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Are you a risk taker? An inquiry about a climber stereotype
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By The Stoned Master
From Millerstown, PA
Sep 24, 2013
Day Lily.

I have a lot I'd like to say, explore and learn about risk assessment (relative/personal) and taking the risk (actually putting myself knowingly into a high risk situation and experiencing the heightened state).

One method, one of many, for me to learn more is by hearing/learning your experiences and thoughts. So...


Do you fit the stereotype of a high risk loving (always taking risks) climber?

Do you consider yourself a high risk taker even off the rock? Do you drive fast, do you gamble, do you work high on your house unanchored, do you take risky paths in regards to your relationships, do you have a lot of unprotected sex with constantly different partners, etc, etc.

is climbing a well protected (can sew up comfortably) moderate safer than driving on an average American road?

Is climbing traditionally (on gear) already risky even if a vertical (safe fall) route on BOMBER stone that can be SEWN up? Lets say you do have an adequate enough rack to sew the climb up and you do place a piece of gear every body length (even if not needed just for argument sake). Basically is every trad leader a high risk taking individual? every sport leader?



I do enjoy putting myself in high risk (relative) situations (run outs, soloing, highballs etc) sometimes. Not every day. Outside of these times Im a low risk dude. I drive the speed limit, I arrive at work early, I dont drink in excess, I dont go picking fights, I tie in when cleaning my chimney, etc

My family and non-climbing friends see me as a "daredevil" level risk taker and its just not true (99% of the time) outside of some calculated moments throughout the year.

thank you.


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By doug rouse
From Denver, CO.
Sep 24, 2013

Everything in context. A beginning climber may see an ascent of a V5 highball a risk, where an experienced climber may view it as run of the mill. In all fields, you'll have those who have many years in, and may appear to be taking high risks..when in fact a higher-level of skill is all that is on display..Personally, running through trees on my snowboard at a high rate of speed, feels riskier than highballing...so many variables..but it also has to do with comfort with risk as well...good question.


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By Alicia Sokolowski
From Brooklyn, NY
Sep 24, 2013
Hanging out waiting for Die Antwoord to come on stage

I do risk assessment professionally (albeit from an anti terrorist finance and anti money laundering perspective). I often hear people who do neither (risk assessment nor rock climbing) state how "ironic" it is that I enjoy both. I actually think they go together very naturally. I would never consider myself an unreasonable risk taker, and I think the average climber is the same. We mitigate the risk through information, equipment, training, and understanding of our gear, the elements, the rock itself and physics.

Just look at how much people quibble over ratings, whether the plus is deserved or not, the FA rating v. the consensus, where is it sandbagged, where is it soft… The scale itself is very telling. Snowboarding, my other primary sport, has basically four ratings if you are in bounds. Few sports present the participant with such a granular assessment of difficulty right at the outset. You aren’t a crazy risk taker just because you climb so long as you use the mitigants appropriate to your skill level and the challenge before you.


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By Jake Jones
From The Eastern Flatlands
Sep 24, 2013
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

I agree 100% with Doug. I am most certainly not a risk taker, and aside from the inherent risks of rockfall, or a piece that you thought was solid blowing, I play it as safe as possible. I sew 'em up whenever I can, and don't run out unless I have to on slab and such. My level of risk acceptance and also fear plays into the routes I climb. I would rather climb a well protected crack where I can slam in a piece every 4 feet if I need to in order to feel comfortable, than climb a sparsely bolted sport route. But that's just me. There are those rare occasions though where a line just strikes me and I have to get on it regardless of the nature or availability of pro.

I don't think every trad leader is accepting a high level of risk. The ones that are taking high levels of risk are ones that A) are well aware of the nature of the route they are climbing- i.e. runout, marginal gear, etc. and hopefully their skillset equips them for success or B) the ones that don't know a good placement from a bad one and are really unaware of the risk that they are taking (hopefully these folks are not jumping on PG13, R or X routes)- which sometimes applies to new trad leaders. I don't think that a route that protects well being climbed by a competent leader on gear presents any heightened level of risk above and beyond leading in general.

Now, to non-climbers, even top-roping is a risk which is sometimes laughable to the rest of us. One of the greatest things about climbing is that it can be as chill or as spicy as you want it to be. It's all about preference and it all must be taken in context with the individual, like Doug said. Subjective, just like most other things.


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By The Stoned Master
From Millerstown, PA
Sep 24, 2013
Day Lily.

Alicia thanks for posting! This site is so heavily male its nice to have a woman partake. I enjoyed your post and think its cool that you assess risk for a living. interesting.

doug and Jake. Im right with you two.


