This makes me "Safer" HOW???? or Why won't the guides let one lead???


Original Post
Arthur Torrey · · North Billerica MA · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 48

I am an unusual climber - see my profile - I am one of (as far as I know) two paraplegics to ever lead climb...  I mostly climb in the gym (Brooklyn Boulders - Somerville) with our Adaptive Climbing Group chapter.  I use a mechanical advantage system sometimes known as 'tentacle climbing'   I currently lead in the gym at 5.9 to 5.10.

I don't get as many chances to climb on real rocks as I'd like, mostly because it takes a bunch of folks to get me TO the climb - Mother Nature is not ADA compliant (and we can't sue, she is grandfathered as "prior construction")  But I have been placing gear on every outdoor climb I've ever done, starting with the third climb I ever did, where the side climber was having to explain that nuts didn't go on the ends of bolts, and that cams didn't work the valves in an engine....

I make no claims to be an expert, but I've done a lot of top-roped and 'mock-lead' climbs where I've HAD to learn to place gear in less than ideal spots - I have to make a placement every 6-12" so I need to put gear in places that able-bodied climbers would pass on the way to the bomber spot....  I very seldom have a placement pop on me, especially the ones that I felt good about.  (I've also had the ones that I said I didn't like, those do pop more often, no surprise....)  Bottom line, I feel that I can place gear well enough to be willing to bet my life on it....  

I'd be the first to say that I have a lot more to learn, but like a little kid learning a pedal bike, at some point you have to take off the top-rope (oops - training wheels) and go for it...  I feel I'm well past that point!

One of my major goals for this season is to get to do a lead climb on SOMETHING - and I don't mean big walls, I'm talking short, low grade - Ken's Crack in the Gunks (which I've mock-led at least three times already) would be the sort of thing I'm after...  

But because I'm not really able to get out on my own, I have to go on trips with other adaptive climbers...  Up until now, I've basically been relying on borrowed rack stuff, as the guides typically have plenty to give me the double or triple rack I need...

This past weekend I was on a ACG organized group trip to Hammond Pond, which is a small but pretty nice crag in Metro-Boston - easy to drive to, and great for access - with only minor assistance I can drive my power chair to the start of the climb, not much harder than the gym!  The guides insisted I top rope...  Other than that it was a fun day.

I asked if I could lead a second climb on the same route I just top roped, and was basically told that ALL I'd be allowed to do was mock-lead, and that for all intents and purposes, NO guide outfit would EVER let someone lead on their gear because of liability...  

So now I'm working on building my own rack...  But the guide service (I am deliberately NOT mentioning names as I don't feel it is appropriate) said even with my own rack, I'd still have a lot of trouble getting any guide service to let me lead....

So the implication is that if I want to lead something, I have to have my own rack, round up my own support crew (who may or may not have anything like guide level qualifications) and lead on my own, WITHOUT whatever benefit might come from having guides......  THIS MAKES ME SAFER?????  HOW????

Not sure what the solution is - but I want to LEAD a climb, not be stuck with training wheels for life...

I'd be happy to hear thoughts on this, or at least thank folks for bearing with me for this rant....

ART

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 266

So basically you are the most ripped dude ever. No wonder the chick above wants to climb with you! Lol

More seriously, if you want to do it with a guide, have you looked into hiring a private AMGA guide? A guide service in a group setting will probably not be very flexible. Usually they won't let anybody lead in settings like that. 

Also you should make an Instagram. You'll be Instafamous. 

20 kN · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,352

It is true that many guiding outfits wont let their clients lead for safety/ liability reasons. It's not specific to you. However, not all are that way, some outfits will allow client leading based on the judgement of the guide. As the guy above said, try looking for independent guides are they are far more likely to let you do whatever you want. Most guides are not going to feel comfortable guaranteeing you can lead trad with them without ever having met you. Most guides are going to want to meet you first and learn about your abilities, knowledge and experience before deciding whether to allow you to lead. Allowing clients to lead presents a very real risk as leading trad is legitimately dangerous if you do not know what you are doing, and if a client gets injured the guide is responsible. Thus, allowing clients to lead is typically done with reservations and only if the guide determines that the client is capable, and again only some outfits allow it at all.

Arthur Torrey · · North Billerica MA · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 48
Chris C. wrote:

So basically you are the most ripped dude ever. No wonder the chick above wants to climb with you! Lol

More seriously, if you want to do it with a guide, have you looked into hiring a private AMGA guide? A guide service in a group setting will probably not be very flexible. Usually they won't let anybody lead in settings like that. 

Also you should make an Instagram. You'll be Instafamous. 

I do the best I can with what I have, and sometimes this means creating new ways to do things...  Ironically the reason I can lead is that I don't have the upper body strength to do the usual para-climber 'campus climb' technique of hauling up the wall using just my arms.  As a second irony, the gym is hosting an adaptive climbing National in June, I'm not able to compete, because they tell me I have no class - nobody to compete against....

