Author Topic: A very educational day  (Read 2317 times)

Offline llamero

  • NEClimbs Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 151
A very educational day
« on: September 02, 2009, 11:49:56 AM »
Hey everyone, I was just interested if anyone wanted to offer their own two bits in regards to some lessons I learned yesterday.  I'm still at the stage where it seems every time I climb is a profound education, and I frantically try and absorb as much as I can.  So, here's the low down:

My boss and I did a quick afternoon climb yesterday at the Precipice.  The weather was great, and it was the first time I'd been climbing in almost three weeks, and the first time he'd been climbing in almost four.  For our warm-up, he offered to have me lead Recollections of Pacifica, but after climbing a short ways I flaked and he took the lead instead, and I easily followed.  We then moved over to Trotsky (5.7) which I lead after taking my first ever trad leader fall.  We then quickly added on Chicken of the Sea (5.9-) which is straight forward right till the very end, but then has a really wild finish.  While out playing, here are some of the latest lessons I'd learned:

1) Laybacking is a terrible position to try and place gear on lead (use finger jams instead).

2) Just because it was easy to follow does not imply anything about climbing a route on lead.   

These two lessons were learned on Recollections of Pacifica.  I'd top roped the climb earlier with relative ease, so I wasn't at all hesitant to lead the climb.  What I'd failed to appreciate was that I'd laybacked up most of the climb, and therefore was never in a position to comfortably place gear.  Fortunately, my boss realized this early into my climb, and so I down climbed and he lead instead, which leads to my third lesson:

3) Be very familiar with your limitations on lead as well as following, and be honest with yourself in both regards.



While climbing on lead on Trotsky, I'd carefully planned out the sequence to get in a bomber nut, but couldn't really find the sequence above that, so once I got in the nut I fidgeted about trying to find the next series of moves.  All of a sudden my left foot hold blew out, and the next thing I new I was dangling in the air hanging from my first placement, which leads to my fourth and fifth lesson:

4) Know exactly where your first placement is going to be and how you're going to get there safely, and be certain it's going to be bomber. 

5) Despite your best intentions, holds can blow when you least expect it.

Fortunately, now that I finally have fallen on one of my gear placements, I feel a bit more confident in my climbing.  Up till now, placing gear had been an abstract exercise with no personal experience to rely upon to trust whether the placements were doing any good.  Feeling that solid jerk from the nut (and spending a little bit of time hammering it back out) definitely makes be feel better about the strength of well placed pro.

On Trotsky, I also got to apply the following lessons I'd learned from following other, far more experienced climbers:

6) If a placement is crappy, sometimes it's worthwhile to climb a little higher for a better placement, rather than putting in a likely useless placement that will just increase rope drag.

7) If you need to use a less than ideal gear placement,  back it up and basically build yourself a little belay station halfway up the cliff.

For lesson 7, I had a TCU that was seated solidly, but a little closer to the opening of the crack than I would have liked. So, since I needed to use that placement, I just backed it up with a pretty good #3 cam placement.  When my boss followed he let me know that the TCU was bomber, but I figure it's always better safe than sorry, especially in the vertical world.

    Thanks for any feedback,
       Ben
It is better to not summit and wish you had, than to summit and wish you hadn't.

strandman

  • Guest
Re: A very educational day
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2009, 08:14:08 PM »
Wow ! some nice points from a newcomer. I have always found that placing gear from the layback psoition is  ALWAYS easier with stemming. even if this takes you out of position- Black Lung, Atlantis, Recompense to name a few.

Suck it up and make sure the gear is good- a lot of people think they won't fall off or are just trying to make it to the belay- gear up ! I'd rather have one bomber wire than 2 shitty ones.

Try- The Slot, Looselips, Slow and Easy, Seventh Seal and Crack in the Woods ( Iknow it's harder but so what, the gear is great and you will learn jammin' even If you don't get it)

DLottmann

  • Guest
Re: A very educational day
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2009, 10:02:53 PM »
Great info Ben... regarding Trotsky the 3 times I have led it I always traverse in from climbing up the alcove steps and stepping down and over left before placing any gear... the start to Trotsky seems dicey with that landing if you don't get that 1st solid nut! Nice job on that one!

As for laybacking tough gear placements I think of Retaliation.... 

