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Teaching Gear placement/cleaning


Original Post
Gavin Towey · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 0

So my girlfriend has been recently getting into climbing.  I've been at it longer and I'm comfortable leading trad.  However we've been having a lot of issues with her cleaning pitches behind me and getting gear stuck.  I've been trying to teach but it seems like no matter what advice I give each time some new, different issue arises.  So clearly something about how I'm trying to teach isn't working and clearly I can't just find a different parter.  We both *want* to make this work.

When I learned I devoured all the information I could on gear & placements.  I'd go find excuses to practice on my own and I learned through experimentation.  She's not as into all those aspects of climbing and is not really interested in leading trad anytime soon.  It's enough for me though that she is totally down to climb cracks and go do long moderate adventure routes.

What were your experiences with teaching new trad partners?  Is it common to have a lot of issues with followers and gear?  Suggestions for how to teach good gear cleaning skills without having to suffer through lots of stuck gear on long climbs?  Is there a way to re-create tricky placements on the ground where she can practice and be coached?  Is it better to just pay a professional guide to teach this?

Adam Fleming · · Moab, Utah · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 303
G Towey wrote:

 Suggestions for how to teach good gear cleaning skills without having to suffer through lots of stuck gear on long climbs?  Is there a way to re-create tricky placements on the ground where she can practice and be coached? 


You can totally recreate placements on the ground.  Slam that nut in! Put a rope on that cam and make it walk! Slot a cam in a weird constriction.  Make her clean tricams.  Just make sure someone can remove the gear.  

A good way to teach it would be:
1. Have her watch you clean the gear
2. Tell her what you're doing (and why) as you remove the gear again
3. Have her clean the gear

Try to place the piece exactly the same way each iteration. 

Greg Gavin · · SLC, UT · Joined Oct 2008 · Points: 718

I taught my lady with several on the ground sessions at first. Thus allowing her to have a stress free playful environment to learn in. She would then remove my gear on follow, and replace it to see how I had slotted something cleverly or why something I placed got stuck. She then took it upon herself to have more on the ground anchor building sessions. After which she chose her first trad route, and has been crushing ever since. Now leading up to 5.11 on gear after 8 years. Take it slow.

Adrienne DiRosario · · Troy, NY · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 0

Good advice above. 

When you're climbing if you put an unusual piece in let her know it might be odd to remove and how to do it. Removing it may be obvious to many but not to beginners. That little heads up may help keep the frustration level down. 

If you've tried the suggestions above and they're not working ask a buddy or hire a guide. Sometimes couples just can't teach each other. It's no one's fault and not indicative of your skills. 

Squeak · · Perth West OZ · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 23

Also be aware that you might not be her "teacher", 

People have roles in other folks' lives sometime those roles are hard to change. If she does not see you as a "teacher" for her, then it will be difficult for her to learn from you. 

I work as a teacher and instructor in various fields including education. I learned a long time ago that I am NOT my wife's teacher. Teacher student relationships are not the same as a partnership. Some people have difficulties switching.

Hopefully this is not the issue with you and your GF, but something to bear in mind

Bill Lawry · · New Mexico · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,503

All good advice above.  

Will add, also be prepared to rap or lower down and clean ones she could not get.  There is nothing like cleaning the piece that was troublesome and describing what it was that allowed it to be cleaned. Then let it go.

Last, there is always the possibility that your partner is more mechanically challenged than the average person. Have seen that in both men and women. If so, you may need to be more particular about the placenents you will leave behind.

Cheers!

Bill

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 456

" She's not as into all those aspects of climbing and is not really interested in leading trad anytime soon.  It's enough for me though that she is totally down to climb cracks and go do long moderate adventure routes."

Sounds like you got a keeper right there. In case you don't already know this, try only lightly setting your nuts or even not setting them at all. Another trick with nuts (although it's not always possible) is to push the wire up through the nut so it sticks out above the top of the nut and then pull the wire out. If it's a real bitch, it helps to clip a draw to the wire to use as a handle and for the worst case scenario use a dyneema sling + draw as a funkness device.

With cams, it's a lot less physical and more of a delicate and cryptic process when they really get in there.

I think the real solution is going to be time and patience. Each time she fails to remove a piece and you subsequently teach her, she will be learning a new lesson. Eventually she will run out of lessons to learn and won't have any more trouble than you when it comes to cleaning gear. If that means that you have to rap down and clean and/or leave gear every now and then, oh well. A good climbing partner is worth more than a few cams and nuts, and it sounds to me like you've got just that. 

amarius · · Nowhere, OK · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 20

Lots of good stuff. Make sure there are no awkward - at extreme lock-off, extension, etc., placements.  Focus on ideal gear placements - cams not overcammed/overretrackted, nuts not overseated. A lot of folks hate cleaning tricams.  Encourage her to sit on the rope while learning to clean.

