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lynne


Jan 12, 2003, 6:03 AM
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The Leader must Not Fall
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That used to be the trad mantra in the 'olden days.' It has never been mine. I don't mind falling on gear so long as I am not going to skid down a slab or slam into a ledge (or the ground). However lately, after Goran Kropp's and other fatal accidents, I'm starting to think that "the leader must not fall" may not be such a bad philosophy.

I'm curious about you experienced trad climbers - what is your approach? If you subscribe to the idea that you must not fall, has that held you back from progressing at a certain point, or did it slow your development as a climber? Those things don't bother me. I'll never be a badass climber. The biggest concern I have is that if I believe I must never fall, then fear may cripple me when I think I might.

Climbing on trad lead has such a huge psychological component for me - I don't want to screw that up. What is your approach?

Edit to change "never" to "not" DOH!

[ This Message was edited by: lynne on 2003-01-12 17:28 ]


brutusofwyde


Jan 12, 2003, 6:18 AM
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Brutus says:

Don't Fall [TM]
It's a BIG DEAL [TM]
You could DIE [TM]

Has this held me back as a climber? Probably not as much as the extra 20 pounds around my waist.

Did it slow my progress as a climber? Probably not. But then again, I learned in an age where 5.10 was the hardest climb known, and I myself was always several grades behind. I used to take falls. After several near-misses, and some injuries, and after old age crept up on me, I became more gun-shy.

The ability to read the rock and predict difficulty, the ability to downclimb out of trouble, the ability to walk the finest of edges of difficulty without crossing the line to flight, and finally willingness to grab pro rather than fall, all are in my opinion more important than willingness to take long falls on good protection.

I may risk a short fall once in awhile, when attempting a low-probability move, especially if I'm below a good piece. But even then, I try never to fall.

Folks might tell you that I'm old fashioned, that I'll never live up to my potential. I hope not, if my potential ia a premature visit to a pine box.

Folks might also tell you that they have seen me go all-out, desperate and on the edge of flight. But those same folks might also tell you that they have never seen me take a big whipper in those situations.

Your mileage may vary,
but hopefully it will not qualify you for the frequent flier award.

Brutus


mesomorf


Jan 12, 2003, 6:34 AM
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Brutus has summed it up well, as usual.

I would add that knowing one's ability, in concert with being able to read the rock, is how you can avoid disastrous falls.

There is only one way to know your ability, and that's through experience. Getting experience means pushing close to that edge that Brutus talked about.

Eventually you will be able to tell quite well, "I can climb that" or "I can protect there" or "There is no pro, but I can climb it anyway."

The key is to be able to believe in your assessment. That it what keeps the inevitable fear from paralyzing you once you're committed to the move(s).

In addition to just plain mileage, experience means travelling and climbing a lot of different kinds of rock. Or in lots of different snow/ice/mixed conditions.


Partner rrrADAM


Jan 12, 2003, 6:46 AM
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Air-time is good, provided you set solid pro.

The best way to improve is to climb outside your comfort level. If you do this, you will fall.


In the above referenced death, only one piece broke, the rest was pilot error. Climbing is dangerous, it says that in every guide book.


Must not fall is accurate to X Rated Routes. Really should not fall is accurate to R Rated Routes. Don't want to fall is accurate to PG Rated Routes. And who cares if I fall is accurate to G Rated Routes.


mesomorf


Jan 12, 2003, 7:29 AM
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Quote:Air-time is good, provided you set solid pro.

And there's nothing to hit. Rock is harder than bone. Harder than flesh, too.

"Air time is good" is the sport climbing mentality, where falls are generally safer. This is the conflict between the really old way of thinking (leader never falls) and the new way of thinking (falls are the only way to get better). In trad climbing, the truth is somewhere in between.

Every climb is potentially an X climb. Things can go wrong. Ever been dropped by your belayer, for example?

The trick is to be able to accurately assess the risk, then take appropriate action, whether the action is to go for broke, downclimb and rethink the situation, grab pro (if available) or turn over the lead to your partner.


Partner rrrADAM


Jan 12, 2003, 7:56 AM
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Quote:
"Air time is good" is the sport climbing mentality,...


Not true... I have taken numerous falls on Trad, including two 40+ footers.

I agree about the "somewhere in between", but also, those who have taken many falls on Trad gear really trust their placements. Those who have not, don't have the same level of trust, and this plays in one's mind when they think "one must not fall". Get my point ???

And good point about "clean falls", as I figured that would be a given.


repete


Jan 12, 2003, 8:16 AM
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I have never taken a fall on trad gear. The fact that i have never fallen on my own gear makes me trust it less. In my head i know its solid and i know it will hold but i have never taken a fall on it so i have never realy tested this theory. I feel that this has hindered my progress because i am reluctant to trad lead harder routes. I top rope 5.10 consistently and dont wory about sporting 5.9 but still i have never trad lead anything over 5.7. Do you guys think I should start leading harder routes? I think that once i take a fall on my own gear i will start feeling more comfortable doing this, but since i only trad routes that are in my comfort level this isnt likely to happen any time soon. what should i do???


