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Being Comfortable with Run Outs and R Rated Climbs


Original Post
Daniel Melnyk · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 0

How do you get used to run outs or commit to an R rated climb? I've been sport climbing outside for almost a year and have no problem jumping on routes at or above my limit. But as soon as it's a run out on a trad climb I have a hard time. I project 12s sport climbing but a 5.7R on trad gear and that turns me off a route. I can't remember the last time I fell on even a 5.10 so I know I have the physical/technical ability to climb a 5.6 w/out falling but I always thing of the small chance of me blowing it when it counts.  Do I just have to get used to committing and trusting myself or just not think about the consequences? 

trailridge · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 20

LSD on easier climbs seems to be pretty effective or LSD on harder climbs works too

Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 2,745

Realize when you are in a no-fall situation, and then climb like you're soloing. Make sure you can reverse every move you make, and plan every move carefully.  You may never develop the lead head needed to be happy on R rated terrain, but at least you should try.

Benjamin Mitchell · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 0

What's the appeal? Genuine question. I always pass these routes up cause I'd much rather get on a 5.10 crack than some 5.6 no pro slab that I could die on. 

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

What's the appeal? Genuine question. I always pass these routes up cause I'd much rather get on a 5.10 crack than some 5.6 no pro slab that I could die on. 

Well, for starters, if you want to climb multi pitch, you'll almost certainly have to deal with run outs at some point on some route you want to do. 

In red rock, most of the mega classic moderates have some flavor of run out on them- some much more serious than others, but nonetheless, if you want to climb them, you'll need to deal with it. 

Also, even on alot of classic single pitch 5.10s and up, you'll find sections of easier terrain that isn't well protected. 

Being able to deal with run outs is part of the trad game unless you're only climbing splitters in the desert. 

Benjamin Mitchell · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 0
John Wilder wrote:

Well, for starters, if you want to climb multi pitch, you'll almost certainly have to deal with run outs at some point on some route you want to do. 

In red rock, most of the mega classic moderates have some flavor of run out on them- some much more serious than others, but nonetheless, if you want to climb them, you'll need to deal with it. 

Also, even on alot of classic single pitch 5.10s and up, you'll find sections of easier terrain that isn't well protected. 

Being able to deal with run outs is part of the trad game unless you're only climbing splitters in the desert. 

Those are all good points. I actually climb a fair amount of multi pitch and of course there are runouts. My comment was more about long slab routes that only offer 1-2 pieces of gear per pitch

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 525
Benjamin Mitchell wrote:

What's the appeal? Genuine question. I always pass these routes up cause I'd much rather get on a 5.10 crack than some 5.6 no pro slab that I could die on. 

The appeal is to be able to cope with what nature deals out, the good with the bad, as is required when you don't have foreknowledge of the fine details of the climb. This used to be a requirement for entry into the sport, but now has now been reduced to a genre.  It is true that this involves the acceptance of risks that can be avoided by staying away from the unknown and only climbing things that have been predetermined to be appropriately safe.  I can't speak for others, but I think there is considerable satisfaction in deploying the mental and physical strategies demanded by the situation in a way that makes it perhaps exciting yet still safe. 

I think that modern climbing styles emphasize getting up in any fashion over getting up in reversible control.  There's a time and place for both approaches, of course, but the nature of sport and gym climbing means that the reversible control portion of most modern climbers education and practice is not only a tiny fraction of their total involvement, it actually represents a suboptimal approach to succeeding at the kinds of things being attempted.  The result is precisely the situation the OP describes: stress and anxiety in coping with levels of difficulty five grades below the climbers redpoint limit.

In this information-saturated world, we get to finely titrate the types of climbing challenges we want to confront, and there is no reason to get involved in run-out climbing if you don't want to.  Enjoy whatever aspects of the sport you want and avoid the others (but realize that you have to stay on the beaten path to make sure this works).

To the OP,  I'd say take it slow, take it easy, and don't get the idea that you "should" be able to climb at some particular grade when things are run-out.  A run-out lead is about far more than the technical difficulty of the moves and can't be thought about in those terms.  If you are interested, stick with trad climbing, and the run-outs will come without having to plan them, and after a while you'll develop good strategies for dealing with them.  Learning to cope can and should take a lot more time than moving through sport-climbing difficulties, where you can try and fail at the crux to your heart's content.  For an example, as someone who learned long before sport-climbing and gym-climbing happened, it took me ten years to climb 5.10, but when I got there I almost never fell off (and of course we didn't hangdog), and I was pretty comfortable on very run-out climbing two grades below that.  At the other end of the scale, whole groups of climbers would go out each Spring and solo up and down a bunch of 5.2's and 5.3's to get back in the swing of things.   There was nothing noteworthy about any of this; almost everyone I knew was doing the same or better.  