MAmedic

  • Guest
Re: A very educational day
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2009, 11:13:59 PM »
Rock on ben, you post is very insightful.  After reading this years Accidents in american mountaineering, one could discern that most of the accidents included in the aforementioned publication could have been prevented by your lessons.  Thank you and keep up the good work!

smudger

  • Guest
Re: A very educational day
« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2009, 09:42:47 PM »
Hi Ben
I'm glad to see you out leading routes. that's to be recommended. my suggestions for your consideration when on the lead are;
> make that first piece bomber from any direction, sometimes one  will put in an upward directional to be sure it doesnt pull.
> remember the vectors on a piece change when you move up. diagonal cracks are notorious for this: top piece gets downward pull, lower pieces get outward pull (Retaliation on Cathedral), try to make them good for outward
> keep ledges in mind, hitting a ledge is as bad as hitting the ground. make sure you have enough gear
> remember how much slack there is in the system: an apparent short fall can stretch out alot if there is a lot of rope in system.

make sure your gear is good, then relax and trust it. its hard, but you've already got your first trad fall under your belt!
all thebest

john_c

  • Guest
Re: A very educational day
« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2009, 09:28:37 PM »
I have always thought the first 15 feet of Trotsky was dicey-- tougher for me than any of the climbing above, including the '5.9-' move onto the slab on Chicken of the Sea.  But maybe that is just because it is so close to the ground, and I'm such a wuss!   :P

John

DLottmann

  • Guest
Re: A very educational day
« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2009, 09:19:50 AM »
I have always thought the first 15 feet of Trotsky was dicey-- tougher for me than any of the climbing above, including the '5.9-' move onto the slab on Chicken of the Sea.  But maybe that is just because it is so close to the ground, and I'm such a wuss!   :P

John

It's that and the landing if you blow that move is somewhat rough... isn't there a gaping hole and sharp rock right at the base? I have it wired now but the 1st time I did it I went up the stairs and traversed over into Trotsky... no gear 30 feet up and a couple loose rocks but felt safer to me...

GOclimb

  • Guest
Re: A very educational day
« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2009, 05:42:01 PM »
Sounds like a good day!  Those are all good lessons, well (l)earned.

One thing you didn't learn, and it may be fortunate:  even gear you think is excellent cannot always be trusted to hold.  Doubly so when you're a new leader.  Triply so when it's the only thing between you and the ground.  If you make a habit of falling on your first (or often your second) you'll get fucked up fast, unless you are backing them up.

Honestly, the beginning of Trotsky is nice and steep, but in general, falling on 5.7 even up high off the ground is a bad idea.  Easier climbs tend to be blockier, with lots of nasty stuff to hit as you're falling.

Just the same, sounds like a good day out.

Cheers!

GO

Offline llamero

  • NEClimbs Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 151
Re: A very educational day
« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2009, 04:41:34 PM »
Quote
One thing you didn't learn, and it may be fortunate:  even gear you think is excellent cannot always be trusted to hold.

I've held the perspective whenever I'm on lead I might as well be climbing solo just for that reason that falling is generally a bad idea, which is why the fall on Trotsky was my first ever lead fall (with 9 prior trad lead climbs with no falls).  Usually, if I feel like I'm in over my head I'll down climb and sort things out.  On Trotsky,  I'd gotten in a super solid nut and knew I could trust it, and knew I was taking some risk of falling moving about trying to figure out the best next sequence of moves while on the climb, but I knew it was an educated risk similar to choosing to drive a car.

Considering that I climbed an entire summer, including many multi-pitch climbs, and trad leads at 3 different crags almost all of which were on-sight climbs, and having only 1 fall on lead and no falls following, I don't think I'm at risk of making a habit of falling while climbing. 

Conversely, if you can't trust your first or second gear placement, or any of your gear placements for that matter, then don't place them.  There's no point in placing gear that can't take the weight of a fall, because you're just increasing rope drag and are leaving behind gear that you may wish you had higher up on the climb.  Every gear placement should be absolutely solid and something you can trust your life to, because that's exactly what you're doing.