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By Kirby1013
From Baltimore Maryland
Sep 24, 2013
Me eating a cliff bar walking back from Frankenstein Amphitheater

I think most people who climb aren't risk takers. Most of guys and gals that went out climbing this past weekend have careers and families to think about. I believe there are climbers out there that love to take risks. For most of them climbing is life. Those elite few out there climbing what most of us say are crazy (which is subjective) most likely don't have careers or family to take care of.

I think some people start climbing because of the stereotype. Everybody wants to be a badass. It explains why so many watch The Sopranos and Breaking Bad.


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By Matt N
From Santa Barbara, CA
Sep 24, 2013
OTL

I don't own a stick clip.


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By The Stoned Master
From Millerstown, PA
Sep 24, 2013
Day Lily.

interesting Kirby you stated that some became climbers (doing whatever it takes to fit/identify with the image of climber) because of the stereotype it has. maybe it made/makes them feel good to be seen as a "badass" or maybe the risk was genuine "fuel" that motivated them to become a better climb and get to know themself. or maybe both?

interesting man.


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By Locker
From Yucca Valley, CA
Sep 24, 2013
...

I have my own theory for MANY of us and it is abbreviated as ADHD.


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By Kirby1013
From Baltimore Maryland
Sep 24, 2013
Me eating a cliff bar walking back from Frankenstein Amphitheater

Stoned, Shit, that's what got me into all this. The snow was bulletproof in Banff one year so I looked for something else. I found ice climbing and it scared me so I did what I could to keep at it. Ice climbing.. there's a calculated risk!..


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By Brent Apgar
From Out of the Loop
Sep 24, 2013
Me and Spearhead

Locker wrote:
I have my own theory for MANY of us and it is abbreviated as ADHD.


Awesome +1
I'd put climbing more in the Autism category... but either way it's definitely a spectrum disorder and attracts certain personalities accordingly.


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By Woodchuck ATC
Sep 24, 2013
Rock Wars, RRG, 2008

Never was a risky driver, always defensive and alert on the road. But as a climber, yes I guess I took many risks over the years. Hard to admit my age has done me in, but since injuries take so long to heal now, I've given up any true risk in climbing. Seldom trad anymore.,,,don't even want to take long falls on sport routes, so I've gone retro-grade in my efforts on the rocks. Ankles and knees too messed up to even consider bouldering at all. But did plenty of mountaineering solo routes, took long risky falls at times, recovered and got by with few injuries over 40 some years until recently.


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By The Stoned Master
From Millerstown, PA
Sep 24, 2013
Day Lily.

Nice Woodchuck and Brent, thanks for adding to.

Woodchuck you said you did solo mountaineering. off topic question: your favorite route done solo and on what Mountain in what range?

You mentioned Woodchuck something that applies to us all: as we age (relative as to at which point this happens) we climb easier/less risky routes. Our priorities shift I assume and/or we become experienced enough to now take an honest assessment and maybe we arent comfortable taking the same level of risk we had been. Or maybe 1000+ other reasons why. Good points man.


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By David Appelhans
From Lafayette
Sep 24, 2013
Imaginate

I enjoy taking some risks. I try not to die, but I enjoy climbing R rated routes and soloing. I like the mental challenge of runouts and climbing confidently high above gear. I choose riskier investments and I enjoy poker.

I'd say I try to mitigate risk as much as possible and I don't have a death wish, but my risk tolerance is certainly much higher than other people I know, and I enjoy calculated risk.


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By Michael C
From New Jersey
Sep 24, 2013
Base of Main Flow, The Narrows.

Not a risk taker as much as I'm adventurous.


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By Woodchuck ATC
Sep 24, 2013
Rock Wars, RRG, 2008

Im just sick and tired of long recovery times these days,,and the fact I don't work hard enough to stay in shape in the first place. The result is I still enjoy being out there, but just don't push hard anymore for any numbers or whatever. Just have healthy fun, no more injuries please.


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By QdeBees
Sep 24, 2013

My theory is that climbing actually attracts the risk-averse, who also occupy a position high on the OCDC spectrum. These people, having a high need to exert great control over their environment (or illusion of same), seek an activity that requires suppression of brain-stem reflexes. The ultimate control.

FYI: in additional to trembling redpoints, I can also not blink for days, and breathe like a meditating Tibetan monk. And not speak for months on end. Really.


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By JCM
From Golden, CO
Sep 24, 2013

QdeBees wrote:
My theory is that climbing actually attracts the risk-averse, who also occupy a position high on the OCDC spectrum. These people, having a high need to exert great control over their environment (or illusion of same), seek an activity that requires suppression of brain-stem reflexes. The ultimate control.


Probably true. If you need more evidence of rampant OCD, just look at any thread regarding hangboarding in the Training forum.


