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Soloing at the Feathers
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By Kemper Brightman
From Tucson, AZ
Apr 28, 2014

While leading a climbing trip at the feathers today 4/27 we encountered a gentleman soloing to put ropes for his friends. He repeatedly climbed routes with a rope, draws and anchor on his harness and even employed a "belayer", only to skip the bolts entirely, put up an anchor and lower to the ground. Doing our best to be accommodating to his party, we offered to pull a rope on a climb he asked about but let him know he would need to use his own anchor at the top (we have strict liability policies that don't allow us to share gear on trips). He proceeded to sate "Ill just solo up and put up our rope" and that "I wouldn't want to use your anchor anyway". Needless to say our participants, many of whom were having their first outdoor climbing experience, were both scared and utterly confused. We've done our best to insure our students that climbing can be done safely, and unfortunately this mans actions have painted an entirely different picture about the reality of climbing outdoors.

While I fully understand the allure of soloing, doing it in such a manor and such a location seems to entirely invalidate the reasons for doing so in the first place. Overall I'd like to think our experience can be a great reminder that our actions extend beyond our selves. If you want to solo, more power to you, but please, be respectful of other climbers, especially if you're going to do it in an area as popular as the feathers.


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By redlude97
Apr 28, 2014

The feathers is barely more than a highball boulder if that. I don't see the big deal, and it shouldn't have any effect on your group.


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By Willie Wilson
From America
Apr 28, 2014

redlude97 wrote:
The feathers is barely more than a highball boulder if that. I don't see the big deal, and it shouldn't have any effect on your group.

True


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By jellis
From Washington, East and West
Apr 29, 2014

Dude, listen to yourself...

The great thing about climbing is no other climber can tell you what to do or how to climb.


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By matt c.
Apr 29, 2014

You said you didn't like the man soloing because it painted climbing in an unsafe manner. What was he doing that was so unsafe? It is presumptuous of you to assume that he is being unsafe just because he is soloing. It sounds like the party he was with did not know how to lead belay. He had to decide between trusting an incompetent belayer or soloing a route. It might have been safer to just solo that climb rather then half trusting a rope of someone that doesn't know what they are doing. This is especially true if that climb is short, where is a lot of ground fall potential.

I cannot blame his for not wanting to use someone else's anchor. Again, it is about risk assessment. He had to weigh the danger of soloing a route (something known in his control), with trusting his life to a foreign anchor. Who are you to say he made the wrong decision?

Also, for you to cultivate the idea to your participants that climbing is a safe is inaccurate. This attitude originates climbing gyms and unfortunately gets transcribes outside. There is inherent risk in climbing, the idea behind climbing is to mitigate this risk. It was good that your groups saw a different perspective on safely mitigating this risk.

Finally, to imply the a guy soloing is somehow disrespectful to other climber is outrageous. I think that it is unfair you make a statement that someone else's climbing style is 'invalid' just because you don't understand.


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By Meg Ryan
Apr 29, 2014

Well trolled, sir!


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By SpokaneBob
Apr 30, 2014

Hi Kemper & Others,

I tend to agree with the others who have replied thus far. Over the years I have observed that merely because a party of climbers have a rope, gear, etc., does not mean the party is safe. And, conversely, I have observed that some soloists are very, very safe, while others are not. I suppose what I am saying is the climber you observed at the Feathers that day might have been the safest person at Vantage that day, and on the other hand might not have been. Soloing does not automatically equate to unsafe. Safety in climbing is not fully a function of have a rope and gear. It is a function of other factors, most of which are intangible such as attitude, ability to focus, knowing one's limits, the situation, etc. The great Chuck Pratt reportedly once said "your technique is your safety." I agree with him. No amount of rope and gear is going to make a climber safe if his/her technique, situational awareness, etc., is not well developed. So without being there to observe I cannot tell from your recounting of the day whether the soloist at the Feathers was a danger to himself and possibly others or not. He may very well have been doing your students a favor by showing them a different and (in the world of climbing ) equally valid way to safely climb.

Cheers to all,

Bob Loomis, Spokane, WA.


