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Bailing in the middle of a runout / down-climbing slab ?


Original Post
Serge Smirnov · · Seattle, WA · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 262

Situation:
 - far enough above the last piece that a fall would be unpleasant
 - not confident in being able to down-climb
 - don't like what lies ahead (no protection for a while, not easy)

Historically I go for it - even though continuing makes a longer fall possible, I feel less likely to fall climbing up than down.  Is there a better way (short of bailing at the first non-down-climbable move) ?

In particular, can one get good enough at down-climbing slab that the gap between one's up- and down-climbing slab ability becomes small (1-2 letter grades) ?

Jeffrey Constine · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined May 2009 · Points: 588

Yur gonna die!

SeƱor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10

Time to stick clip.

Duncan Domingue · · Scott, LA · Joined May 2015 · Points: 0

I don't know about you, but I magically become a stronger climber when I'm bailing down slab. What was so hard going up is now much easier on the way down! Fear is a helluva drug.

kevin deweese · · Oakland, Ca · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 420

If gunning it isn't a good option (decided on a case by case basis) then communicate with your belayer, hopefully there's a good running or launch path for the belayer to run away from the wall upon. Downclimb until the inevitable slip and hope your belayer can pull in enough slack while running to keep you out of as much danger as possible. Biggest issue will be not hyperextending your foot on an edge or smallish bulge. I like to climb slab with a small 10L pack with a water bladder in it, take a fall and turn the horror into a waterslide. 

phylp · · Upland · Joined May 2015 · Points: 617

 - far enough above the last piece that a fall would be unpleasant
 - don't like what lies ahead (no protection for a while, not easy)

In particular, can one get good enough at down-climbing slab that the gap between one's up- and down-climbing slab ability becomes small (1-2 letter grades) ?

The two conditions listed above are the definition of R-rated climbing.  Slab, by it's nature, is tenuous. My approach to R-rated slab is to go up with the expectation of not falling.  Down-climbing doesn't enter into the mindset. I think that mindset would be self-defeating.  For some reason, even though we know in advance that we may not like what lies ahead, we decide to start up anyway.    When I was doing a lot of slab climbing, my approach to R-rated routes was to generally stick to ones at grades I was almost universally onsighting.  This doesn't mean they weren't scary.  

I have experienced the exact scenario you describe twice when I did make the decision to downclimb.  One time I was successful, which was good because I would have decked from about 40 feet up (I missed a bolt).  One time I was not successful, and decked and was quite injured (the crux was right at my limit and before the first bolt, I had misread the topo).

Your question about how good one could get at downclimbing slab is interesting but I think it just needs empirical evidence.  Go and do it on a toprope and report back.
slim · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2004 · Points: 1,107

if going for it is your 'only' option, at some point you are probably going to eat a big shitburger.  you may want to hone up on your downclimbing if you are planning on climbing scary routes...

· · Unknown Hometown · Joined unknown · Points: 0

This is why you take the bolt gun or hand drill with you.

Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 2,800
ViperScale . wrote: This is why you take the bolt gun or hand drill with you.

LOL.  Try poking a hole when you can barely stand on the slope.

David Kerkeslager · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 127
Gunkiemike wrote:

LOL.  Try poking a hole when you can barely stand on the slope.

Where's that? Looks neat.

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,749
David Kerkeslager wrote:

Where's that? Looks neat.

Looks like NC or NH.

PWZ · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 0
David Kerkeslager wrote:

Where's that? Looks neat.

Looks like skidmarks if you bail

nbrown · · originally WNC, now Broomfield · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 6,627
Jake Jones wrote:

Looks like NC or NH.

I was thinking the same thing. Could be any of a dozen or more areas around WNC... but it probably isn't (doesn't look familiar).

Christopher Smith · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 0

Practice downclimbing in your gym training, it works wonders with your regular climbing ability as well as makes the occasional downclimb n bail alot easier.  When I'm focusing on endurance training at my gym I will get on an easier route on autobelay and just do laps up and down over and over.

Fredrik Ehne · · Stockholm, Sweden · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 0

Set up a toprope and try it out? Either work on it to get better or see how it goes so you know in the future. Downclimbing is supposed to put more weight on hour feet so could potentially work out ok on slab even if it's harder to place the feet as good.

Allen Sanderson · · Oootah · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,187

Ah, might as well jump
(Jump)
Might as well jump
Go ahead an' jump (jump)
Go ahead and jump

Nolan Huther · · Potsdam, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 510
David Kerkeslager wrote:

Where's that? Looks neat.

It's in the Adirondacks. Friction climbing at Sugarloaf.

FA was put up, onsight rope solo drilling at stances, yeaaaaahhhh!!! (It's been upgraded since)
nbrown · · originally WNC, now Broomfield · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 6,627

FA was put up, onsight rope solo drilling at stances

Proper way to do things. 

Patrick Vernon · · Estes Park, CO · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 960

Honestly this is a situation you shouldn't be in.  

Josh B · · SLC, UT · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 0

This question makes me nervous. 

Russ Walling · · www.FishProducts.com · Joined Oct 2004 · Points: 3,416

Better to jump in control from 20 than take an uncontrolled tumble at 30...  Being a good downclimber is a great skill to have.  Work on it.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Trad Climbing
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