

Just thought I'd chime in.

Took my first lead fall on gear this past labour day!
Fell on a cam, it held, so I pushed the move again, fell again, so I pushed again, fell, finally made the move. moved past the piece placed another, this time a nut, moved past, fell, she held, tried again, suffice to say my second hated me because my nuts were hard to remove.

Proud to say I that I didn't take purposeful falls rather I pushed myself. I wrote a much longer post below, its my style to talk too much, but figured i'd give the meat then the fat.

Thanks again for the advice, not planning on making falling on gear a habit but was proud to have given all i had and as you'd surely imagine very happy that everything held!

The long story:

Its been months since this post, Rumney came and went and with her many great memories and great routes, NH has something special if you climb sport and can get there I think she is a great place and worthy of the trip.

But I digress.

This season for me was about learning and practicing trad. I took self rescue classes, climbed a plethora of local gear lines with much more experienced partners, made it to seneca rocks led a multi pitch route there (5.4:) . Headed out west to Canmore and climbed Ha Ling Peak (5.6) and a several other multi pitches in the area. pushed myself, found my limitations pushed past some and worked on others.

This labour day I went to Montagne D'Argent with some friends, they have strong granite like rock with nice sexy cracks :)

I climbed a 5.8 hand-finger crack, I climb harder sport lines but have limited, especially by comparison, crack climbing experience. This crack just seemed to be a crack in the earth, some what of a rarity in Ontario. I studied the line from every angle. I climbed the crappy sport line next to it just so I could see the upper section of the route more closely. I noted protection options and sizes, I said there is only 1 place where a fall (provided everything holds) would be bad but that I could hand jam (something I feel comfortable with) or grip the crimp on the face if I wasn't feeling it and had a placement to protect the ledge i'd potentially hit (not to brag, hell it ain't even much of a brag but to explain, I have climbed 5.12 crimpy sport so crimps and me, well we're on good terms)

Anyways, 6' up, there was a small bulge, and the crack was slightly overhung, so I placed below it, pulling the bulge, I fell. my #2 cam held, i tried again, I fell. I treid again, I fell, I tried again, I pulled! I found a stance, I placed a #4 master cam and moved up the line. came to a good stance and solid #5 walnut, I placed. I moved a foot past, I fell. Tried again, fell, rest a minute, tried again, made it.

well that was kind of it, the rest is just climbing a hand-finger crack with a a few face climbs.
and wow this post feels like nonsense but eh slow day at the office now that the business of the day is come and gone


petsfed


Sep 20, 2012, 7:30 PM
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This is good advice.

If you are uncomfortable falling, go sport climbing. If you are uncomfortable with your placements, go aid climbing. If you are uncomfortable getting above your pieces, climb something easier. But don't think that intentionally whipping on pieces (when you can just as easily keep climbing) will really help your mind, if you're struggling to get on lines that are "safe" to fall on. The principal skill of the trad leader is not gear placement, its learning how to recognize where you absolutely cannot afford to fall. You won't learn that by simply taking lots of falls, you'll only learn that by taking the right falls.


dagibbs


Sep 20, 2012, 9:01 PM
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ecade wrote:
Howdy,


This labour day I went to Montagne D'Argent with some friends, they have strong granite like rock with nice sexy cracks :)

I climbed a 5.8 hand-finger crack, I climb harder sport lines but have limited, especially by comparison, crack climbing experience. This crack just seemed to be a crack in the earth, some what of a rarity in Ontario.

Which climb was it?


moose_droppings


Sep 21, 2012, 9:35 AM
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ecade wrote:

Anyways, 6' up, there was a small bulge, and the crack was slightly overhung, so I placed below it, pulling the bulge, I fell. my #2 cam held, i tried again, I fell. I treid again, I fell, I tried again, I pulled! I found a stance, I placed a #4 master cam and moved up the line. came to a good stance and solid #5 walnut, I placed. I moved a foot past, I fell. Tried again, fell, rest a minute, tried again, made it.