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By Max Tepfer
From Bend, OR
Apr 30, 2014

To provide some counterpoint to the above posts, I think Kemper's point was that the allure and beauty of free soloing is that it is an activity that allows you to climb more fluidly by (a) not having to stop and place gear or belay, (b) climb in a manner unencumbered by ropes or harnesses, (c) be reliant entirely on your own ability to move over terrain, and (d) climb a high volume of terrain very quickly. Additionally, while soloing is something that can done in groups, it seems more typically something one would do alone. (aka solo)

This guy doesn't sound like he was soloing for any of the above reasons. You could argue that he was unencumbered by not having to clip the 3-4 bolts it takes to reach the top of a feather, but you have to ask yourself if the risk of soloing 20-30' of otherwise chossy, moderate climbing is worth the reward of skipping 3-4 bolts? It sounds to me like he was more likely soloing to illustrate how badass he is (or isn't...) to his friends. (maybe like this guy:



Lastly, even an inexperienced belayer is better than no belayer at all. If it's a route you're considering soloing, being short roped shouldn't be a problem and the odds of an inexperienced belayer with a backup belay catching a whipper are far greater than you walking away from a 20-30' digger.


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By Pontoon
From Minneapolis, Minnesota
Apr 30, 2014

I've watched a couple guys solo before. It never bothered me, and I don't think it should bother anyone else. That is, the soloing part. I'm sure there are bothersome soloists out there, just as there are bothersome roped climbers, boulderers, soccer moms, etc...


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By matt c.
Apr 30, 2014

shit!! what a fucked up video, my palms started to sweat. Thanks for sharing.

I think you are missing a key reason to solo. Sometimes soloing is the best way to climb safely. On some climbs the most pressing objective danger is not the falling but its other things such as weather, rockfall, etc.

You could argue that on a short, easy climb the objective danger was getting pulled off the wall by an inexperienced belayer and not caught by that same belayer. This may have been more of a concern than simply climbing to the top.


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By Lurker
Apr 30, 2014

That dude in the video (1) has godawful footwork (but sweet socks), (2) should not be soloing, and (3) is lucky to be alive. I wonder if the rope slowed him down enough to save his ass, or just burned the shit out of his hands. If I ever saw someone like that at the crag, I would run away screaming.


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By Kemper Brightman
From Tucson, AZ
May 1, 2014

I appreciate the replies everyone. I can definitely see where you're coming from if you're calling my post an over-reaction or don't feel like the incident was a big deal at all. Indeed, if I were out climbing with my buddies and not working I would have had less of an issue with the man soloing next to us. I didn't mean to start a debate about the danger (or lack there of) in soloing.

To clear a few things up:
- His friends could and were lead-belaying each other
- He loudly (and proudly) mentioned that he had soloed every 5.10 at the feathers his first time there and seemed to take every opportunity to brag about soloing near our class.
- Perhaps I should have been more clear about how we teach about risk and danger in climbing. We certainly do not teach our classes that climbing is absolutely safe, in fact doing so would be a gross disservice to a new climber. Instead we talk about managing risks and give our students the skills to climb safely both indoors and out.

I've watched many people solo at a variety of locations. Its not the act itself that bothers me, but doing it in an arrogant manner as if you have something to prove is obnoxious.




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By SpokaneBob
May 1, 2014

Hi Kemper and Others,

Kemper your last posting helped me to understand better your original concern. My general view is that in climbing (one could actually extend this to other walks of life) "showboats" are best avoided. If one is climbing just to be able to brag to others then one has missed what climbing is all about--it is the highly personal and private victories, not the public or "broadcasted" victories, that are at the heart of climbing. So it sounds like this person might have been soloing for the chance to trumpet his skills. Likely not the most aesthetic approach.
Some of my best days climbing occurred in private, some of them soloing. No witnesses, no pictures taked, no "selfies," no post-climb write-up, no trace of my efforts, etc.,--just me with the experience I created for myself. I am not saying this automatically makes me better than another climber who chooses to call attention to his/her deeds. Rather I am simply expressing the idea that at the end of the day perhaps the private experience is the best one to go to sleep on.

Cheers,

Bob Loomis, Spokane, WA.


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By Alex Fermanis
From Turtle Island
May 8, 2014
On the way to the top of MT. Constance

Kemper,
I was also present at the Feathers when this man starting free soloing routes and boasting of his ability to climb all of the 5.10's at the feathers. Let it be known that I have no problem with people free soloing but the way in which he went about it in front of a group of first-time climbers appeared both arrogant and tasteless. I think we have a responsibility as climbers not only to the faces on which we climb but to the other parties with whom we share the crag. This feather-soloist showed a disregard for those around him.
Our actions totally have an effect on those around us, it seems that many climbers out there have lost this sense of accountability. Be safe and solo somewhere else.


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By Mellow Yellow
May 9, 2014

Sounds to me like an issue that doesn't really have anything to do with soloing, as it does about climbing next to a punter.