Patrik · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 30
G Towey wrote:

So my girlfriend has been recently getting into climbing.  I've been at it longer and I'm comfortable leading trad.  However we've been having a lot of issues with her cleaning pitches behind me and getting gear stuck.  I've been trying to teach but it seems like no matter what advice I give each time some new, different issue arises.  So clearly something about how I'm trying to teach isn't working and clearly I can't just find a different parter.  We both *want* to make this work.

When I learned I devoured all the information I could on gear & placements.  I'd go find excuses to practice on my own and I learned through experimentation.  She's not as into all those aspects of climbing and is not really interested in leading trad anytime soon.  It's enough for me though that she is totally down to climb cracks and go do long moderate adventure routes.

What were your experiences with teaching new trad partners?  Is it common to have a lot of issues with followers and gear?  Suggestions for how to teach good gear cleaning skills without having to suffer through lots of stuck gear on long climbs?  Is there a way to re-create tricky placements on the ground where she can practice and be coached?  Is it better to just pay a professional guide to teach this?

Hmm ... this almost smells like you're putting all the blame for stuck gear on your lady ( " ... her cleaning pitches and getting gear stuck.") or possibly on your lack of teaching skills. Maybe consider your gear placement skills are not that great to start with? Experience in placing gear includes placing gear that is easy to remove. It is not evident how much experience you have, but I would say that it takes a handful of years of consistent climbing to hone in the "easy-to-remove" skills. I find it a lot harder to clean gear when following "beginners". With good gear placements, there shouldn't be much need to "re-create tricky placements on the ground" for practicing. When you place gear, avoid tricky placements in the first place. Maybe YOU are the one who needs training and not your lady? I REALLY hope that this "almost-blaming-attitude" is not so evident when discussing this with her or when trying to teach her. 

Sorry if this turned out sounding a little negative, but hopefully it can give you a little different angle to your thinking. 

Gabe Cisneros · · Baltimore, md · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 10

This thread may help you. 

www.mountainproject.com/forum/topic/112461315/building-a-cheap-setup-for-practicing-placements

Lots of ground school. Hundreds of practice placements. Tom Randall has a video series on YouTube where he shows gear placements. 

Brandon.Phillips · · Portola, CA · Joined May 2011 · Points: 55

At ground level you should place gear, remove it, then have her place the same piece and remove it. Understanding how to place it goes a long way to understanding how to clean it. This is especially true when talking about constrictions or weird placements. 

Even if she doesn't want to lead, cleaning more efficiently will still be in her interest, if only to have a better experience following.

I climb with my wife a lot and found that I'll often place gear too high for her to reach.  So while I place from a comfortable stance, she has to do a couple of moves and then struggle to fight something out from a strenuous position.  Keep those things in mind too.

AndrewArroz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10

Do more easy climbs where she'll be cleaning from a comfortable, relaxed stance. Don't be impatient. Give her all the time in the world. Place your pieces with her learning in mind. 

David Gibbs · · Ottawa, ON · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 6
Patrik wrote:

Maybe consider your gear placement skills are not that great to start with? Experience in placing gear includes placing gear that is easy to remove. It is not evident how much experience you have, but I would say that it takes a handful of years of consistent climbing to hone in the "easy-to-remove" skills. I find it a lot harder to clean gear when following "beginners". With good gear placements, there shouldn't be much need to "re-create tricky placements on the ground" for practicing. When you place gear, avoid tricky placements in the first place. Maybe YOU are the one who needs training and not your lady? I REALLY hope that this "almost-blaming-attitude" is not so evident when discussing this with her or when trying to teach her. 

I had similar thoughts -- maybe you (OP) also need to focus on placing gear that is easy to clean.  

Pavel Burov · · Russia · Joined May 2013 · Points: 50

More following. Request pro review after each pitch:

1. Why those pieces were placed where they were placed?

2. Why those pieces were placed in that order? (e.g., why did I place the red C4 in that spot if there is a way better green C4 possibility?)