Now there are many climbers who can redpoint 5.12 but who would never contemplate unroped up- or down-climbing of a 5.2.  Which is cool, I'm not being critical---these are different times and there are different options available.  But it speaks to what, from an old-timer's perspective, is the asymmetric development of climbing skills that leads a 5.12 climber to approach run-out 5.7 with deep apprehension.

By the way, I think one of the reasons for a decline in run-out climbing ability is the promulgation of protection ratings.  BITD, you just went up and tried things, and backed off if it got too hairy.  We ended up doing quite a few things we'd never have started if the R rating was there to warn us off, while developing a mental framework of being ready for anything.  But we also did a lot of backing off and coming back and backing off again and coming back yet again and perhaps eventually succeeding, although there are some routes I've backed off repeatedly, never did get up, and considering my age-mediated abilities, never will get up.  In all honestly, I see them as a type of success as well, success in caiibrating my abilities to the nature of what was there and correctly assessing the moment to sound a retreat. This was an entire field of endeavor that is only tangentially related to climbing grades, and it doesn't have to be anybody's cup of tea.

The idea that things will come slowly with experience is not a popular thought.  We need books on mental tuning and minutely detailed training regimens to accelerate our progress.  So let me not shirk the contemporary demand for how to speed things up, even if I suspect, at heart, that some things can't be made to go any quicker than nature ineffably intends.  If you want to enhance the ability to climb when run out, then you have to begin by climbing as if you were run out all the time.  It means working out moves and sequences by going up and down to rests or partial rests,  This includes developing the kind of awareness of what you are doing that makes the moves reversible.  (Did you step over a small ceiling from a foothold that is now invisible from above?  Did you make a mental note of rock features that will allow you to locate that foothold from above without being able to see it, or were you laser-focused on the handhold above?) it means sensing when you are past the "half way" point and need to devote your remaining energy to get back down to good protection below.  It means failing on well-protected routes you could have done with more aggressive but uncertain and irreversible approaches.  It means if do you fall off, then you failed.  As in failed, not "I didn't get it clean."  Perhaps not surprisingly, this is a description of how much of trad climbing used to be practiced, which explains why so many more climbers BITD were completely safe and comfortable, say, downclimbing 5.2's unroped.

It goes without saying that confidence in an ability to climb down out of trouble is important when the protection is poor.  So practice down-climbing the pitches you climb up.  It is far more important to practice down-climbing on real rock than in the gym, because real rock technique depends much more critically on footwork, and footwork going down is not the same as footwork going up.  If the climbs are relatively short, as, say, in the Gunks, then you could also decide that all descents will be done by climbing down something.  No need to be unroped for this, indeed you want to be downclimbing generally well-protected routes much harder than you'd solo down.  So the first person down places gear to protect the "leader," who in this case is the second person down.

As a final note, I think that striving for "comfort" on run-out routes is both asking too much and missing the point.  I think the experience involves high anxiety, ruthlessly controlled and extruded into an outer calm that allows for clear thinking and effective movement.

Well, I've blabbed on more than long enough.  I know, TL;DR.  So be it---I ain't providing no summary.

highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion · · Colorado · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 35

You shouldn't be comfortable. You should be capable and in control.

5.Seven-Kevin · · Las Vegas · Joined Dec 2016 · Points: 0

The first post I've ever NOT read all the way through, read the TLDR, and got happier he didn't summarize it.

Holy shit....

Jason Kim · · Encinitas, CA · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 255
5.Seven-Kevin wrote:

The first post I've ever NOT read all the way through, read the TLDR, and got happier he didn't summarize it.

Holy shit....

You ought to read the whole post which is actually full of merit and a bit of history. And then, just maybe, you'll see the irony in your own comment.

Dave Holliday · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2003 · Points: 1,416

rgold for the win, as usual.

