01 Sep The Courtesy of the Climb

This past Sunday, some friends and I went climbing at Tahquitz.  It was my first time climbing there and only my second time climbing multi-pitch trad so we chose a moderate route, where I could comfortably practice placing pro, building anchors, and belaying from above.  Although the route was not physically strenuous in the way that I’m accustomed to with sport climbing, I found it truly amazing how much focus and mental fortitude were required to make it up this route!  And that’s coming off my 5.12c redpoint on Saturday!  Though I still do struggle with falling on sport routes, trad climbing truly makes you appreciate the security of bolts!

Being forced to locate the best placements, find secure stances, place your own protection, and deal with potentially long runouts involves a completely different level of concentration and physicality. To me, every moment of a trad climb is an all consuming challenge, truly forcing me to be in the moment! I really love it. In regards to multi-pitch routes, I also love the long days and the opportunity to climb at altitude!

I mentioned in a previous post how much I enjoy being able to accomplish something relying only on myself and what I can carry; multi-pitch trad with it’s long approaches, hours spent on the wall, epic descents, and the sheer amount of gear you have to carry, really lends itself to this feeling.  In comparison to sport climbing or bouldering, where you can often be minutes from your car or camp, trad climbing feels like such a big adventure. There is a pure, wild aspect to it that’s really appealing and I can’t wait to practice more soon!  Luckily I’m spending this upcoming weekend in Yosemite, where my friends and I will be getting on some pretty iconic routes! I’m super excited. 🙂

I’ll talk more about that in a later post, but before signing off, I wanted to mention an incident that occurred this weekend. As my group was racking up at the base of our route, another group approached and asked if they could go ahead of us.  They only shared a portion of the first pitch with us, which they would be soloing. From there, they would split off to another, more difficult route out left.  My party agreed that they would be faster and should go on ahead.  Indeed this group soloed part of the first pitch, and then moved out left to set up a belay station at the start of their route.  At that point I led the first pitch of our route, moving past them to the right. As I was nearing my belay station, I could hear that the other group was having trouble, their leader struggling to finish his pitch.  I didn’t think too much of it until a few minutes later when he started traversing onto my route, climbing directly over my head and placing gear just a few feet above me, ensuring if he fell it would now be directly onto me. I told him this made me uncomfortable but he continued up anyway, demanding that I not let my rope touch his and that I work around his placements.

I felt so unsafe!  And extremely frustrated that somebody could be so inconsiderate to another climber’s safety and comfort. I understand that he didn’t want to bail on his route and potentially lose gear, but handling the situation the way he did was extremely inappropriate.  Either down climb, rappel off cheaper gear or slings, or hang on your protection and wait for me to be anchored safely at my belay station before passing me.  And even then, only after asking if I’m comfortable with it.

Instead, with no real options for moving out of the way, I was stuck directly in his fall zone, getting smacked in the face with his rope and losing my sunglasses in the process (luckily recovered). Because he had soloed part of the first pitch, he was able to link the second pitch and set up anchor above me.  Wanting clearance from this group, my party chose to wait while he brought up his two followers, both of whom stepped on my gear (which was terrifying) and climbed over me despite the fact that I asked them to go around, which they safely could have done being on top rope.

I don’t care how solid of a climber you are, or how much of a hurry you think you’re in, there is never an excuse for putting another person in a potentially dangerous or uncomfortable position like this. It is incredibly disrespectful and just NOT okay!  The moment you think it is, is the moment disasters start to happen. This time I only lost my sunglasses, but so much more could have gone wrong in this situation.

I’ve talked about this before, but guys, it’s really important that we always check in our attitudes and our decisions. Its easy to become complacent, but we should never forget that this is a dangerous sport and every single one of us needs to have the utmost respect for the rock, and for each other.

Please be safe out there!