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By Doug Hemken
Administrator
Sep 24, 2013
On Everleigh Club Crack.  Photo by Burt Lindquist.

Woodchuck, I'm totally with you. Injuries that used to take a month now take three. The risks have escalated.

On the other hand, I'm a much better judge of when I'm having a good day than I used to be.


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By Rajiv Ayyangar
From Portland, ME
Sep 24, 2013
Cut! Sadly my flash attempt met with dismal pump-failure two bolts later.

Like most sport climbers, I'm especially risk-averse on the spectrum of climbers, and maybe even more risk-averse than skiers, surfers, and other extreme sports. Or at least, all these other sports seem way more dangerous to me than sport climbing. I've been in a few sketchy situations over the years, and I appreciate the heightened clarity that can come with mastering oneself in high-consequence (though low risk) situations, but I don't seek them out. To me the excitement lies in the line, the movement, and the challenge.


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By Mark Pilate
Sep 24, 2013

Complicated topic. For personal assessments, my litmus test has always been driving (one of the riskiest things we all do and accept). Is proposition "X" on a whole, riskier or less risky than the drive to go do it. Obviously a subjective judgment call, but a good reference point.

Most climbing, kayaking, diving, etc when done properly and not at the cutting edge, falls below that line.

As others have said as well, my personal "envelope" has also changed over time. With the birth of my daughters, things previously acceptable are no longer considered, and would simply be irresponsible.


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By cassondra
From las vegas, NV
Sep 24, 2013
in repose

Locker wrote:
I have my own theory for MANY of us and it is abbreviated as ADHD.


I have ADHD and I climb. I suspect is has something to do with the pursuit of stimulation the activity of climbing provides for those of us who have this condition. Climbing is frequently listed in books on the subject of ADHD among the other "high risk" highly stimulating activities that are typical for people whose brains operate in that fashion....personally it helps to calm me down and keep me focused.


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By ErikaNW
Sep 24, 2013
Rapping off the Matron October, 2010

Jake Jones wrote:
Now, to non-climbers, even top-roping is a risk which is sometimes laughable to the rest of us.


One thing I find interesting about risk is the idea of perceived versus real risk. A new climber top-roping might perceive it as being very risky/dangerous when they are actually very safe. I'm sure all of us have also seen people doing something extremely risky/dangerous, when they actually think they are being safe (lack of knowledge?).

Interesting topic.

For me, I think I have a pretty low risk tolerance in climbing. I try really hard to differentiate real versus perceived risk (sometimes if I find myself scared, I find it is the perceived risk that is getting to me and once I recognize that I can relax a bit), and then work to mitigate the real risks the best that I can.


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By JaminT
Sep 24, 2013

I love to climb; indeed, getting scared is part of what makes climbing addicting for me. That said, I don't like to run it out, on gear or bolts, and I am make damn sure that my harness, knots, and gear are good every time. The good part about climbing right now is that 5.10's are still a great challenge; there are tons of climbs I can find that are challenging both physically and mentally without putting myself in positions of lots of risk. I love being in positions of risk wherein the consequences of an accident would be very high, but the likelihood and potential very low. I imagine thats what lets most climbers be cool 1000 feet off of the ground.

However, I am a much better skier than climber. I go fast, big, and hard. I am to the point where if I want to push my ability, I have to put myself into situations where the likelihood of an accident is much higher, simply by virtue of the terrain I ski. It seems likely that at some point, I will fuck up, and then I'm done-so. I find myself gravitating more towards climbing, even after a lifetime of skiing, simply because the world of new rock to climb seems much bigger, safer, and more challenging than the world of snow.

In the end, I love going fast, climbing hard, but I also want to be doing it at age 70.


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By michaelp
Sep 25, 2013

The Stoned Master wrote:
Do you fit the stereotype of a high risk loving (always taking risks) climber? Do you consider yourself a high risk taker even off the rock? Do you drive fast, do you gamble, do you work high on your house unanchored, do you take risky paths in regards to your relationships, do you have a lot of unprotected sex with constantly different partners, etc, etc.

No to all of the above.

For me, climbing is primarily about the movement and an intellectual challenge simultaneous with good exercise. For that reason, I enjoy gym climbing a great deal.

I also enjoy climbing actual rock because it's fun to be out in nature and because it calls for different movements. But I'm happy to keep it as low risk as possible (e.g., stick clipping or placing additional pro on sport routes). For me the enjoyment of climbing has nothing to do with adventure or intentionally placing myself at risk.


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By David Joslin
Sep 25, 2013
Dragonfly Creek, February 2012

Risk, maybe, but it's calculated. Heck, driving in rush hour traffic today was risky!


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