I haven't looked seriously into the private guide mostly because of the cost factor -  I haven't actually asked, but my impression is that a private guide is on the order of hundreds of bucks / day...   There is a big difference in costs between that and the ones for the group trips, which get some serious extra support from the sponsoring groups. (this past one day trip was $30)

Maybe I'm just anti-social, but I'm not a fan of the commercial 'Social-Media' sites like instagram and FB, and normally go to considerable effort to avoid them...   I prefer topic specific sites like this one.

ART

Arthur Torrey · · North Billerica MA · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 48
20 kN wrote:

It is true that many guiding outfits wont let their clients lead for safety/ liability reasons. It's not specific to you. However, not all are that way, some outfits will allow client leading based on the judgement of the guide. As the guy above said, try looking for independent guides are they are far more likely to let you do whatever you want.

I guess my biggest gripe boils down to that 'liability' excuse....  I'm sympathetic to the reality that dropping lawsuits at every excuse seems to be the current major past-time of to many people, but why can't we find a fix...  I sign all the liability waivers, but am told that it is almost pointless as they have very little legal power...

I just wish we could actually have a way to MEANINGFULLY sign a waiver that sticks...  I can't prove it, but as far as I'm concerned if I start to participate in a high risk activity like this, injury is on my own risk, not someone else's.

I would not consider suing a guide or equivalent for anything that wasn't seriously and totally over the top negligent like abandoning a belay to go potty, or handing me a core-shot rope figuring that most of it was still good....  Why can't I sign a definite commitment agreeing to that???

ART

matt c. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 155

 Author -   Do guides let anyone lead climb? I have only used a guide one time... but i don't think most guides are insured for it. You mention that you want to take the training wheels off... get away from guides. 

 Do you know how to lead belay? Next time I am near Boston, I'll hit you we can swap leads

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 266

Well, battling the legal system and its lax view towards waivers is going to be an uphill battle to say the least haha

You may just want to try finding a partner. Have you tried posting on the partner finder here? I'd honestly be surprised if nobody here would share a belay with you on their gear. Not to mention the fact that a power chair is the most lux way to get gear to the crag. 

Optimistic · · New Paltz · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 300

I think 20 kN's answer is spot on: you need to develop a relationship with a guide service. Everything I've ever heard about leading with a guide says that it is a special privilege extended to selected clients they know well. A guide service has absolutely no incentive to have a client have an accident, for reasons that extend well beyond just liability. I think one important part of getting to where you want with a guide service will be demonstrating that you understand their side of it and want to work to satisfy their concerns.

jmeizis · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 225

As a guide service owner I can say I do let guests lead if they can demonstrate ability. Usually through previous meetings, a lesson, ground school, that sort of thing. It is on the whole one of the most nerve racking parts of my job because I'm giving up most of my control and letting someone with generally far less experience apply their judgment to situations.  It's not taken lightly. 

So getting a good relationship with a guide service would probably be the most productive idea. Group climbing is going to always kind of be the lowest common denominator sort of thing. The prices are higher for a private guide accordingly. 

In my mind you do have something to offer though. In Colorado we have Paradox Sports which offers trips for adaptive athletes and I'm pretty sure they do trips in your region also. I'm also pretty sure they work with guides and gyms to train them on how to work with clients with different needs. You can always offer to help a company practice working with you in exchange for a discount. You're allowing them to gain knowledge giving them broader market access so I'd be much more likely to give you a discount than the fifty other people a month who tell me their blog is awesome and I should give them a free trip.

... Just read the thing about Paradox in your profile... guess I was wrong there. Still think you would be ale to find a guide to work with you on a private basis. 

t.farrell · · New York, NY · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 60

I definitely remember seeing something online about someone training for El Cap with a guide in the gunks. I don't think that person was leading but might be worth a shot asking around amongst the gunks guides. I imagine one of them would know about it. I wanna say it was Silas Rossi but I think I'm wrong.

Muscrat · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 3,610

Dude, first and foremost, you are awesome. Awesome to be doing this, awesome to be poking the system, awesome to be out there. 

I have worked over the years with both physically and mentally challenged adults. You are an inspiration. I wish we lived on the same coast, we have 2 perfect place here in Northern California, literally belay from the tailgate spots. Oh well. 

All the BS aside, a few questions:

Why those gloves? Heard of fingerless belay (often used in aid climbing)?

I too am social media adverse (no FB or IG) but in your case, you might find the right group. You aren't talking a trip to Patagonia here!

I would guess that with a little local support, and a little work getting it, that a "Arthur on The Wall Day" could and should happen. I know it would out here! With a few locals, you would not need to own a triple rack, that's a lot of gear.

