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Being Comfortable with Run Outs and R Rated Climbs


Patrik · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 30
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. ...

If I were your "mentor", I would suggest to stay away from (onsighting) R ratings with your limited trad gear experience (assuming that you have done less trad than sport). R rated climbs often means sparse gear, but often also the gear you do get can be very thin and troublesome to place. Not having extensive experience with micro nuts can easily turn an R rating into X *. And I don't care if you have a triple rack of shiny totem cams.

Edit: * The usefulness of micro nuts is of course strongly dependent on where you climb. No micro nuts will save yer bacon on soft desert rock.

Russ Walling · · www.FishProducts.com · Joined Oct 2004 · Points: 3,175

How do you get used to run outs or commit to an R rated climb?

Free solo a bunch of stuff.  It is just like R and X stuff but easier because you don't have all that damn gear and ropes hanging off you.

Edit:  oh... and do that LSD thing too

Brian in SLC · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Oct 2003 · Points: 13,772

Play the game for more than you can afford to lose... only then will you learn the game. Winston Churchill

ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 235
Russ Walling wrote:

How do you get used to run outs or commit to an R rated climb?

Free solo a bunch of stuff.  It is just like R and X stuff but easier because you don't have all that damn gear and ropes hanging off you.

Edit:  oh... and do that LSD thing too

Or take LSD and watch videos of people free soloing and you get the same experience but safer.

Brian in SLC · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Oct 2003 · Points: 13,772

So...what about...bulgemelon?

Ira O · · Hardwick, VT · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 25
Eric Wydeven wrote:

I hope this isn't a curt response to this topic.  My answer: yoga.  More specifically, yogic breathing

This guy is onto something.  Yoga will not only help strength and flexibility,  but most importantly, it helps a person's ability to focus . In the yoga pose, your balance, fluidity and breathing fuse with your brain to focus every thing together and maintain a position. Climbing run out slab requires the same intense focus, the true mind-body connection.... i personally climb better on lead than following,  and better still on run out terrain, because the situation demands that focus. So I seek it out from time to time. 

Ira O · · Hardwick, VT · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 25

Also, sometimes you just have to say Fuck It. You can't be safe all the time. 

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

rgold makes lots of sense.

+1 (like you and others)

7th post on first page.

Colonel Mustard · · Sacramento, CA · Joined Sep 2005 · Points: 1,180
ViperScale wrote:

Or take LSD and watch videos of people free soloing and you get the same experience but safer.

And if you do that while masturbating and eating potato chips, that’s like the safest Friday night ever.

Nolan Fulton · · Montgomery,AL · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 291

Michael Schneider · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 745
rgold wrote: ( And It Should Be Read in Its entirety ) 

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.

kck · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 85

How to deal with run outs? Easy, have your partner take the lead.

Bill Kirby · · Baltimore Maryland · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 480

 The picture makes this look harder than 5.4 right? I’m either feeling it or I’m not. I like Slab climbing. I feel comfortable so this way I can pull my weight leading that day.  Remember if the pump clock starts you gotta make a decision. 

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

One thing I’ve noticed (from my very limited experience with runout routes) is that there’s a mental endurance that can be developed but also depleted.  I got my first experience with true runouts in Squamish last summer and was surprised by how draining it was.  After swapping leads on Banana Peel (5.7 PG-13), my lead head was totally gone the next day and I ended up backing off a much better protected (though slightly more challenging) climb the next day because I had exhausted my mental fortitude.

I guess that what I learned was that grades don’t really matter when you’re in PG-13/R territory; it’s a whole other ballgame.  There’s no grade you will feel comfortable soloing if you’ve never done it before; it’s a different kind of training.

ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 235
Bill Kirby wrote:

 The picture makes this look harder than 5.4 right? I’m either feeling it or I’m not. I like Slab climbing. I feel comfortable so this way I can pull my weight leading that day.  Remember if the pump clock starts you gotta make a decision. 

Naw looks easier than 5.4! there is like a crack to put your fingers on and it isn't just little crystals!

Spencer Perry · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 75

paul scott wrote:

climb the rock, not the bolts

Marc801 C wrote:

Huh?

I think he means to focus on the climbing between the bolts rather than thinking about how far above the last bolt you are. Rob Pizem discussed this on his Enormocast episode suggesting that as you begin to worry about the run out, you stop focusing on the movement which increases the likelihood of a fall. Rather, you should focus on the climbing in a given section, and before you know it you will be at the next bolt/gear placement.  This obviously only applies to run out bolted routes or gear routes that have solid placements separated by sections of unprotected climbing. This is also probably not the best approach for onsighting near your limit...

Bill Kirby · · Baltimore Maryland · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 480
ViperScale wrote:

Naw looks easier than 5.4! there is like a crack to put your fingers on and it isn't just little crystals!

 LOL Nope no crack or little crystals on that pitch. 

Mason Stone · · Boise, ID · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 0

I learned to climb at Hueco Tanks, with my friends saying betcha can't get up that. Most of the routes we did were 5.4 to 5.8/9ish and from ten to 200 feet. I always admired the guys roped up climbing North Mountain doing the "real" routes. But I was poor and didn't know climbers or have a mentor. My friend and I did hard chimneys because we figured our wedged bodies would keep us from falling, good times. I learned to climb "real" routes meaning with bolts, gear, ropes etc. only five years ago. I am having to relearn a lot of what RGold talks about, things I learned as a kid since many of my recent mentors focused on movement and what they consider safety over mental fortitude or stamina. I like this: 

"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."

I mentioned meditation in another thread because that is what gives me the focus RGold talks about, the focus I learned as a kid in cutoffs a tank top, long hair and sneakers. Funny thing, I never once feared for my life as a kid, I knew what I could do. Somehow the current situation, bolts, gear or highballs, makes me more nervous, I think because of the to use a current term triggered response to the like. I also think what RGold is saying is thinking about climbing in its totality: line, pitch, mountain etc. and not simply about a given moment.

Christian · · Casa do Cacete · Joined Jul 2005 · Points: 1,495

Are there really "many" younger climbers who can climb 5.12 but would be freaked out by running it out 50 feet on 5.2 or 25 feet on 5.7? Or is that just something the old timers would like to believe?

I'm sure there's a higher percentage of such climbers these days but is it really all that high? Maybe it's something about Tucson, but I cannot think of a single 5.12 climber in the community here for which that is the case.


ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 235
Bill Kirby wrote:

 LOL Nope no crack or little crystals on that pitch. 

Clearly a crack in the picture... got to learn pure friction! 

What you need to do for runouts is just keep saying to yourself... Just keep climbing, Just keep climbing, Just keep climbing.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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