3. Were they elongated adequately?

4. Did you find good stances before cleaning each piece of pro?

5. Did you find any placement suspicious? Was the rock quality good enough? Did you actually check it every time?

6. etc, etc, etc

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,530
Patrik wrote:

Hmm ... this almost smells like you're putting all the blame for stuck gear on your lady ( " ... her cleaning pitches and getting gear stuck.") or possibly on your lack of teaching skills. Maybe consider your gear placement skills are not that great to start with? Experience in placing gear includes placing gear that is easy to remove. It is not evident how much experience you have, but I would say that it takes a handful of years of consistent climbing to hone in the "easy-to-remove" skills. I find it a lot harder to clean gear when following "beginners". With good gear placements, there shouldn't be much need to "re-create tricky placements on the ground" for practicing. When you place gear, avoid tricky placements in the first place. Maybe YOU are the one who needs training and not your lady? I REALLY hope that this "almost-blaming-attitude" is not so evident when discussing this with her or when trying to teach her. 

Sorry if this turned out sounding a little negative, but hopefully it can give you a little different angle to your thinking. 

This. 

When I lead pitches and I have new climbers following me, I always make sure I avoid weird gear placements. Textbook, well slung placements that won't move are the name of the game for beginners. 

Don't slam stoppers in, don't bury cams, avoid keyhole stopper placements, avoid placing gear where your partner may not be able to reach it from the stance you did, etc. And for goodness sake, sling your placements- cams walk if not slung well, and this makes them hard to get out. 

Occasionally you'll have to use some weird trick to get good gear to protect a crux. Hopefully it's at a good stance and you can tell your follower what needs to be done to remove the piece. Otherwise, avoid getting crafty unnecessarily. 

Mark Ra · · Frange, CO · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
Squeak wrote:

I learned a long time ago that I am NOT my wife's teacher.

King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 420

Good thread. 

What I would add:

1. Make sure she has a good nut tool and knows how to use it. Sometimes two are needed for stuck cams. Random tugs on nuts often make the situation worse. If it doesn't lift right out then a tap from below with the nut tool is the best way to get it out quickly. Leave the piece clipped to the rope while you tap on it from below with the nut tool. Don't over set gear.

2. Second the above that **any second** at some point needs to learn to place gear. This may be needed in any number of emergencies and it will promote understanding of how to remove when you see them go in. She has to see the placement and the rock around it to grasp the best way any piece can be removed. Often pieces have to be worked to a wider place in the crack to come out easily. She might not be visualizing this and getting pieces stuck thinking they just come out in the direction of the wire or straight out of the crack depending on nut or cam.

3. Use a belay system on top (like ATC Guide or Gri-gri) that allows you to comfortably hold her while she works on the piece. Sometimes anxiousness about this on either end makes it harder than it should be. Be sure to understand how to lower with both devices or drops can result.

Guy Keesee · · Moorpark, CA · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 310

A whole bunch of good things listed.... esp the part about being a "teacher to your partner".... I know some happy couples--- intill they tie in together, then all the emotional stuff can bubble up. 

The only thing I could add is this. Make sure she has the equipment to really get in there and clean... a pair of gloves, some sort of funkness, a small hammer, two nut tools (different from each other) the ability to and the understanding of when to go on to aid-- not hang on the rope- to get a good position on the piece. 

 Give her the tools and the understanding of how to remove all pieces and your golden... and if she can re-rack everything so its ready to go you are golden. Get her to lead better  than you and you will find eternal happiness. 

best 



Mike Slavens · · Houston, TX · Joined Jan 2009 · Points: 35

My dad taught me how to place trad gear, and then years later the tables were turned and I taught my buddy how to place trad gear from scratch so here are my learning points.  They echo a lot of what has already been said as well.  Her getting gear stuck is just as much a reflection on you (being the teacher and the person placing the gear) as it is on her.  Guides pick climbs that are great experiences for the client, not the guide.  Try to use that mentality in this situation.

1) Pick climbs that are easy for you and easy to protect.  Don't  make "tricky" placements.  She needs to learn to crawl, then walk, before she is running by fishing out tricky placements mid-crux.  If you place a piece and it accidentally drops or slots in weird, or you know it needs to come out weird, then just pull it out your self and find a different placement.

2) Pick climbs with short pitches and easy communication (ie direct line of sight and little background noise).  Top roping is even better.  Talk her through how you put in each piece and how it might need to come out.  She might not want the spray down every piece but if/when she does be in a position to help.

3) Don't place a lot of pieces.  If the climb is 90% frustrating gear removal and 10% actual climbing she will quickly get burnt out.  Make the focus on how fun the actual climbing is.

4) You need to get better at gear placement.  Part of placing a good piece is being able to take it out relatively easy even for a second that is well versed in placing/cleaning pro.  This is just good technique for moving fast (for long climbs or in the alpine).  You need to balance the piece coming out on its own with making it too hard to get out but that's part of becoming better at placements.

