Minimal Competence Require to Climb Big Walls


Original Post
Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 0

Well, having been just involved in the biggest cluster I have ever experienced, I have the say that the current level of competence in big wall climbers is pretty low. I'd even say that understanding of big wall systems is 30% lower than what it was in the 70's. A fast ascent, these days, is a few days longer than an average ascent back then. Climbers these days simply do not have the understanding of what it takes to climb a wall route.

The walls are crowded theses days, like it or not. We need to take other climber's experience into account when we start up a route. A minimimum level of competence needs to be achieved BEFORE you start up. The Hollow Flake on the Salathe is a great example. It's 5.9 and it was first climbed with no protection, 52 years ago!. Now, go ahead and get your Big Bro if you want, but if you feel the need to aid the crack, or have any reservations of running it, out then your skills are simply not up to the minimimum level required to climb the route.
Additionally, on the Salathe, aside from one or two, the anchors are all bolts, setting up the anchor (tying two knots!) and starting to haul should take 10 minutes at most! THERE IS NO NEED for the calls "Ready to haul", "Haul", Hauling"! Everyone should know their job and should get it down ASAP! You have a responsibility to everyone on the route below you to get your ass up there as fast as possible. If you can't climb the route in three nights from Heart Ledge, then you simply don't have the minimal skill level to be on the route.

I was simply amazed at the amount of gear people carried on them, and I was equally amazed at how little people really understood the systems of big wall climbing.

smurray47 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 0

all I can say is I appreciate all the material you've put out there on hauling! It made my first big wall experience go smooth as butter!

Wyboltf4g · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 0

It ain't the 70s dawg, there are shit tons of climbers. Yosemite. October ....... Maybe you should slow down and let the weaklings have some fun.

David Coley · · UK · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 0

Mark,
it sounds like you need to get out of the Valley. :)

I've just had a fab trip to Greenland. Walls all over the place and no one on them.

patto · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 0
Dave Schultz wrote:Getting on a big wall that you can barely get up definitely ruins other people's long lead time travel, expenses, etc ... I get it, people have a right to climb whatever they want ... yada yada yada ... but still, it all goes back to the golden rule of "do onto others ..." and sometimes people really need to reconsider what the fuck they are out there doing ...
In some ways I agree with this... That said plenty of first ascents in Yosemite were done at a snail's pace....
kevin deweese · · Oakland, Ca · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 200

Why climb other peoples routes when there's so many bigwall FAs still there for the taking in the valley?

john strand · · southern colo · Joined May 2008 · Points: 1,575

Mark- i'm old enough to remember your article about Astroman,,how you and Max climbed and prepped all season until you were ready.

To do it in style, no epics, no friggin' around ..still seems relevant to some people..i guess not as many now

Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 0

The point of my post is that climbers need to start thinking of their impact on the parties who are following them up the route and that they need to start honestly assessing wether they are ready to climb the route.
I would also argue that these climbers will find it hard to get themselves out of dangerous situation, (bad weather, injured partner) quickly and efficiently.

Believe me, if it hadn't been Freerider, I'd be on another El Cap route that hardly ever gets done and wouldn't have seen a soul.

And BTW, not to brag, but in our eventuall retreat from high on Freerider (we have gear stashed below the Teflon Corner so we'll be back soon) we gathered up every water bottle we could find, picked up every piece of trash we saw and cut off every piece of tat we could get our hands on (and grabbed a coil of static line that had been up there for at least 1.5 years) and brought it all down. Probably 25 pounds of garbage. It seems to me that every retreating party should do a little bit of community service on their way down.

The ASCA had donated 8 bolt hangers with rings so we also upgraded four anchors.

Patto, firsts ascents at a snails pace is completely irrelevant to this discussion.

bob branscomb · · Lander, WY · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 805

As a bit of an aside...Kristi and I were at City of Rocks a couple of years ago and I was taken aback by the racks that people lugged up, like 5.8 routes. Double racks of cams and stoppers...couldn't believe it. Young people...guess they had a trust fund to afford all that gear...wow. We were up and down before they were through the first pitch.

Lots of reliance among a lot of climbers on gear these days, let alone the illusion that because they are carrying a cell phone, if they get in too far over their heads, they can be back in the Mountain Room that night (good luck with that). The more crap you have, the slower you end up going. God help us if we have to rely on our talent and psyche.

Rant over...we will now return to our regular programming...

R. Moran · · Moab , UT · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 0

Regular programming is right . You guys are disrupting the status quo here . Save the legitimate climbing conversations for SuperTopo. Now what kind of car should I drive to the big walls?

Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 0
bob branscomb wrote:As a bit of an aside...Kristi and I were at City of Rocks a couple of years ago and I was taken aback by the racks that people lugged up, like 5.8 routes. Double racks of cams and stoppers...couldn't believe it. Young people...guess they had a trust fund to afford all that gear...wow. We were up and down before they were through the first pitch. Lots of reliance among a lot of climbers on gear these days, let alone the illusion that because they are carrying a cell phone, if they get in too far over their heads, they can be back in the Mountain Room that night (good luck with that). The more crap you have, the slower you end up going. God help us if we have to rely on our talent and psyche. Rant over...we will now return to our regular programming...
Congratulations on being a fast and experienced climber.
Cory F · · Blacksburg, VA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 0

ugh, I've tried not commenting but I can't help it.

Disclaimer: I'm not a big wall climber. I want to be but I know I have lots to learn.

For this thread, I'm more interested in the overall conflict between experienced and novice recreationist.

The conflict in the OP occurs in other forms of recreation (e.g., Mountain Bikers Vs Hikers/Trail Runners vs Horseback riders). I agrue the same is true for trail users and trail maintenance crews in terms of resource damage.

Inspired youngsters don't always know what they're getting into, sometimes get in over their head, and/or not understanding etiquette for the related activity and how that impacts the resource and the experience for others. I find myself disgruntled towards these individuals (especially ones who like to play music through open speakers when hiking or at the crag). However, I was probably just like them at one point (except for the music thing). I've been fortunate to find mentors along my journey in the outdoors.

I guess what I'm getting at is the younger generation (my generation) have been inspired by the previous generations to go out an explore the world and their selves. I think its a opportunity for the older generation to not pass the torch, but to teach and direct the younger generation. Unfortunately, sometimes the older generation is so focused on their desired goals and experiences that they forget about exploiting teachable moments.

Heck, I struggled for almost a year to find an experienced climbing mentor. I had offers from the younger generation but frankly their "gung ho" spirit worried me.

Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 0

The discussion we are having here is not "I'm a good climber and you are not", it is "I'm a climber who has learned my craft and climbs route appropriate to my skills so as to not adversely affect other parties". It's not an ego thing.

I constantly get emails from climbers all over the world asking specific big wall questions, and I'm glad to do it. Also, my site, hudonpanos.com, has numerous downloadable PDFs about various aspects of big wall climbing. Mentoring is a big part of my enjoyment of climbing these days.

Cory F · · Blacksburg, VA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 0

Awesome! I'm definitely going to check out your site.

Rob Dillon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 655

No informed party can claim that Mark has failed to do more than his fair share of passing technique and inspiration to newer generations.

If you are likely to flail, pick a less-travelled route. It's that simple.

Cory F · · Blacksburg, VA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 0
Rob Dillon wrote:No informed party can claim that Mark has failed to do more than his fair share of passing technique and inspiration to newer generations.
Mark, I hope I didn't offend you. That certainly wasn't my intention.
Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 0

Nope, not at all.

Rob Dillon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 655

Nor was I intending to pick on you, Cory.

The list of challenges for gumby wall climbers is long enough, without adding the complications of dealing with other parties. The Salute is a well-known free-climbing objective, deservedly popular, and consideration of other people demands that you know what you're doing before hopping on this one in high season.

(Guys from Fresno laboriously aiding the 5.10, perfect fingers first pitch while we waited two hours to start... I'm looking right at you. Still.)

Will S · · Joshua Tree · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 998

So there was a guy back in 2012 that had to get rescued off Iron Hawk due to a lack of the required competence in slab climbing.

What was that guy's name again?

Xam · · Boulder, Co · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 8

Hi Mark,

I have been following your posts for sometime...thank you.

Relevant to this post, do you have any suggestions for first C1 and C2 wall routes that are not the obvious trade routes (South Face WC, The Prow, Nose, Lurking Fear, RNWFHD, etc) that folks can have their gumby moments on and bail on reasonably without messing up anyone else's plans? Looking for climbs you can get on reasonably in season that you won't expect to be sharing that are rather shy of classic. I'll take general suggestions, crags or areas if you don't want to let out any secrets.

I realize this is somewhat off topic but is something I have been wanting to ask for a while.

Thanks!

Jplotz · · Wenatchee, WA · Joined Sep 2011 · Points: 490

So how slow is too slow? How much gear is too much gear? This kind of sounds like a grumpy neighbor telling the kids to start off his lawn. Over crowding of crags and walls by the less experienced is here to stay. The truly inspired will persevere through the awkward stage and become the elite in an endless cycle. Just seems to be the way it goes.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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