I'm sure you thoroughly inspected and /or replaced the piece of gear again after each time you fell on it. It would be unsettling to me to climb above the piece without doing that.


bearbreeder


Sep 21, 2012, 9:41 AM
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Re: [petsfed] Advice to the beginning trad leader around falling - don't [In reply to]
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from someone who knows a thing or two about trad ...

http://www.ukclimbing.com/...les/page.php?id=4655

Firstly, a situation that commonly occurs is that the leader doesn't actually need to place the gear that he or she is so furiously trying to find or get in. If this is true, it's probably because they are scared with the idea of falling a certain distance. Fear of falling is very common. In fact, so many climbers are scared of falling, it's any wonder half of them go climbing at all.

Firstly, you need to gain enough experience to decide when it is safe to fall, and when it is not. Here I am talking about being scared to fall when really a fall would be safe.

The best thing for fear of falling is fall practice. If you are really scared, don't feel embarrassed to start with top rope falls, or even just swinging around on a rope. Climbing in general and hanging in space with air beneath you, is a very unnatural thing for a human to do, therefore you have to force your body and mind to be accustomed to it. Don't feel embarrassed about being scared of falling, because I swear that more than half of the climbing population is. What you should be embarrassed about is a reluctance to do anything about it... That's if, you care enough. Some climbers will accept a fear of falling as part of climbing, do everything to avoid falling and simply get on with it. This is OK if you don't want to push your grade, but progress will be impossible or considerably stagnated if you don't climb at your limit, and climbing at your limit requires a certain comfort with the idea of falling.

The other reason for furiously trying to get gear in that you don't actually need, is having a false belief that the gear you have already placed you will rip out. If it is bad, then you should obviously get more gear in, but if it's good, sometimes you should push on until you find a more restful position from which to place more. The clinch here, is obviously how to know when gear is good or not. This largely comes from experience. However ways to speed up the learning curve are to really look at your leader's gear placements when seconding or to test your gear, safely.



ecade


Sep 21, 2012, 9:42 AM
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Re: [dagibbs] Advice to the beginning trad leader around falling - don't [In reply to]
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Was a 3 star at Paroi Du lac, couldn't find it on this site, have to review in my guidebook, at office now.

(star ratings denote protection options, upper portion, was thinner protection but there is a big tree that overhangs at the top by the top out. And I believe you are allowed to or well otherwise I at least sling cedar, in ontario they burn you at the stake for that :)

It has a 5.9 bolted line next to it.

did you make it out to MD?


ecade


Sep 21, 2012, 9:48 AM
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Re: [moose_droppings] Advice to the beginning trad leader around falling - don't [In reply to]
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Hmm got to be honest, I didn't, didn't think to, I checked them after the climb they were fine. but didn't mid-climb, good point you make one certainly I should have done.

I should also add that my falls weren't large whippers. Like to categorize them as a fall could be construed as blasphemy by some on this site. we're talking maybe 5 feet max

point of my post wasn't to say i feel that my placements are bomber, whip on them

thanks for the advice


dagibbs


Sep 21, 2012, 10:29 AM
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Re: [ecade] Advice to the beginning trad leader around falling - don't [In reply to]
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ecade wrote:
Was a 3 star at Paroi Du lac, couldn't find it on this site, have to review in my guidebook, at office now.

(star ratings denote protection options, upper portion, was thinner protection but there is a big tree that overhangs at the top by the top out. And I believe you are allowed to or well otherwise I at least sling cedar, in ontario they burn you at the stake for that :)

It has a 5.9 bolted line next to it.

You'll find a more complete list of climbs for MdA at www.thecrag.com.

Hm... It might have been Jos-Bras-de-Fer (listed as 5.7 in the guide, but a VERY VERY hard 5.7), with Dick Tracy (listed as 5.9 sport, but once again, a far harder 5.9 than most others at MdA) to its left.