5) Pick routes where its easy and practical for her to take and sit on the rope to get the gear out if needed, and encourage them to sit on the rope if needed.  Once again: crawl->walk->run.  If she is pumped out, in an awkward position, on a traverse, etc. she is going to get sketched out and is way more likely to stick your gear.  Also, this way she can devote 100% of attention and both hands to cleaning the gear to avoid potential drops or the piece sliding somewhere you don't want it to.

6) Just accept the fact that she is going to stick some pieces and you're probably going to have to rap down to get them and even lose a few pieces.  Keep that in mind on route selection. 

7) Place nuts and hexes instead of cams.  They don't walk and are cheaper to replace if they become stuck.  She might want to carry a big hex as well.  It can be used as a sort of hammer to help hit the nut tool to unstick nuts.

8) Remind her that a piece doesn't need to come out till it gets below your waist or even lower with a long runner.  A lot of newer climbers make the mistake of trying to clean gear above their head or even at their chest.  Especially with nuts, just climb a few feet higher and the angle of pull will pop them right out.  If you are struggling to reach the piece then you are WAY too low to try to clean it.  

9) Remind her to avoid cleaning a piece blind if she can.  She should be able to see the piece and how it is moving in the crack as she cleans it.  If she can't get in a position to see the piece see point #5. 

She will get better at it with time.  Being patient and putting the focus on her learning will vastly accelerate it.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 456

Another thing is to give her a nut tool with a big, wide, flat edge for hammering on or even add some padding on to the nut tool. I have the BD nut tool and its skinny edge just grinds into my skin whenever I try to pound on it. It hurts to use it so I generally don't use it for nuts. This has come back to bite me in the ass at times.

AndrewArroz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10
Mike Slavens wrote:

My dad taught me how to place trad gear, and then years later the tables were turned and I taught my buddy how to place trad gear from scratch so here are my learning points.  They echo a lot of what has already been said as well.  Her getting gear stuck is just as much a reflection on you (being the teacher and the person placing the gear) as it is on her.  Guides pick climbs that are great experiences for the client, not the guide.  Try to use that mentality in this situation.

1) Pick climbs that are easy for you and easy to protect.  Don't  make "tricky" placements.  She needs to learn to crawl, then walk, before she is running by fishing out tricky placements mid-crux.  If you place a piece and it accidentally drops or slots in weird, or you know it needs to come out weird, then just pull it out your self and find a different placement.

2) Pick climbs with short pitches and easy communication (ie direct line of sight and little background noise).  Top roping is even better.  Talk her through how you put in each piece and how it might need to come out.  She might not want the spray down every piece but if/when she does be in a position to help.

3) Don't place a lot of pieces.  If the climb is 90% frustrating gear removal and 10% actual climbing she will quickly get burnt out.  Make the focus on how fun the actual climbing is.

4) You need to get better at gear placement.  Part of placing a good piece is being able to take it out relatively easy even for a second that is well versed in placing/cleaning pro.  This is just good technique for moving fast (for long climbs or in the alpine).  You need to balance the piece coming out on its own with making it too hard to get out but that's part of becoming better at placements.

5) Pick routes where its easy and practical for her to take and sit on the rope to get the gear out if needed, and encourage them to sit on the rope if needed.  Once again: crawl->walk->run.  If she is pumped out, in an awkward position, on a traverse, etc. she is going to get sketched out and is way more likely to stick your gear.  Also, this way she can devote 100% of attention and both hands to cleaning the gear to avoid potential drops or the piece sliding somewhere you don't want it to.

6) Just accept the fact that she is going to stick some pieces and you're probably going to have to rap down to get them and even lose a few pieces.  Keep that in mind on route selection. 

7) Place nuts and hexes instead of cams.  They don't walk and are cheaper to replace if they become stuck.  She might want to carry a big hex as well.  It can be used as a sort of hammer to help hit the nut tool to unstick nuts.

8) Remind her that a piece doesn't need to come out till it gets below your waist or even lower with a long runner.  A lot of newer climbers make the mistake of trying to clean gear above their head or even at their chest.  Especially with nuts, just climb a few feet higher and the angle of pull will pop them right out.  If you are struggling to reach the piece then you are WAY too low to try to clean it.  

9) Remind her to avoid cleaning a piece blind if she can.  She should be able to see the piece and how it is moving in the crack as she cleans it.  If she can't get in a position to see the piece see point #5. 

She will get better at it with time.  Being patient and putting the focus on her learning will vastly accelerate it.

Mike, I'm about to teach a climbing partner who has only done gym and sport how to follow (and hopefully lead some) trad and this list is AWESOME. Thank you!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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