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Lessons Learned

Original Post
Andy Koosman · · Riverside, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 395

I'm sick of reading and rereading the same threads over and over, so here goes: What are some lessons that you guys have learned the hard way? I have one to get this started.

The first time I attempted Soler on Devil's Tower as a trad gumby, I brought a full set of nuts and almost triples of BD #.3-3 (yes I took almost 20 cams). Because of all the unnecessary weight, I could only do the first pitch and had to pull on some gear, which made me seriously consider the grade I was attempting. On my next attempt of the route, with some gear beta, I shaved it down to half a set of nuts and BD #.3-2, with doubles from #.5-1 Weighing far less and fiddling with gear less, I cruised it to the summit. After each pitch, I still had two or three cams and a nut or two dangling from my harness and the pitches didn't feel run out at all.

Moral of the story: bring only the gear you need.

NickinCO · · colorado · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 155

I think that's a pretty common one. Being new to trad myself I love it when a guide book tells you the gear you'll need. When I climb at devils lake I usually end up bringing too much gear. That's the biggest thing that's holding me back with trad climbing and probably the major reason I can lead mid 11's sport and only 8/9's trad.

Jeff J · · Bozeman · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 110

When you are getting ready to climb a route that you have never climbed before make sure you have either a experienced partner or a proper length rope or better yet both.

I lead a route (new to me) that turned out to be 99 feet tall(single pitch) on a 50M rope. 50m doubled up is about 75 feet. Hence when by partner was lower me and I was still like 30 feet off the deck he called out that we are out of rope.
Luckily he kept his head, tied in and stated to climb. When I got back to terra firma I grabbed my belay device got him on belay. The Idea was to get up to the anchors and fix a single line and rap down and call in for a longer rope to be delivered by a friend two walls over.
But it just so happens that when getting to the anchors my buddy found a sketchy walk off.
unbeknownst to me...
So I heard off belay and next thing I know the rope come sailing down to the ground. This rout has a bit of a slab at the top so the climber gets out of sight from below. Im a bit worried that he droped the rope, but there was no communication to verify this.
After a few minutes I hear jingling and here come my friend jogging down the trail.

Kevin Landolt · · Fort Collins, Wyoming · Joined Jun 2009 · Points: 585

I also pack a lot of extra cams - if the guidebook says doubles, I bring triples. If it says up to 3 inch cams, I throw a couple of #4s on there just in case. My motto is this - it's better to have a few big-bros and hexes and pitons and copperheads along - than need them and not have them. When I don't need this gear (ie on a 30 foot sport route), I just consider it training weight, and bring it along anyway.

Mike Anderson · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Nov 2004 · Points: 3,130

A very common mistake is trying to work through the grades on trad climbs. Instead, work on being a good climber, not a good trad climber, then once you have achieved that, it is very easy to apply "good climbing" skills to the sub-discipline of trad climbing.

The fastest way to becoming a good climber is bouldering and sport climbing.

Jay Knower · · New Hampshire · Joined Jul 2001 · Points: 5,251
Mike Anderson wrote:A very common mistake is trying to work through the grades on trad climbs. Instead, work on being a good climber, not a good trad climber, then once you have achieved that, it is very easy to apply "good climbing" skills to the sub-discipline of trad climbing. The fastest way to becoming a good climber is bouldering and sport climbing.
+1. So true.
BAd · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 130

Good point about learning through sport climbing, but we've seen serious accidents at the crags involving folks with lots of "skill" but little experience, so a balance and careful progress are needed. Sport climbing is virtually all about face moves. Can't get good at cracks by only clipping bolts. Back in days of yor, my friends and I used to climb on the Apron in the Valley a lot, but we quickly realized we weren't developing the chops for all those OTHER routes that looked so enticing. Time to hit the cracks, starting at the low grades and working on up.

I've learned I'm chicken and tend to carry lots of gear. One experience was heading up the S. Face of Clyde Minaret. To save weight, we left behind the only big cam we had, an old #4 Friend. Of course, I led a pitch that ended in a long traverse. Some tricky moves at the start were fine for the leader, but the follower faced a mega swing. That #4 sure would have been nice! We all made it, but the experience reinforced my tendency to over rack a bit. The idea of REALLY wanting a piece and not having it is too much. I throw on a few light hexes, an extra cam or two, I'm happy. Of course, if one is repeating climbs, it's a simpler matter to trim the rack.

BAd

Mike Anderson · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Nov 2004 · Points: 3,130

It took Alex Huber about 3 weeks to learn how to climb cracks well enough to make the 2nd free ascent of the Salathe Wall. I dare say his decades of sport climbing were a bigger factor than the time he spent learning to climb cracks and place gear.

cjdrover · · Watertown, MA · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 355
Mike Anderson wrote:It took Alex Huber about 3 weeks to learn how to climb cracks well enough to make the 2nd free ascent of the Salathe Wall. I dare say his decades of sport climbing were a bigger factor than the time he spent learning to climb cracks and place gear.
Perhaps. Alex Huber is also a superhuman freak of nature created by cross-breeding chimpanzees with velociraptors. Most normal humans, myself included, need more than 3 weeks to figure out what to do with 'tips cracks and offwidths, regardless of pulling power.
Mike Anderson · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Nov 2004 · Points: 3,130
Chris Drover wrote: Perhaps. Alex Huber is also a superhuman freak of nature created by cross-breeding chimpanzees with velociraptors. Most normal humans, myself included, need more than 3 weeks to figure out what to do with 'tips cracks and offwidths, regardless of pulling power.
Really, or is this just a rationalization created by your ego?