Otherwise, there's no 5.8 trad line at Paroi du Lac.

Vertigineux, where the sign for "Paroi du Lac" is (incorrectly) has a 5.9 sport route (Conjonction de cellulaire) with Boris (5.7 trad) just to its left and a couple of 5.8 trad lines farther left of this.

In reply to:
did you make it out to MD?

If, by MD, you mean Mount Doom (in Sudbury), then yes I did make it out to it.


ecade


Sep 21, 2012, 12:39 PM
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It would be Jo de Bras, a couch urfer who came along for the trip took a pic of my belayer and the you can see the two cams noted, having reviewed and reviewed on thecrag.com (awesome sight!) she's the one.

see the pic, in the link
http://www.thecrag.com/...5901/topo#t123925425


the tree at the top to the right of the yellow line shown, i remember her, i doubted her strength but knew once slung that I wasn't falling and that that scarily awesome experience was done.

and ya the route description noted on thecrag.com matches my experience quite well. there is an awesome hold on the right just after the small bulge at the bottom.

damn, so i'm really not good with crack eh... she was only 5.7, 5.7!!!


dagibbs


Sep 21, 2012, 4:19 PM
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Yeah.

If you're looking for a more... traditional and reasonable crack at Montagne d'Argent, I'd suggest M & M wall -- in particular Krakabra (5.7+) and M & M (5.8).

M&M: https://www.thecrag.com/photo/213238416


ecade


Oct 2, 2012, 8:49 AM
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dagibbs wrote:
Yeah.

If you're looking for a more... traditional and reasonable crack at Montagne d'Argent, I'd suggest M & M wall -- in particular Krakabra (5.7+) and M & M (5.8).

M&M: https://www.thecrag.com/photo/213238416

I top roped both, and later led Krakabra, nice lead, much easier, great gear, and unlike my experience in the rockies, no worries regarding route finding :)
Never led M&M thoughtthat to place would be difficult and streneous, and that made me nervous, but ya, she is a crack and half, gear every cm if you are so inclined to place it and have no hand or foot holds. I had planned on leading it, but after taking those falls I decided that it wasn't worth pushing my luck and that i'd progressed well this season, best to hold off, read and learn, they'll always be another season, well provided... :)

you going back for thanksgiving?


dagibbs


Oct 2, 2012, 11:45 AM
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ecade wrote:

I top roped both, and later led Krakabra, nice lead, much easier, great gear, and unlike my experience in the rockies, no worries regarding route finding :)
Never led M&M thoughtthat to place would be difficult and streneous, and that made me nervous, but ya, she is a crack and half, gear every cm if you are so inclined to place it and have no hand or foot holds. I had planned on leading it, but after taking those falls I decided that it wasn't worth pushing my luck and that i'd progressed well this season, best to hold off, read and learn, they'll always be another season, well provided... :)

you going back for thanksgiving?

Given the really small difference in grades (5.7+ vs 5.8), M&M is a noticeably harder climb. Krakabra has rests, giving convenient places to place gear -- M&M really doesn't. It is just sustained at the grade. My first attempt to lead it, I place a nut from the base (where it turns steep), climbed above it, and it popped from rope angle... place two more pieces, climbed above them, and fell -- my first fall on gear. (I have, since, red-pointed it. Crack gloves make it much better!)

I'm actually headed to Rumney (with, maybe, a day on Chapel Pond Slab in the 'Dacks) for Thanksgiving weekend.


akleeka


Oct 5, 2012, 2:27 PM
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Re: [redlude97] Advice to the beginning trad leader around falling - don't [In reply to]
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redlude97 wrote:
I think BD determined that 1/10 "good placements" will still fail. Taking unnecessary falls is up to you, but they aren't required to determine a good piece

Just curious, any idea which BD QA report? that 1 out of 10 report might be from? I'd like to see that


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