I've been climbing close to 50 years and only once before did I ever give some cautious advice to a young climber.
I usually keep my mouth shut, but a few days ago, I felt strongly compelled to speak my mind, rather than feel haunted later that I never spoke up.
I was returning from the Tetons/Wind Rivers, with a few other guys, also from N.H., driving down thru Logan canyon. We decided to stop by a roadside sport climbing area to take a look. My 2 partners jumped on a climb and didn't view the scary scene which was about to take place in front of me.
This guy was just starting up a bolted sport climb, and seemed to be in a great hurry to get going, while his 2 son's, perhaps around 10 years old watched. The guy was belayed by another climber, who definitely had more experience, as I had previously watched him lead another climb with some good technique.
As the guy started up, I immediately surmised that he was in way over his head, climbing with VERY poor technique. The bolts ran in a straight line, but this guy went way off to the left, after clipping the first bolt.
He told his partner that he couldn't go any higher and that he was going to fall. His partner suggested that he down climb, but soon after, he came off taking a pretty wild whipper.
I assumed the guy would access the situation and compose himself after his close call; but instead, he kind of threw himself back onto the climb with wild abandon. His kids didn't seem to be bothered as they scampered around at the base.
I was pretty horrified as I continued to watch him lead past his only bolt, failing to clip the next bolt, since he stupidly didn't even check to see how many quick draws were on his harness before launching off.
He yelled down to his partner to throw him some quick draws as he barely hung on. He then climbed way right of the route, with much difficulty, missing the needed bolts for pro. I almost couldn't watch the scene as he
was level with the chain anchors, but too far right to reach them easily.
He then yelled down that he was holding a rock with his foot which he had dislodged, and to get clear. His son's and friends ran for cover, and somehow he reached the chain anchors, still not clipping in. I wasn't really worried about the 50 pound rock, which came crashing down, but more concerned that he still hadn't clipped in. He was far enough above the last bolt that he would of hit the deck, 70 feet below, if he had come off.
I had never seen such a display of poor leading and felt strongly compelled
to give some cautionary advice, especially since this guy had 2 young boys.
Instead of approaching the leader, I waited till his belayer was alone, with nobody around.
I asked him if he knew his partner well. He told me that it was his brother. I then explained to him, without trying to spray, that I had many years of experience, and had never scene such a display of careless leading. This was different than other occasions, where you might see a climber in over his head, but at least clipping the pro. and maybe hanging some.
This guy appeared to be clueless that he might die!
I explained to him that I was only concerned for his brother's safety and that if he continued in this manner, he would most likely get killed, leaving his kid's fatherless, and to "tone it back a bit".
He seemed to be a bit irritated, and asked me what I meant by " tone it back". I explained that I felt his brother needed to be more cautious and gain experience in a slightly less aggressive nature.
Rather than say more, I ended the conversation.
A little while later, my friends climbed a hard 5.11, on sight, while they watched. The guy I gave the cautionary talk to seemed to warm up a little, after the display of fine leading by my partners.
We left soon afterwards, for our flight out of Salt Lake.
I realize that I might of approached the brother of the guy leading in a different manner, but I was pretty perturbed watching this, as I have NEVER seen anything quite like it before. Since I'm not only a father but a grandfather now,
I was looking at this from a different perspective, than perhaps 40 years ago, where I might of been just as dumb as this leader, on occasion.
I thought sending this message thru the guy's brother, ( the belayer), rather than talking to the leader was prudent since the belayer was obviously more experienced.