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How often do you fall on gear?
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takeme


Jul 6, 2005, 6:23 PM
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The questions posed in the original post are very interesting to me. I probably fall more into the "my last fall was 2 months ago" category. I'm an experienced climber and at times I've pushed my gear leading into the mid-5.11 range but fear seems to hold me back from consistently leading at this level.

I've taken several unexpected falls in the 20-25 foot range on gear in some committing places and I think that has affected my outlook. None of these were falls that I would have felt likely to walk away from had I known they were coming, but in all cases I did. Yet, instead of strengthening my trust in "trad" systems of protection, I tend more these days to think of the worst case scenario in any fall. The next such fall could be the one where the shit hits the fan, it could happen next week or in 10 years but I have a really strong fear of being fucked up, permanent brain damage, requiring National Guard scale rescues, etc. Wierd shit happens. I'm more likely to say "take" than ever, and while that bothers me I don't know if it should.

With my home trad crags as Eldo and Lumpy Ridge I think I become more cautious by the year even as my ability slowly improves. So many harder routes in Eldo involve constantly switching between 5.9/10 "do not fall" terrain, and then well protected 5.11. Sometimes I find it hard to switch back and forth between these mindsets in a single pitch. Sometimes the 5.11 is not so well protected.

One final note--I think the criticism of folks who spend their entire careers never taking a fall is misplaced. Why wouldn't it be possible to have a very fulfilling climbing lifestyle staying well within your limits? Personally, though I sometimes push my limits (and only sometimes enjoy doing so), my favorite form of climbing is 1000 foot 5.9s in spectacular settings and if I ever lose the bug to improve, I know I'll be happy with that.


boltdude


Jul 6, 2005, 6:50 PM
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Are you people really falling that much on gear? This thread comes as quite a shock to me at least.

If this is really accurate, the primary thing this thread shows is that the current definition of "trad" is well-protected cracks.

The secondary thing this shows is that people are really chasing numbers instead of getting solid at the grade.

For those of you who regularly fall on gear (in my definition that would be at least once out of 10 days trad climbing), are you primarily climbing well protected thin cracks? ("thin" here means protectable by 4" cams and below). Or are people falling on slabs, faces, chimneys, flares, offwidths, etc and just losing skin?


jt512


Jul 6, 2005, 7:12 PM
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In reply to:
The secondary thing this shows is that people are really chasing numbers instead of getting solid at the grade.

No, it shows that people are using sport climbing tactics on so-called trad routes. This brings up (as in regurgitates) the question of whether it is the route itself that is trad or the style that it is climbed in, but that is a side point. A more relevant question is why you think one ought to "get solid in the grade" rather than take falls on gear.

-Jay


mistertyler


Jul 6, 2005, 7:54 PM
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In reply to:
A more relevant question is why you think one ought to "get solid in the grade" rather than take falls on gear.

That all depends on the climber, the protection, the route, etc...


boltdude


Jul 6, 2005, 8:50 PM
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In reply to:
A more relevant question is why you think one ought to "get solid in the grade" rather than take falls on gear.
Simple. Most folks reading this forum - with all the folks advocating falling and saying they do it all the time - will be climbing on routes where that's not safe. If you're on steep terrain with clean falls, no big deal. But most people into trad are climbing low-angle terrain where falls are often not a good option.

All depends on the route, but all these comments advocating falls may sum up to giving newer trad leaders poor advice.

For the record, I took a 25' fall on my first 5.9 lead (2nd pitch of Central Pillar), a 15' on my first solid 5.10 (Waverly Wafer), and a 20' on my first solid 5.11 (Do or Fly). I'm not against pushing your limits and falling on gear, I'm just concerned that all these voices saying they fall on gear all the time may give the wrong message to newer leaders.


saxfiend


Jul 6, 2005, 8:57 PM
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I've been following this thread since it started; now that I've recently taken my first tentative steps into trad leading, I went back through the whole thread again. Lots of interesting input here.

Maybe it's because I just haven't been doing it that long, but I've never worried much about falling on sport leads. Trad, on the other hand, has been an eye-opener. Realizing my life could depend on how well I place a piece makes me wonder how I could ever trust it enough to fall on it. I'm sure that will change with experience.

Two posts that stay with me:

In reply to:
. . . if you aren't falling on your pro while you are learning then to some degree you aren't learning.
In reply to:
you don't trust your gear . . . because you haven't ever had to rely on your gear.
The whole idea of placing pro is that it's going to catch you if you fall. If I'm going to put in a piece but don't trust that it will hold a fall, I probably shouldn't be climbing! :? So I'll have to get over that mental obstacle at some point . . . but I'm not in any rush!