Keep on truck'n, and keep the post going.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

Many guide programs offer lead classes, so the notion that "nobody" will let you lead is ridiculous.  While I get why regular "haul your Go-pro gumby ass up a multipitch" type guides would not want their clients leading (I wouldn't either!), AMGA single pitch guides who are offering climbing instruction obviously would.  From my experience taking an anchor's course, the guides seem to prefer you NOT bring your own gear, because it's harder to predict what clients will show up with and whether it will be in good condition.

slevin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,003
Ted Pinson wrote:

Many guide programs offer lead classes, so the notion that "nobody" will let you lead is ridiculous.  While I get why regular "haul your Go-pro gumby ass up a multipitch" type guides would not want their clients leading (I wouldn't either!), AMGA single pitch guides who are offering climbing instruction obviously would. 

Not sure I understand why AMGA single pitch instructors "obviously would" let clients lead- teaching lead climbing is not part of their training or scope of practice.

slevin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,003

To the OP:  look into Paradox Sports (paradox sports.org). They just wrapped up their first "skills camp" in Joshua Tree, geared towards helping adaptive climbers become more independent. Next year's might be on the East Coast, maybe even the Gunks.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190
slevin wrote:

Not sure I understand why AMGA single pitch instructors (they are not guides) "obviously would" let clients lead- teaching lead climbing is not part of their training or scope of practice.

You're overthinking this.  Instructors who are teaching people how to lead climb (I.e: lead class) will let their clients lead.  They might require a toprope backup most (if not all of the time), but if you are teaching someone how to lead climb, they will need to...lead climb.

Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 2,740

Optimistic and jmeizis hit the nail on the head.  You will need a very close relationship with a guide (service) before leading is even a possibility. 

Ted P - SPI certified guides should absolutely NOT be involved in something like this!

As for not leading making you a safer climber... that's not the goal.  Not letting clients lead keeps the GUIDE SERVICE safer.  You say you would never sue a guide if you got hurt, but unfortunately you can't speak for your surviving family members if you were killed in an accident.  Sad fact, but we have a lot of P.I. lawyers in this country and too many folks looking for a reason to sue.

Last question - OP, did you mean to say you need gear every 6-12 INCHES?  Aside from Kens Crack, I doubt there's many routes in the Gunks that would accommodate that.

Bill Lawry · · New Mexico · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,497

Crazy talk I know but ...

Hire someone just to get you to a suitable crag and back. But once there, climb with an experienced friend? ... easier said than found I know.

Brian Carver · · Boulder, Co · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 30

I'm not sure if I'm missing something here, but do you have to go out with a guide or even a large group? I understand that accessing the crag may be an issue, but there are multiple crags across the country where one can belay from a car seat. I'm not saying that I agree or disagree with the current guidelines set by most guide companies, but doing it yourself may end up being less hassle in the long run. I think it could also serve as an even bigger sense of accomplishment. Either way, I admire the hell out of your determination.

(And before some boy scout on here starts whining and spraying about how he needs to learn to lead from an AMGA guide) It sounds like they already have or are willing to teach you to lead by mock leading. 

Scott Baird · · Hagerstown, MD · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 115
Arthur Torrey wrote:

I do the best I can with what I have, and sometimes this means creating new ways to do things...  Ironically the reason I can lead is that I don't have the upper body strength to do the usual para-climber 'campus climb' technique of hauling up the wall using just my arms.  As a second irony, the gym is hosting an adaptive climbing National in June, I'm not able to compete, because they tell me I have no class - nobody to compete against....

I haven't looked seriously into the private guide mostly because of the cost factor -  I haven't actually asked, but my impression is that a private guide is on the order of hundreds of bucks / day...   There is a big difference in costs between that and the ones for the group trips, which get some serious extra support from the sponsoring groups. (this past one day trip was $30)

Maybe I'm just anti-social, but I'm not a fan of the commercial 'Social-Media' sites like instagram and FB, and normally go to considerable effort to avoid them...   I prefer topic specific sites like this one.

ART

Who told you that you couldn't compete in Nationals, I mean literally who? I'd like a name. You wouldn't be the first person to be in a class by themselves. There is no prize money, nothing to be lost be competing against yourself, and USA Adaptive is very open to providing a welcoming experience to anyone who wants to compete. 

Tom Sherman · · Bristol, RI · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 416

Hi Arthur, just wanted to say I appreciate your psyche. When I first climbed Ken's crack 2 years ago and was just getting into leading, I knew I wanted to bag that climb. When I saw your pictures and comments about the gear I told myself I could do it. So I still attribute my getting after it to seeing your post online. I'm not entirely understanding your system but if you ever want to discuss pure crack climbs for aiding I'd like to think I know a few. Seems like you could have some fun at PWay....

Matt Himmelstein · · Orange, California · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 115

It isn't safety, it is liability.  Guide services are businesses, and businesses require insurance, and insurance companies don't like risks.  So my assumption is that the guide service that works with adaptive climbers have insurance plans that say TR only.

If you ever make it out to So. Cal., I will climb with you in Josh and let you lead using my geaar on whatever you feel comfortable climbing.  There are tons of routes in the park you can basically drive up to.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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