You'll find them in all walks of life.

Avoid and move on!


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By Allen Riling
From Durango
May 16, 2014

Holy Crap…what a d bag.


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By Ballard
May 16, 2014

I want to write about a very disturbing series of events I witnessed at the Feathers recently. A gentleman named Kemper Brightman was "leading" what seemed to be an organized instructional climbing group to what is one of the busiest crags in the state. While most professional guides consider it good practice to avoid stringing too many routes at once at heavily used crags, especially on a perfect sunny Sunday, Mr. Brightman's group had top rope sieged about six of the most popular routes at once for hours even when none of his students were using them. Another gentleman politely inquired whether he was done with one of the most popular routes and whether the gentlemen could put up his own rope on the route for about 15 minutes for a couple of his friends to use. Mr. Brightman ascented after instructing the second gentleman to not use his anchors. The second gentlemen thanked him and said no problem about the anchors, "... because I follow the same policy when I'm guiding."

The second gentleman, in addition to not wanting to delay Mr. Brightman's extended group TR sieging session any longer than necessary, had also been putting up some easy TR's for his friends all morning and was jonesing for a bit of a workout himself, so he chose to just solo his friend's rope/anchor up and then down solo, too. He likes that kind of workout, as it turns out, and he regularly solos routes in the Feathers; a comment that he made in a quiet conversation with his friends standing next to him--not shouted nor boasted loudly to Mr. Brightman's newbystudents. Indeed, a quick solo up and down a couple of routes is about all the climbing he is sometimes able to get on busy Feathers weekends when a climb is only open for a few minutes, plus the fact that most the routes are about as tall as Seattle Bouldering Project walls makes it seem almost silly to clip five bolts along the way.

When his friends were done, the second gentleman promptly put Mr. Brightman's rope back up on the route, allowing Mr. Brightman's group's all day sieging of the 25 foot 5.8 to continue for a couple more hours.

Worse of all, though, Mr. Brightman modeled very poor climber behavior for his students by savagely attacking a climber for his purely traditional style of ascent and thus missing a great teachable moment for his students about how great climbing is because it is a sport of freedom, individual decisions about risk and reward, and with many styles of climbing that all have passionate devotees. It is a shame that someone who styles themselves as a leader and teacher of climbing would teach his students to be so close-minded about traditional ascents even while at the Feathers, which has got to be one of the silliest, grotesque exaggerations of sported up chosspiles outside of France.


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By redlude97
May 16, 2014

Ballard wrote:
I want to write about a very disturbing series of events I witnessed at the Feathers recently. A gentleman named Kemper Brightman was "leading" what seemed to be an organized instructional climbing group to what is one of the busiest crags in the state. While most professional guides consider it good practice to avoid stringing too many routes at once at heavily used crags, especially on a perfect sunny Sunday, Mr. Brightman's group had top rope sieged about six of the most popular routes at once for hours even when none of his students were using them. Another gentleman politely inquired whether he was done with one of the most popular routes and whether the gentlemen could put up his own rope on the route for about 15 minutes for a couple of his friends to use. Mr. Brightman ascented after instructing the second gentleman to not use his anchors. The second gentlemen thanked him and said no problem about the anchors, "... because I follow the same policy when I'm guiding." The second gentleman, in addition to not wanting to delay Mr. Brightman's extended group TR sieging session any longer than necessary, had also been putting up some easy TR's for his friends all morning and was jonesing for a bit of a workout himself, so he chose to just solo his friend's rope/anchor up and then down solo, too. He likes that kind of workout, as it turns out, and he regularly solos routes in the Feathers; a comment that he made in a quiet conversation with his friends standing next to him--not shouted nor boasted loudly to Mr. Brightman's newbystudents. Indeed, a quick solo up and down a couple of routes is about all the climbing he is sometimes able to get on busy Feathers weekends when a climb is only open for a few minutes, plus the fact that most the routes are about as tall as Seattle Bouldering Project walls makes it seem almost silly to clip five bolts along the way. When his friends were done, the second gentleman promptly put Mr. Brightman's rope back up on the route, allowing Mr. Brightman's group's all day sieging of the 25 foot 5.8 to continue for a couple more hours. Worse of all, though, Mr. Brightman modeled very poor climber behavior for his students by savagely attacking a climber for his purely traditional style of ascent and thus missing a great teachable moment for his students about how great climbing is because it is a sport of freedom, individual decisions about risk and reward, and with many styles of climbing that all have passionate devotees. It is a shame that someone who styles themselves as a leader and teacher of climbing would teach his students to be so close-minded about traditional ascents even while at the Feathers, which has got to be one of the silliest, grotesque exaggerations of sported up chosspiles outside of France.