Partner rrrADAM


Jan 12, 2003, 8:34 AM
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Try climbing harder "G Rated" routes that you can sew up with solid gear, and that have clean falls.

Overhangs like those at The Gunks are the best for this, as the pro is solid, and the falls are clean. Plus, there are many easy to moderate routes with both of the above.


Again... As stated above, being able to ascess the risk and protect appropriately is the most important thing. If you are not sure you can do this, then don't.


Partner rrrADAM


Jan 12, 2003, 8:39 AM
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BTW... Personally, I trust a solid stopper I set myself over any bolt set by God knows who and subsequently tightened by climbers who think the tighter the better.

Check this if you think all bolts are bomber.


trillium


Jan 12, 2003, 9:33 AM
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Thank you to the person who posted this falling question. I have always felt a little uncertain about falling on my gear, partially because I questioned my placement, but at this point, more because of the wear and tear it puts on the gear. I also trust a solid nut placement over a bolt anyday.


stevematthys


Jan 12, 2003, 9:39 AM
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i try pretty hard not to fall on gear. if i dont feel solid one day, i just wont lead that day.


marks


Jan 12, 2003, 9:45 AM
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if you place gear well falling is o.k.if you dont place gear well keep to bouldering.
falling is a strange feeling not matter how many times you do it,its still not the nicest feeling.it took a 20 footer last weekend and gave myself whiplash.but i did the route.


mesomorf


Jan 12, 2003, 9:45 AM
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rrradam, you are right. I'd rather place my own gear in most instances than trust any bolt.

I don't think you must actually fall on it to know it's going to hold, though. Aid climbing is a good way to learn what's good gear and what's not. Being able to read placements is absolutely as important as being able to read the rock.

I've taken lots of falls too (never more than 25 - 30 feet) and only pulled gear once in 30+ years. Like Brutus, most of my falls occured in the earlier years.

Where the paralyzing fear and no-fall situations occur are when the gear is sketchy. I mean tiny cams and wires, old pins and bolts, flared or dirty placements or soft rock, or when there's no pro available at all. Or you're WAY in the backcountry with no hope of assistance.

repete, you won't hear ME saying "take practice falls" or "yeah, jump on the 10s, man!" That is something you must decide for yourself.


jughead


Jan 12, 2003, 10:02 AM
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harnesses these days are designed to take the impact of a heavy fall with minimal damage and in addition with dynamic ropes AND short lengths of shock absorbing bungee rope such as the zyper y falling isnt as dangerous as it used to be and if you know what your doing and have had PROFESSIONAL instruction (NOT FROM A BLOODY BOOK!!!)on how to place cams, nuts etc. then your gear will rarely fail. but anyway my philosophy

IF YOU DONT FALL THEN YOU NOT TRYING HARD ENOUGH!!!

if I can do 6a without falling then its time for 6b as soon as I can do that without falling then its time for 6c which is what I'm currently working on


lynne


Jan 12, 2003, 11:03 AM
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I've fallen on gear plenty of times. I am confident in my ability to set bomber pieces. I also know when something I've placed is purely psychological (though I don't advocate this practice). So this question I have posted is more subtle than "do you trust your gear?" I do. Trad leaders who don't trust their gear shouldn't be leading on it. Period.

Sometimes $#!& just happens that is totally out of your control. I don't worry about that. But sometimes small errors conspire together to create that one in a million scenario, like Goran's, and it seems to me that the 'never fall' philosophy minimizes the chances of this type of accident. Goran's accident shook me to the core of my climbing soul to be honest. It really made me rethink my climbing.

I like Brutus' approach. Everything said about reading the rock is very important, too. I think a cavalier attitude about falling on gear is a mistake. I didn't used to. It's just a fine line between trying not to fall and being too afraid to fall. Learning to back off is good. Thanks for the input guys.

Oh, and I hate clipping bolts. I'll beg for trad leads, but a sport climb has to be very special before I'll choose to lead it. Bolts scare me, and you can't sew 'em up either.


Partner camhead


Jan 12, 2003, 11:17 AM
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I'm with Adam. If the gear is good, go for it! Gear just keeps improving these days. A bomber cam or nut is at least as trustworthy as a bolt. If the pro looks solid, I will hop on a trad route that is well ove my head, just as I would a sport route.


wildtrail


Jan 12, 2003, 1:34 PM
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I stay within my limits, typically. I don't believe in pushing because that's not what climbing is about to me. I just enjoy the climb, the view, the fun.


roc-ray
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Jan 12, 2003, 2:34 PM
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Don't fall on marginal gear is my belief.Then again I have only fallen twice on gear and they were short falls so maybe I am not one to offer an opinion.I do know not to fall on an ice screw though!