Thanks for some good insights.

JL


jt512


Jul 7, 2005, 7:44 AM
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In reply to:
I've been following this thread since it started; now that I've recently taken my first tentative steps into trad leading, I went back through the whole thread again. Lots of interesting input here.

Maybe it's because I just haven't been doing it that long, but I've never worried much about falling on sport leads. Trad, on the other hand, has been an eye-opener. Realizing my life could depend on how well I place a piece makes me wonder how I could ever trust it enough to fall on it. I'm sure that will change with experience.

Two posts that stay with me:

In reply to:
. . . if you aren't falling on your pro while you are learning then to some degree you aren't learning.
In reply to:
you don't trust your gear . . . because you haven't ever had to rely on your gear.
The whole idea of placing pro is that it's going to catch you if you fall. If I'm going to put in a piece but don't trust that it will hold a fall, I probably shouldn't be climbing! :? So I'll have to get over that mental obstacle at some point . . . but I'm not in any rush!

Thanks for some good insights.

JL

The idea, though, is not to have blind faith in your placements, but rather to actually know that they are good. The only way to develop that knowledge safely is to weight your placements under controlled circumstances. There are three ways to do this. First, you can place gear near ground level, clip in to the gear, and bounce on it. Second, you can lead several clean aid pitches. And, third, you can take intentional lead falls on your gear. This last approach requires you to judge when the terrain is safe enough to fall on (see boltdude's post) and to be able to back up your placement with bomber gear: either a well-constructed multi-piece anchor below the piece you plan to fall on or a loose top rope above you.

-Jay


leewee


Jul 7, 2005, 8:12 AM
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i trust my gear, ive fallen on gear, but i dont do so often...i onsight 5.10 cracks most times and i dont enjoy climbing harder stuff if i have to whip on every move (if i liked to hang dog id go back to sport climbing)...so i go out and climb 10s mostly and have a great time, manytimes i think i might fall and im fine with that i just want the onsight so bad i pull through...

my first trad fall was on to a #2 stopper, that was enough to give me trust in the gear...i often ask people "if you dont trust it why do you spend so much on it"...if i didnt trust my cams id only pay a few bucks tops...and nuts would have to be pennies...


renohandjams


Jul 7, 2005, 8:20 AM
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I can see now that if I had been MORE comfortable falling while trad climbing I might have a complete smile right now. I think falling is a good thing. An art to be mastered. I used to be a sponsored snowboarder and an avid skateboarder and the more I fell the more graceful I was when I fell. I was more relaxed when I fell and less likely to break something. I think rock climbing is similar, the more comfortable you are with falling the less likely you are to get injured. I think a good way to learn this is sport climbing, but I never do it when I can use my cams and nuts instead. I don't have any advice to give on how often, or how far, but I do know that the experience you can gain by falling is important.
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dougsabum


Jul 7, 2005, 9:27 AM
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Some people here are saying they fall every time they go out, sometimes multiple falls each time out.

How often are you replacing your ropes? It seems like some people should be getting new ropes ever week or so, if you follow the recommended fall guidelines put out by rope manufacturers.

If you don't replace your rope after, say, 10 falls, do you feel you are endangering yourself and others around you?


jt512


Jul 7, 2005, 9:37 AM
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In reply to:
Some people here are saying they fall every time they go out, sometimes multiple falls each time out.

How often are you replacing your ropes? It seems like some people should be getting new ropes ever week or so, if you follow the recommended fall guidelines put out by rope manufacturers.

If you don't replace your rope after, say, 10 falls, do you feel you are endangering yourself and others around you?

Try actually reading the tag that comes with your rope before claiming to know something about the manufaturer's guidelines. Nowhere does it mention retiring your rope after 10 falls.

-Jay


dougsabum


Jul 7, 2005, 9:55 AM
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jt512 - do you try to live out the stereotype of the small-dicked SoCal asshole or is this just you acting natural?

It was just a freakin question, and it certainly wasn't directed at you.

But here is a question for you. Let's say you've fallen on a rope five times and your beloved rope tag says nothing about five falls, yet you see clear evidence of excessive wear - do you replace the rope or do you climb until falling the magic number as given by a rope manufacturer?

With your attitude I hope I never climb with or near you, but if I do I will ask you the history of your rope. It's a fair question.


Partner climbinginchico


Jul 7, 2005, 10:04 AM
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I believe what Jay was getting at was that you don't necessarily have to replace your rope after 10 falls.

