"Projecting" on Gear


Original Post
David Kerkeslager · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 45

So I'm fairly familiar with the idea of "projecting" in sport climbing where you take on a climb that is challenging for you, challenging enough that you fall off a lot. I've done this a bit in the gym and I've found it's the best way for me to push grades there. For example, recently climbing a lot of 5.10b (which I can flash most of the time in the gym) doesn't seem to push me toward 5.11 much, but struggling on a 5.11a until I got it has gotten me to the point where I'm getting most 5.10d in 1 or 2 tries now (in the gym).

I'm interested in projecting outdoors, but the crag that is most available to me is The Gunks, and there isn't any sport climbing there. I have some routes in mind that are overhung and/or have lots of pro, but the thought of falling on gear that much puts me off a bit.

Obviously people project on gear, i.e. Caldwell/Jorgeson on the Dawn Wall. So it can be done, but either non-elite climbers don't do this as often, or they don't talk about it where I see.

So what's the story here? Do any of you have experiences working projects and falling on gear to share? Is there anything I should be concerned about (beyond the obvioius?). Or is this something that should be reserved for the pros?

Beean · · Canmore, AB · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 0

Don't place shit gear and you'll be fine. You buy the stuff to hold falls so you might as well use it for its intended purpose. 

Brian Abram · · Celo, NC · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 483

I'm not gonna tell you to do it, because I can't possibly guess how shitty your gear placements are on average, and everyone places shitty gear occasionally. And if your gear fails during a fall you might get hurt. You might get hurt falling even if the gear holds. So I wouldn't advise the following in any regards.

But if I was going to learn to project on gear, I'd personally spend some time practicing falling on both bolts and gear. And I don't mean once and done. I'd integrate it into my daily cragging day. Every roped climbing day for a while: general warmup, easy route, moderate route (up to onsight level), an hour of falling training, then maybe get on something hard. Falling training is good for both climber and belayer, and falling safely with consistency takes practice. Let go with the gear at harness level, and don't grab the rope. Do it again a bit higher. And again a bit higher. Don't grab the rope. And again and again. You may never feel comfortable falling, and this will fail for some folks. But for others it can become as comfortable as falling while bouldering (something I think can be sometimes even more dangerous)

David Kerkeslager · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 45
Brian Abram wrote:

But if I was going to learn to project on gear, I'd personally spend some time practicing falling on both bolts and gear. And I don't mean once and done. I'd integrate it into my daily cragging day. Every roped climbing day for a while: general warmup, easy route, moderate route (up to onsight level), an hour of falling training, then maybe get on something hard. Falling training is good for both climber and belayer, and falling safely with consistency takes practice. Let go with the gear at harness level, and don't grab the rope. Do it again a bit higher. And again a bit higher. Don't grab the rope. And again and again. You may never feel comfortable falling, and this will fail for some folks. But for others it can become as comfortable as falling while bouldering (something I think can be sometimes even more dangerous)

This is what I did for sport. TBH I'm still not 100% comfortable falling on sport lead, not sure if I ever will be. I also find that if I haven't done it in a while, I start getting more scared again. *sigh*

Doing this on gear would allow me to double (or triple!) up on gear and see what of my placements hold, but I certainly don't relish the idea...

TBlom · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2004 · Points: 360

A few thoughts:

Placing gear at your limit is a lot harder than clipping bolts.  

How much experience do you have placing gear on lead? 

Isn't the Gunks notorious for being sandbagged?  

Gym ratings might not translate well to outside climbing at a sandbagged area.  (5.8 outside might feel like 10a inside)

Maybe ease into it, or find a route that can be protected from a restful stance and has a bouldery crux (like many Eldorado canyon routes).

Maybe find routes that accept plentiful placements.

Personally, I never really liked to 'test' my gear all that much.  I've worked a few routes, but really I prefer to be onsighting when placing gear.

Be safe out there.  

Charlie S · · Ogden, UT · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 1,471

I'll start with way more gear than needed as I work the moves.  As I become more comfortable, I'll start refining placements.  This eliminates having to "go big" on gear while learning the moves, but also learning to trust placements over time.