You don't know if you need more than three weeks unless you try it, you are speculating. I would argue that someone who has mastered 5.13+ level footwork can easily adapt these skills to offwidths and finger cracks, which are mostly a matter of footwork. True, few people will attain those grades, so say your goal is to be solid on 5.10 trad...you'll get there a lot faster by first climbing 5.12 sport, IMO. I could be wrong.
cjdrover · · Watertown, MA · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 355
Mike Anderson wrote: Really, or is this just a rationalization created by your ego? You don't know if you need more than three weeks unless you try it, you are speculating. I would argue that someone who has mastered 5.13+ level footwork can easily adapt these skills to offwidths and finger cracks, which are mostly a matter of footwork. True, few people will attain those grades, so say your goal is to be solid on 5.10 trad...you'll get there a lot faster by first climbing 5.12 sport, IMO. I could be wrong.
Alright rather than debate nature vs. nurture, I'll just say that I don't consider your argument proven on the basis of "it worked for Alex Huber". I do agree that being a stronger climber gives a great foundation for leading harder trad. It's much easier to focus on funky crack technique and questionable gear when you aren't pumping out.

That being said... I've met 5.12 sport climbers that can't hand jam.
camhead · · Vandalia, Appalachia · Joined Jun 2006 · Points: 1,240
Chris Drover wrote: Alright rather than debate nature vs. nurture, I'll just say that I don't consider your argument proven on the basis of "it worked for Alex Huber". I do agree that being a stronger climber gives a great foundation for leading harder trad. It's much easier to focus on funky crack technique and questionable gear when you aren't pumping out. That being said... I've met 5.12 sport climbers that can't hand jam.
And your argument is not proven by saying that "you know 5.12 sport climbers who can't handjam. A statement such as yours is building on the mystique of trad/crack climbing and its polarization from "weak sporto" climbing, which has been prevalent among a lot of climbers, but has never really been true. For every 5.12 sport climber who can't jam, I'll show you a 5.13 sport climber who "dabbles" in 11+ trad.

Back in the 1980s, Steve Hong was putting up some of the hardest cracks in the world at the time, and also climbing pretty hard sport as well. He stated in an interview that the techniques needed to climb high end cracks were simplistic and trivial when compared to the techniques needed to climb high-end sport.

More recently, strong sport climbers and boulderers like Trotter, Segal, Honnold, and about any strong Euro you can name have made the transition into hard trad fairly easily. None of them "worked up through the grades." You are going to climb 5.13 trad more easily if you have trained to climb 5.13 sport than if you work your way up through 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 trad. And honestly, the movement of hard trad lines, even those that are pure cracks, often requires a lot of "sporty" technique. A 5.13 sport climber is likely going to learn to climb cracks of a comparable grade much more quickly than a 5.13 crack-only climber will make the transition to comparable sport.

However, all of this breaks down when we look at sandbagged places like the Gunks, Seneca, or Jtree. I have seen solid v15/5.15b climbers release their bowels and walk away crying just from looking at High Exposure. :)
Steve Murphy · · Loveland, CO · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 20

Goats are evil and helmets save lives.

Goats are evil

Zac Warren · · Springdale, UT · Joined Mar 2010 · Points: 210
Chris Drover wrote: That being said... I've met 5.12 sport climbers that can't hand jam.
I've also seen sport guys face climb a 5.8 hands crack and turn it into 5.11 face routes cuz they can't trust/use jams.
Tea · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 215

Situational awareness is priceless, helmets save lives, and one size, sure as fook, does not fit all.

Josh Olson · · Durango, CO · Joined Mar 2010 · Points: 255

If you fall on a placement, when you get back to the placement, check the placement.

Andrew Sharpe · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2009 · Points: 25
Steve Murphy wrote:Goats are evil and helmets save lives.
Are those goats from nearby Quandary like 2 years ago. Those two goats I ran across=evil.
coloradotomontana Erley · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2008 · Points: 75

Those look like leavenworth goats

sqwirll · · Las Vegas · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 1,360

Don't forget to put the cooler of beer in the car in the morning.

slim · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2004 · Points: 1,107

josh olson's advice is really, really good advice.

mike anderson's advice about putting in some miles sport climbing is really good too. it's a lot easier to get 20 pitches worth of climbing (ie physical/technical) experience sport climbing than it is trad climbing. one of the better things for my trad climbing was to spend a fair bit of time pushing myself sport climbing.

i guess my advice would be to immediately start addressing whatever you are weak at. some people have the knack for figuring weird sequences on-site. some have the knack of being naturally strong as hell. some have the knack of naturally understanding how to place good pro, get out of sticky situations using rigging logic, etc. some have the knack of being disciplined about training and dedication to getting better. some have the knack of being bold and confident.

the more of these areas that you can be good at, the better. but just as important, if you are lacking in an area and don't address it, you will always be limited by it. i wish i would have known this 20 years ago. for me, being afraid of falling and not climbing confidently above gear has been my biggest limitation, and i never REALLY started adressing it until lately. don't be like me and look back at a LOT of climbs that you could have sent if you weren't such a pansy.

Andrew Sharpe · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2009 · Points: 25

I have the same problem with climbing above gear. I have two climbing falls and both of them beat up the same ankle. I hate falling and it's been holding me back. My lesson learned, When it doubt, climb faster.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Trad Climbing
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