If you take 50 falls on it, and it looks good, it probably is.

If you have never fallen on it but it is excessively abraded and has some core shots, it needs to be replaced.

If we all did replace our ropes that often, we would be much poorer, and have a shitload of rope rugs.


jt512


Jul 7, 2005, 10:08 AM
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In reply to:
Let's say you've fallen on a rope five times and your beloved rope tag says nothing about five falls, yet you see clear evidence of excessive wear - do you replace the rope or do you climb until falling the magic number as given by a rope manufacturer?

You'd save yourself a lot of public embarrassment by actually reading the tag, as I suggested in the first place. There is no "magic number" of falls on the tag that indicates when a rope should be retired*. Do you need me to spell out what the manufaturer's recommendations are, or can you manage to find the manufaturer's website all by yourself?

In reply to:
With your attitude I hope I never climb with or near you, but if I do I will ask you the history of your rope. It's a fair question.

Don't worry. I don't climb with morons. As for the history of my ropes, they probably hold an average of 6-8 falls per week, and I typically retire them after 8 to 12 months of use. On occasion, a rope will last me for a year and a half. Do the math, if you can manage it.

-Jay

*With one exception: a rope should be retired after a single severe fall.


davidji


Jul 7, 2005, 10:22 AM
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In reply to:
If you don't replace your rope after, say, 10 falls, do you feel you are endangering yourself and others around you?

The UIAA fall rating is for pretty big falls. Small falls are irrelevant.


jt512


Jul 7, 2005, 10:36 AM
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In reply to:
In reply to:
If you don't replace your rope after, say, 10 falls, do you feel you are endangering yourself and others around you?

The UIAA fall rating is for pretty big falls. Small falls are irrelevant.

More than that, the UIAA fall rating has nothing to do with either the number of big falls or the number of small falls after which you should retire your rope. The manufaturers of every rope I've owned recommend retiring the rope after a single severe fall. As you imply, they make no recommendation as to a number of routine falls. Instead, they recommend retirement based on time, frequency of use, and noticeable damage.

-Jay


dougsabum


Jul 7, 2005, 10:41 AM
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Thanks, davidji, for the reasonable response to an honest question. It seems any confusion on this issue is coming from "small" vs. "big" falls. My inference/implication is that with all the falling being discussed here thay can't all be "small" falls, and even then a "small" fall is subjective.

The way others "present" their arguments or responses tends to not encourage any discussion, and in that sense any message they may have is unfortunately skipped due to the unnecessary aggressiveness of language. It does help remind me why I don't live in a city, though.


jt512


Jul 7, 2005, 10:50 AM
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In reply to:
Thanks, davidji, for the reasonable response to an honest question. It seems any confusion on this issue is coming from "small" vs. "big" falls.

Not really. Read my last post.

In reply to:
My inference/implication is that with all the falling being discussed here thay can't all be "small" falls, and even then a "small" fall is subjective.

You're wrong again. Most climbers will not take a single severe fall in their climbing career.

In reply to:
The way others "present" their arguments or responses tends to not encourage any discussion...

Oh, you mean like not letting the fact that you are an ignorant n00b stop you from accusing the entire climbing community of endangering the public because they don't retire their ropes based on your misunderstanding of the manufacturers' guidelines?

-Jay


jeff59


Jul 7, 2005, 10:50 AM
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Just a thought -- all my climbs are on site; many are on sight-- call me a retired language teacher (I am) but it does make a difference. As for falling, I avoid it -- it's not climbing, it's falling (language thing again--heh,heh). That said, in almost 40 years of trad leading, I've fallen on good and bad pro, no pro (I got hurt), ice pro(it held but I got hurt) and have determined that I don't like it! I'm neither proud of falling or ashamed--it happens but "every time I go out"?-- you must only climb overhanging rock!! Have fun. Jeff


papounet


Jul 7, 2005, 3:59 PM
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I hate falling. I can accept falling when doing sports climb or in a gym. I even practice falls once in a year (and often find myself "liberated")
But I much prefer climbing in "real mountains". There, we can't escape the fact that the consequences of a fall are not good wether the gear holds or not.

I just took last week my first fall on gear. The gear held, but the weight of the backpack flipped me over. Luckily, the guide was hyper attuned to my difficult situation. So I ended up scratching my helmet on the rock.

I'll do my best to 1/ place good gear, 2/ avoid to fall.