It's a process and is a little different than taking whippers on bolts.

Making beta sheets can help a lot too.

ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 235

I don't know how often people really truly project on gear at their limit. Most of the at the limit projecting gear isn't really climbing on gear because you see people with gear pre-clipped in order to the rope so they just take it off the harness and know the spot where it will go already. Imo if you already know what pieces of gear you are placing and where it goes you are no longer really climbing on gear.

They really need a new term for this because if you know all the gear placements before you start climbing it than it is just like a slightly different version of sport because it is like knowing where all the bolts will be before you start.

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

If you're planning or repeatedly whipping gear I would suggest placing one or two backup pieces and throwing lockers on them wouldn't be a bad idea. Always remember to inspect the placement after each fall to make sure it's still well placed. 

David Kerkeslager · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 45
TBlom wrote:

A few thoughts:

Placing gear at your limit is a lot harder than clipping bolts.  

How much experience do you have placing gear on lead? 

Not enough to be doing this; I'm not really considering doing this until later this year or early next.

Isn't the Gunks notorious for being sandbagged?  

Gym ratings might not translate well to outside climbing at a sandbagged area.  (5.8 outside might feel like 10a inside)

Yes and yes, but I'm fairly familiar with my capabilities in the Gunks because I've climber there a good bit.

Maybe find routes that accept plentiful placements.

Agreed, I'm looking at vertical cracks in particular, which are good because I can plug pro every foot if I want to, and because I suck at vertical cracks (I simply don't have much experience with them).

Personally, I never really liked to 'test' my gear all that much.  I've worked a few routes, but really I prefer to be onsighting when placing gear.

You and me both. ;)

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

Imho, you should push yourself mentally or physically, but never both at the same time. 

David Kerkeslager · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 45
John Wilder wrote:

Imho, you should push yourself mentally or physically, but never both at the same time. 

What does that mean in this context?

Matt Zia · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 171
David Kerkeslager wrote:

What does that mean in this context?

Basically if one is getting gripped cause they're scared, they won't place good gear, which then will likely fail if you fall, creating a positive feedback loop resulting in not trusting gear, so getting more scared, and trusting gear even less. 

Instead, if one is comfortable on the climbing and is able to take the time to place good gear, or is confident in the gear and thus willing to push themselves to their physical limit, then they will end up both knowing they place good gear and trusting that gear actually works. 

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 483

If you need to ask you need to get fully comfortable falling on bolts (and not just at the gym, get a bolt 5 feet below your feet on something steep). 

You should aid climb to get confident in your placements.

get a lot of mileage leading easier grades, if you can't pick gear in sizes you can get a pinky in first try every time, every lead than keep climbing lower grades. 

David Coley · · UK · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 70

David,

why not go for the head point approach, as the Gunks are not that tall in most places. 

1. drop a rope down and trax the thing until you get it clean

2. rap with your rack looking for the best pieces

3. lead it on pre-placed pro

4. trax it placing the pro

5. lead it placing pro on lead.

Pnelson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 95

The Gunks are a hard place to push yourself, especially into the 5.10+ and beyond range, because apart from the handful of cracks at each grade, most climbs get thinner and more challenging gear the harder they get.  Headpointing (basically projecting a gear-protected climb) is fun, and opens up a lot of options at a place like the Gunks, but I've never found hard headpointing to really help with my overall trad onsight skills.  Personally, I don't feel that headpointing and toprope pre-rehearsal is really necessary for folks until they start moving into face-trad at 5.12a or harder (maybe 11a at the Gunks, hehe), for the same reason that projecting and tickmarking sport climbs below 12a is silly.

Here's a headpoint project I had a few years ago.  I thought I had all the gear placements dialed, and had even given it a couple lead goes, but on the send I dealt with a blue ball nut that would NOT set!

will ar · · San Antonio, TX · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 250

It's definitely not just something that is reserved for the pros. I think you're right in the regards that it's not done as much as projecting sport climbs, but I think a lot of this is because of the logistics. It's a lot easier to make a few attempts on a route with permadraws (or at an area where leaving project draws is the norm) than to have to go back and clean a bunch of gear at the end of the day or in between attempts if you're going for a red point. 