Partner philbox
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Jan 12, 2003, 3:09 PM
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   Trad or sport I avoid falling like the plague. My climbing mates have been taking me out sport climbing of late and they have been encouraging me to fall, ugh, it gives me the creeps, call me a control freek if you will but that is my make up and I find it difficult to change my basic over riding personallity traits of always wanting to be in control.

...Phil...


dingus


Jan 12, 2003, 3:41 PM
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Context is everything. A clean sport climbing fall is one thing. Clean trad climb fall in certain circumstance, cool. I think of the 3rd pitch of Serenity Crack... a fall from that crux is a fairly safe adventure.

How about a fall, any fall, 10 miles in the back country? Over blocky rock? Or onto bad pro or a ledge? Never mind the personal risk. What about everyone else involved?

I remember some himalya expedition was nearly hosed when one of the guys decided to do some high ball bouldering in base camp one day. He fell. Got hurt. The only thing that saved them was ten days bad weather. He healed. Wilford maybe? Child?

Another context ... father of two, sole bread winner, a pile of bills to pay.

There are times when we cannot afford to get hurt. Period. Those are the times we should climb with a "must not fall" attitude.

DMT


jgill


Jan 12, 2003, 4:58 PM
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Actually, the admonition that "the leader must not fall" goes wayback in climbing history, before the advent of nylon ropes. (Was it the British climber Abraham Young who uttered those words eons ago?). In the mid 1950s, when we used lay nylon ropes, as I was getting into "trad" climbing, Dave Rearick (FA of Diamond on Longs Pk) informed me that "if you don't fall while leading, you're not reaching your potential". So "olden times" means long before the "Golden Age".

[ This Message was edited by: jgill on 2003-01-14 09:36 ]


sizzlechest


Jan 12, 2003, 8:23 PM
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Yes I usually push myself pretty hard trad climbing, I've lead alot of harder trad lead and yes on some i've whipped it's really not a big deal if your gear is solid and your used to recognizing good gear. As for the r type routes I have only fallen the odd time on those, there a little bit more calculated in terms of where you get your pro etc, a little more planning involved but that's the part i like, all in all once you've good gear placements dialed if your on a route with good gear falling on it is really not much different then a sport route. I have had the odd piece pull but 99% of the time I was expecting it (ie hard fiddly gear leads) what you don't want is pieces popping that you think were good. thats my take


antimatter


Jan 12, 2003, 10:14 PM
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Trying like hell to avoid a fall is a good way to learn better gear placing stances and a good way to get strong.

Should you fall or not? It's the same question as whether you should free solo or not. There's risk involved in even the safest of falls. You decide how much you can tolerate.

That said, I've taken many "safe" whippers and I enjoy pushing it where the gear is good. With experience reading the rock, guaging the quality of gear, risk of a fall and downclimbing potential you'll get closer to leading "at your limit" and better at avoiding bad falls.

However, as others have said, any fall can be a bad fall. Bolts pull, gear pulls, belayers drop climbers, etc.


alpnclmbr1


Jan 12, 2003, 10:18 PM
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People used to follow routes for a long time before they tried to lead, nowadays people start leading a lot sooner. The majority of beginning leaders do not place very good gear in my experience. Another thing to do before falling is downclimbing and hanging, just make sure you check the piece before you weight it.

Almost every trad route has sections of G,PG,R and X. Generally the hazard rating refers to the most difficult section or a runout above it. Beware topoís are not always right, the ultra classic J Crack at lumpy ridge was a 5.9 with a unprotected 5.8 slab section, the new guidebook calls it unprotected 5.10. Double Cross at J-tree is a perfect 5.7 hand crack that you can place good gear anywhere, but more than several people have died on it.

repete
Practice placing gear on the ground and having someone critique your placements can help. Have someone who "knows" what they are doing clean your routes. If they say your gear looks good then you can start considering falling on it. This goes for each type of rock you climb on because they are all different. Avoid placing psychological pro like the plague, It can kill you. Using your life to test how good of gear you place is not a good idea! Aid climbing on clean gear is a good way to get an idea of how good your gear placements are.

A crack climb can be way safer to fall on then any sport climb, you get to control your level of commitment. Indian creek for example. So if your gear is good and the fall is fine, go for it, otherwise donít fall.
be safe


gravical


Jan 13, 2003, 3:30 AM
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I am not an experienced trad climber at all, but i have been into sport climbing a lot and I have always felt that if you do not fall nothing can go wrong

In other words, learn to know your limitations

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