It is better to not summit and wish you had, than to summit and wish you hadn't.

strandman

  • Guest
Re: A very educational day
« Reply #9 on: October 24, 2009, 06:44:05 PM »
Sorry l , not every placement is solid no matter how skilled you are. I have placed MANY pieces that were a2, a3, body weight etc. You get what you can 'cause ya never know what's ahead. NEVER pass up a placement unless you are sure what's up ahead.

Offline llamero

  • NEClimbs Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 151
Re: A very educational day
« Reply #10 on: October 24, 2009, 08:49:14 PM »
Being my first year leading on trad, I've only climbed G or PG rated climbs in the 5.5 to 5.7 range.  As such, one could expect to find solid gear placements without having to climb more than 8' beyond the previous placement.  As such, I learned that if I was putting in a sketchy placement it meant that I was missing an obvious good placement that was either nearby or a bit higher on the climb.  If I felt I had to use an iffy placement, I'd always either back it up and/or equalize it with another placement.  It seems to me that a lot of the more serious incidents in climbing involve a fall where several of the placements zipper out and the leader either gets bashed up in a long fall or winds up decking it.  With the range of pro available these days and the extensive literature on ways to make safe and effective use of a wide array of features on a rock face, there's little to no reason to have to use iffy placements on these sorts of climbs.

Now, I'm fully aware that if you're on an R, X or alpine climb the story is different, but that's why I have not been on those climbs.

Edit: I think for the sake of conversation I should also explain what I mean by iffy vs. solid.  Solid would be a deep cam placement in a slightly constricting crack, or a nut seated tightly in a slot.  Iffy would be a flaring and/or shallow cam placement, or a nut placement that could pop back out if pulled the wrong way.  I also completely agree that even the best placement is not 100% guaranteed, but a placement failure should be because of an unforseeable issue such as a microfracture in the rock, rather than because of an well known issue such as placing a cam into a smooth flaring crack.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2009, 09:01:25 PM by llamero »
It is better to not summit and wish you had, than to summit and wish you hadn't.

GOclimb

  • Guest
Re: A very educational day
« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2009, 05:25:17 PM »
Okay Mr llamero, with all of your nine leads under your belt, sounds like you've got it all figured out.   ::)

Any fall you take on your first piece of gear of a pitch, (unless you've doubled it up) is a mistake.  Make too many mistakes, you'll find out that education you strive for can come without a seriously heavy tuition bill.

Cheers,

GO

Offline llamero

  • NEClimbs Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 151
Re: A very educational day
« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2009, 06:57:17 PM »
What, you mean I'm not ready for the Garibotti-Haley traverse on Cerro Torre ???  I mean common, I spent a whole summer on PG 5.7s man, I mean that's extreme 8).

Anyway, I know I f***ed up falling on my first piece in the first place, and that's why I bothered to post about it, to get some feedback from the community to make sure I'd learned what I needed to learn from my mistake.  You'd have to be a pretty brain-damaged climber to not know that even when everything is done perfectly there is still a chance for a fatal fall (the rope cutting incident at the Gunks this summer would be a great example).  The actual risk involved is completely specific to the skill level and mind-set of every climber.

Personally, I'm eternally grateful to Danielle and Bob who climbed with me this summer, and took the time to give constructive feedback on all my pro placements, let me know when I should back up a placement, and had the patience to let me work my way through various problems rather than just beta chomping to speed things up.  The climbing community definitely needs more mentors like these two people.
It is better to not summit and wish you had, than to summit and wish you hadn't.

Offline Admin Al

  • NEClimbs Administrator
  • NEClimbs God
  • *****
  • Posts: 8139
  • Climb 'till your forearms turn to jelly!
    • NEClimbs
Re: A very educational day
« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2009, 09:36:31 PM »
and frankly thanks to you for posting your observations. I think it helps everyone to discuss all of this, no matter how experienced you are. keep up the good work.

Al Hospers
____________________________________
my music
 http://www.soundsclever.com

python

  • Guest
Re: A very educational day
« Reply #14 on: November 13, 2009, 08:33:29 AM »
One more thought for you, ll.  The quality of trad placements doesn't have to be such a mystery.  A great way to learn about good gear placement is to do some aid climbing.  You'll place tons of gear, and find out if every piece can handle you jumping around on it.  And aid is a very useful skill for getting yourself out of nasty spots you might find yourself in.