I think taking repeated falls on a well protected route may actually be safer than a fall on an onsight attempt. For me the challenge of an OS attempt is figuring out where I can get gear in and which stances I'm going to be able to place gear from (usually I can figure out the clipping stances from the ground for a sport climb), but once I've been on a route before you have a better idea of what gear goes where and your chance of falling before getting gear in or not being able to protect a move is much less. If the route is going to be really hard for you or you're concerned about safety don't try to OS and just approach the climb going from placement to placement. When projecting you can take progressively longer falls to figure out just how safe something is before really going for it. Learn how to French free or use a sling as a make shift aider to get through a though spot.  Don't hesitate to double up or overprotect on your initial attempts.

Along the lines of what John Wilder said I usually tell people that placing gear and physically pulling the moves are two different skills, don't push both at the same time.

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

They really need a new term for this because if you know all the gear placements before you start climbing it than it is just like a slightly different version of sport because it is like knowing where all the bolts will be before you start.

I've heard the term "sprad" applied to the take-lots-of-falls-on-solid-gear approach to hard trad climbing. Some Gunks climbs lend themselves to this. But that's more due to the steepness of the rock (e.g. Yellow Wall) than it is the easy availability of gear.  With respect to that last point, it is unfortunate that the Gunks don't have hard vertical cracks of the sort that work so well for projecting/dogging/French freeing etc. Harvest Moon comes to mind as a rare exception. More typically, as pnelson mentioned, the Gunks routes get pretty blank as you push into the 11s.  And cruxing with a micronut at your feet doesn't really offer much in the way of Frenching/stick clipping your way up a project as you could expect to do at a sport crag.

mbk · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 0
eli poss wrote:

If you're planning or repeatedly whipping gear I would suggest placing one or two backup pieces and throwing lockers on them wouldn't be a bad idea. Always remember to inspect the placement after each fall to make sure it's still well placed. 

+1.

Consider checking not just the highest piece (which was presumably loaded straight down) but also the placements before it, which (unless the rope was running perfectly straight) received lateral and/or lifting loads that may have reduced the security of those pieces.

Also:

If "projecting" means "working well above your on-site ability", keep in mind that many routes (especially gear-protected ones) have large no-fall zones only a grade or two lower than the crux but in a significantly different style.   It would be a shame to finally pull the 5.10 juggy roof crux only to get hurt on the 5.8 slab afterwards.

David Kerkeslager · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 45
David Coley wrote:

David,

why not go for the head point approach, as the Gunks are not that tall in most places. 

1. drop a rope down and trax the thing until you get it clean

2. rap with your rack looking for the best pieces

3. lead it on pre-placed pro

4. trax it placing the pro

5. lead it placing pro on lead.

I have the gear for this and have been planning on doing it, and if I find this works for me, that's what I'll do. But it's been my experience indoors that top roping doesn't really help my leading, so I suspect it will be similar outdoors.

Jon Po · · Mahwah, NJ · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 115

Ground up projecting in the Gunks is safe enough.. Get a double rack of c3s and some RPs.. Start training harder in the gym.. Chances are that if you are falling off 10d in the cliffs at long island city you will most likely get spanked by Gunks 9+ routes.. Time in the saddle buddy.. No route is worth dying over...

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
ViperScale wrote:

I don't know how often people really truly project on gear at their limit. Most of the at the limit projecting gear isn't really climbing on gear because you see people with gear pre-clipped in order to the rope so they just take it off the harness and know the spot where it will go already. Imo if you already know what pieces of gear you are placing and where it goes you are no longer really climbing on gear.

They really need a new term for this because if you know all the gear placements before you start climbing it than it is just like a slightly different version of sport because it is like knowing where all the bolts will be before you start.

So what?

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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