On the subject of leader falls, I had a very intersting discussion with 2 Chamonix guides, which were presenting the sort of classic arguments: most young climbers may be very strong gymnastically speaking, but lack the moral fiber to actually climb what used to be called the 6th degree.
They gave 2 examples: a/ a chimney rated III on the arete des papillons route (or on the arete des cosmiques) which most parties avoid as it is not protectable. you have a fixed knotted rope, which nonetheless inspire many people to take the detour, and b/ the "fissure des hirondelles" which is only 7a, but it is a very wet hand crack under a roof with used to be protected by a piton 15m away; the first climber to free it climbs at 8a level. In some situation, you best pro is your skills/strengths/spirits

We discussed some routes, which have both global alpine style rating and pitch by pitch technical ratings. More specifically, we discussed TD routes which have 6a/6b pitches (around (5.10c ?). After my own attempts at (2) TD routes and a few D routes, I have to agree with their wisdom: most climbers would need a much higher technical skill such as 5.11b to attempt this safely.

All this to say: In france, we are somewhat lucky as we have sports routes which are bolted/pitonned where falls most often aren't dangerous and we have unprepared routes ("terrain d'aventure") where additionnal gear is neccessary and where falls most often can be dangerous (not to mention the Alps, the Pyrenées, ...)
thus we have a simple rule: on bolts, falls are OK (and perhaps beneficial to progress), on gear, falls are to be avoided

In other parts of the world, if you don't have the luxury of bolts ;-), there are places where you can "risk" falls and other places where falls are not allowed. unless you know on which routes a climber climbs, you can't tell if his/her attitude toward falls is similar/dissimilar to yours.


saxfiend


Jul 7, 2005, 4:25 PM
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In reply to:
call me a retired language teacher (I am) . . .

I'm neither proud of falling or ashamed
Did you retire before they decided that nor goes with neither?
:P
JL


renohandjams


Jul 7, 2005, 9:28 PM
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I think this is a good movie link for this thread:
A 50 foot fall on a number 2 camalot. I would've messed myself. For now a 20 footer feels plenty big.

http://www.bdel.com/vids/fall.mov

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vegastradguy


Jul 7, 2005, 9:56 PM
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In reply to:
Thanks, davidji, for the reasonable response to an honest question. It seems any confusion on this issue is coming from "small" vs. "big" falls. My inference/implication is that with all the falling being discussed here thay can't all be "small" falls, and even then a "small" fall is subjective.

a 'big' fall that would cause a rope to be retired immediately is any fall closing in on factor 2 (basically, you need to fall past belay on a multipitch line to create this type of fall). Incidentally, my biggest fall clocked in at a FF 1.5ish and was scary as hell. The rope was immediately retired afterward. Set pro early and often and avoid these types of falls at all costs.

In reply to:
The way others "present" their arguments or responses tends to not encourage any discussion, and in that sense any message they may have is unfortunately skipped due to the unnecessary aggressiveness of language.

actually, jt's response was just making an observation- he pointed out that as a climber, you need to be reading and understanding the directions given to you by the people who make the line you trust your life to- something you had obviously not done before you posted. perhaps you should quit being defensive about someone elses typing and instead focus that energy on actually understanding the functions and limitations of the gear you trust your life to.


davidji


Jul 7, 2005, 10:49 PM
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In reply to:
a 'big' fall that would cause a rope to be retired immediately is any fall closing in on factor 2 (basically, you need to fall past belay on a multipitch line to create this type of fall).

In the interest of safety, I'll point out that you can't always retire a rope immediately: You may need to finish the climb. Ropes have a recovery time after a big fall (anyone remember/know a ballpark number for that?). When you resume your climb, lead on the other end.

For more details see this thread, especially rgold's first post, and his quote from Chris Harmston.


jeff59


Jul 8, 2005, 9:57 AM
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Saxfiend-- point well taken-- I stand corrected-- I'm old enough to have used "nor"-- in self defense, I'd say that for those confusing "on site" and "on sight" the niceties of "neither" and "nor" going together are probably wasted; in addition, as a former French language teacher, I am allowed to occasionally make errors in English :P , n'est-ce pas?
In response to the recent post asking about length of time to allow a rope to relax after a fall, if I remember correctly ( I spent 22 years as the American delegate to the UIAA Safety Commission) , the UIAA allows 5 minutes between drops during the "drop test" portion of the test. The advice of a recent poster (davidji) to switch ends of the rope is not unfounded but often totally impractical in the field in the case where " you have to finish the route". As in most mountaineering situations you just have to keep your options open, risks are potentially much more serious and falls are to be AVOIDED. Jeff Lea

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