LOL!!!!! Pretty much.


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By Ballard
May 16, 2014

And to correct Alex Fermanis, the man did not brag about being able to climb all the 5.10s in the Feathers, but rather shared a memory with his group of three friends, standing within a few feet of him, about a treasured day when he was a bit younger and a bit stronger and he soloed all the 5.10s in the Feathers on his first day there. Mr. Fermanis is welcome to eavesdrop on other conversations with the gentleman, too, particularly if Mr. Fermanis would like to hear strange tales of what it is like to have something called balls.

The second gentleman nonetheless congratulations Mr. Fermanis on somehow having discovered a world of climbing free from bragging, boastery, ticklists, posing, and preening, for this most certainly is not the world in which the second gentleman's 25+ years of climbing has transpired.


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By Mellow Yellow
May 19, 2014

So glad I saw this thread updated...classic stuff -thanks guys!


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By mcarizona
From Flag
May 19, 2014

/\ /\ /\ /\ /\

No shit! Its perspective huh?!


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By Robbie Mackley
From Tucson, AZ
May 20, 2014
Me and Holden at the "Matterhorn"

With all due respect to everyone involved in the situation, and the resulting thread:
It would apear to me that Kemper is a good guide, concerned with his clients having a good experience, as all good guides should be.
However, does that mean I should put away my PBR if a class shows up? Should everyone in the area avoid "running it out" if it was a trad clinic? Should we all also take a standardized test to prove proficiency, so as not to derail the teachings of licensed guides to paying customers? Is there a portion of these clinics devoted to teaching stewardship and/or asking that clients carry out more trash than they carried in?
Not likely.
I was under the impression that, if you don't care for certain crag behavior feel free to
teach how & why it bothers you, feel free to use the climber in question as an example, and also feel free to Guide your clients to another area.
Again, I'm not meaning to be inflamority, just trying to understand where we draw the line on public land.
Thanks for reading and feel free to flame me, or discuss in person if ever any of us meet at the crag.
-Mackley
AKA Pabst Blue Robbie
Edit: the D-bag in the video above, was TOTALLY ROBBED of his "Darwin Award."


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By Tronald Dump
May 21, 2014

If he solo'd and didn't fall or get hurt then I would say he was climbing fairly safely..... not sure what your issue is.

On the other hand, over crowding and over climbing at crags is dangerous. Bringing newbs to an area as chossy with as many sketch bolts and anchors as the feathers is dangerous. Overcrowding any area with newbs is dangerous. Why not show them what good rock looks like? There is plenty at vantage, none of it is at the featherz.

One soloist is far less dangerous than a gang of orange helmets wondering if they clipped that bolt the right way.


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By MC Poopypants
May 21, 2014
Dropping a deuce

What kind of shoes was he wearing? I'm currently soloing 5.9 in my workboots and am looking for a shoe to get me soloing 5.10. I know the type of shoe I'm wearing is the key to this.


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By Christian
From Casa do Cacete
May 21, 2014
Ooops...

"People hasten to judge in order not to be judged themselves. What do you expect? The idea that comes most naturally to man, as if from his very nature, is the idea of his innocence. From this point of view, we are all like that little Frenchman at Buchenwald who insisted on registering a complaint with the clerk, himself a prisoner,who was recording his arrival. A complaint? The clerk and his comrades laughed: “Useless, old man.You don’t lodge a complaint here.”

“But you see, sir,” said the little Frenchman, “my case is exceptional, I am innocent!”

We are all exceptional cases. We all want to appeal against something! Each of us insists on being innocent at all cost, even if he has to accuse the whole human race and heaven itself."

Camus, The Fall


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By redlude97
May 21, 2014

Tronald Dump wrote:
If he solo'd and didn't fall or get hurt then I would say he was climbing fairly safely..... not sure what your issue is. On the other hand, over crowding and over climbing at crags is dangerous. Bringing newbs to an area as chossy with as many sketch bolts and anchors as the feathers is dangerous. Overcrowding any area with newbs is dangerous. Why not show them what good rock looks like? There is plenty at vantage, none of it is at the featherz. One soloist is far less dangerous than a gang of orange helmets wondering if they clipped that bolt the right way.

The types of newbs you see at the feathers would shit themselves trying to go down the gullies


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