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,280
Daniel Melnyk wrote:

How do you get used to run outs or commit to an R rated climb? I've been sport climbing outside for almost a year and have no problem jumping on routes at or above my limit. But as soon as it's a run out on a trad climb I have a hard time. I project 12s sport climbing but a 5.7R on trad gear and that turns me off a route. I can't remember the last time I fell on even a 5.10 so I know I have the physical/technical ability to climb a 5.6 w/out falling but I always thing of the small chance of me blowing it when it counts.  Do I just have to get used to committing and trusting myself or just not think about the consequences? 

There's a difference between run outside and R rated. You can often find run outs on non "R" climbs because the run out is on much easier terrain than the overall rating.

Anyway, steer away from the explicitly R stuff until you feel really aware of what a secure position is and what an insecure one is. In other words with experience comes confidence. If you aren't sure that can make a crucial move, then don't go for it until you are sure.

Mae Rae · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 20
Benjamin Mitchell wrote:

What's the appeal? Genuine question. I always pass these routes up cause I'd much rather get on a 5.10 crack than some 5.6 no pro slab that I could die on. 

Many classic routes have runouts on easier terrain.  

You can't avoid the runout without avoiding the whole climb.

Alex Kowalcyk · · La Conner, WA · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 65
rgold wrote:situation the OP describes: stress and anxiety in coping with levels of difficulty five grades below the climbers redpoint limit.

Correction: 5.7 is 11 grades below the OP's redpoint limit (assuming 5.12a)

rafael · · Berkeley, CA · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 50
S2k4 Life wrote:

Take it from someone who just broke their foot, id say forget about the run out crappy protected climbs, theirs plenty othrs

If you find yourself in that position realize it, just take deep breaths and go slow,

If you climb 12s I can't imagine it being an issue on 5.7x or 5.8x or 5.9x

5.12 sport is one thing, runout 5.9 (or 5.7) trad, especially 5.9 offwidth is completely different, thinking they are equivalent can get one into trouble quite quickly

Ernest W · · Camarillo, CA · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 0

Just move to North Carolina. You’ll either get used to run outs or you won’t climb at all

NathanC · · Logan, Utah · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 10

rgold, your post echoes the wisdom of several badasses around here, new and old school.  I have no desire to shoot for high grades for the sake of the numbers, but I have plenty of desire to lead a long & joyful climbing career.  Thank you for sharing that bit of perspective, I hope to take some of it for future practice.

To the OP, I can't really say much more that can help you.  An alpine climbing mentor has repeated much of what the above have said - your first piece of protection has to become your ability to not fall.  If that's gonna be your only piece, well...better trust it as much as, if not more than, you trust the rope.

King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 430

@OP Keep in mind the fundamental need is "conditioning" yourself to the stimulus. The first time you are exposed to such risk it may be overwhelming, but in time, far less so.

You must simply run out easier stuff to develop the head for it at higher grades. If you don't live near an area that has this sort of climbing it may be hard to get the needed experience.

Or not, if its just not your kettle of fish.

The fundamental question is why? If you have an answer that makes sense to you then work up to it. Along the way it will either make sense or not. Proceed at will or happily sport climb to your heart's content.

Chris Bersbach · · Arroyo Grande, CA · Joined Sep 2007 · Points: 206
S2k4 Life wrote:

Lol I read about half and gave up but I'll prolly b back to it lol because he just used to many big words and seemed like a well educated good old school climber but that seemed more like a private message type thing to the og poster, there's some good info in their  but I'd think if he wanted people to actually read it which is why he had to write all that why wouldn't you shorten things up a bit? Do some highlighting

^^^ Speaking only for myself, I find this short paragraph much more difficult to read than rgold's incredibly rich and thoughtful post.

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
S2k4 Life wrote:

Lol I read about half and gave up but I'll prolly b back to it lol because he just used to many big words and seemed like a well educated good old school climber but that seemed more like a private message type thing to the og poster, there's some good info in their  but I'd think if he wanted people to actually read it which is why he had to write all that why wouldn't you shorten things up a bit? Do some highlighting

Perhaps you should work to lengthen your attention span beyond 120 characters.

sc thomas · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 0

not sure where youre located but climbing in areas that have more routes that are traditionally bolted is a good step- i.e. joshua tree, tuolumne.  getting in tune with the rock type so you can trust your feet, climbing a progression of routes that are less protected, and paying close attention to your inner dialogue and knowing when to suppress fear and push through or come back another day.  i have found that runout routes are more emotionally taxing and you have to have a certain amount of emotional reserves (not jumping on a runout route when youre already tired, etc.).  not thinking about it or just going for it is not advisable. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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