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Dec 1, 2009
Yawn. Tom Hanson
Joined Jan 1, 2001
1,124 points
Dec 1, 2009

I fall, and hate it.
Pat C
From Honolulu
Joined Mar 14, 2009
94 points
Dec 1, 2009
I hear ya' Tom. I don't like falling. I like climbing. And to me, falling is losing the entirety of control that one gains while climbing. The few whippers I have taken, I hated. It's not like I was afraid gear would pop. I knew the gear was solid. But to fall meant that I had done something wrong on the climb as to cause the fall. The fall meant that I screwed up somewhere along the line, either losing control, technique, concentration, or strength.

I do give credit, however, to the climber who will work a line over and over, and whip time and again, simply to gain the strength and skill necessary to get to the top clean. That's impressive to me. Perhaps I'm limiting how far I progress in terms of difficulty, but I'd rather not fall.
Joined Apr 16, 2007
615 points
Dec 2, 2009
I'm not a fan of falling. But, like you said, if you're pushing your limits, falling is part of the picture. I won't lie, I've fallin thousands of times just to nail down THAT one route. koreo
From Denver, CO
Joined Aug 24, 2009
90 points
Dec 2, 2009
If you are not falling, you are not climbing hard enough. Mike
From Phoenix
Joined May 16, 2006
2,763 points
Dec 2, 2009
20 years climbing, no real big falls (once on aid which I don't count) to speak of.
Am I really pushing it enough?
I don't want to fall tomorrow...or the next day either.

From Flag
Joined Feb 5, 2007
222 points
Dec 2, 2009
"Yeah yeah, I know others will respond by quoting the gym/sport climbing mentality that falling allows one to push their limits and number grades. Tell me something I don't know.
Are there any others out there who share my view that climbing is about absolute control of mind and body and feel that falling is failure?"

I think this is unfair. I fall. But falling alone isn't what allows me to find my limits. I also don't feed into the grades thing.

I think hanging on gear is just as much of a "failure" situation. You didn't lose control. Big fat deal. you still stopped before "success." Climbing is of course appreciated in all kinds of ways; for me, and regardless of if I fall, when climbing in a way to challenge myself (not always the case, I do climb for the aesthetic, to adventure hundreds of other reasons) I appreciate knowing that even if I come off, I was up there, and I did not limit myself with doubt. Even if I think something is too hard, I TRIED. A no fall record to me, means that you never felt the thrill of actually pushing through something you didn't expect to. I don't think I could have made it past my first year without that kind of unique gratification, much less multiple decades. You mention "Osmond Style" leaps and bungee jumps...there's adrenaline galore, yet a profound lack of something which only comes from succeeding despite risk management and "control."

free-soloing may be the sport for you since it is all no fall anyhow.

Good for you I guess; for having what you dom since you appreciate it. But it is clearly not the same for everyone, and you shouldn't only ask for people who agree and dismiss everyone else as "gym and sport climbers."
Colin Kenneth
From San Francisco, CA
Joined Mar 3, 2006
344 points
Dec 2, 2009
C K Mills wrote:
I think hanging on gear is just as much of a "failure" situation. You didn't lose control. Big fat deal. you still stopped before "success.

C K Mills has a very good point here. I've never stopped and hang on a piece of gear except once when I was off route and had to rap. That's something I'm quite proud of and a record I hope to maintain. Sure, I've taken a few falls, but I've also come out clean when I was certain I was going to fall. It's a nice feeling when that happens. I think you are robbing yourself from such experiences, but on the other hand you don't seem to want them as control seems to be the most important issue for you.

Personally I'd rather fall trying than giving up.
Michael Collins
From Sweden
Joined Mar 14, 2008
29 points
Dec 2, 2009
I enjoy pushing my limits and testing my ability's. I also fall. When I solo it is for the pure joy of the movement, the feel of the rock, and the absolute control I feel. Climbing roped moderates(.7-.10a) I experience the same focus and joy, with the added challenge of being technically safe. Example; Plug-n'-Go, The feeling of moving smoothly across the stone placing gear as needed, not wasting energy, being efficient and letting the route dictate how I climb. Staying well inside my limits. I absolutely love finding a steep challenging 5.12 finger crack that is covered in lichen, untouched, and waiting to be climbed, ground-up. The times I have fallen were on new routes, times I had the strength and ability, to complete the moves, I just needed a go or two to figure them out. I don't mind falling if I feel I am at the edge of my boundary's, and there is something to be gained. I am sure it is a matter of personal preference. I don't ever feel disappointed after getting shut down on a climb, just lower,pull,shake, and try again. I believe it is exactly what you want it to be, success, failure, or just a good time getting your ass kicked. I think if you want to get better you have two choices, 1:Never fall, climb as much within your ability and slowly over time push your grades, a year of 5.7's and an .8- or three tossed in. 2:The same as #1, but climb .7's, .8's, and a few .9's maybe a soft .10. Get in deep enough (safely) to push through, or fall. Lowering and hang doggin' is falling. Whipping 20ft. is falling. It's all in the eye of the beholder. Go climb, have fun. Whatever that means to you. I'm going to pack another one and hope the weather clears faster than predicted. Fall or don't, just do it for you. Peace. J boydpainting
From Estes Park CO
Joined Oct 27, 2009
332 points
Dec 2, 2009
How can you call falling the antithesis of climbing but be fine with hanging on gear? You might fail, so why try? Aaron S
Joined Dec 10, 2006
190 points
Dec 2, 2009
Just climb "Beta Slave" a bit out of balance at the crux, and you will be on your way down before you know it. That is one kinda nasty swinger thats about 12 feet or so. I have taken a few short falls on sport climbs but never totally unexpected.
Jim Gloeckler
From Denver, Colo.
Joined Jul 7, 2004
47 points
Dec 2, 2009
I wouldn't know, I fall all the time... half-pad-mini-jug
From crauschville
Joined Apr 8, 2008
1,968 points
Dec 2, 2009

I can verify I never saw you take an out of control lead fall!

Funny, I feel almost the opposite way about it: if I don't take a fall on lead at least once per climbing day I kind of feel like I didn't try very hard that day.

I find that lots of times when I am doubting my ability to do a move or thinking I am about to pitch off, if I just stick with it and try, I will scrape through. For me, these are usually my most memorable sends.

So if I fall it is usually no big deal, but I have lots of rules:
1. sport climbing fall = cool; trad climbing fall = not cool
2. watch out who the belayer is and where they will be standing - don't want to whip the little gal into a boulder or anything.
3. don't fall above ledges or where there is groundfall potential
4. don't fall at bolt 1: lots of force plus potential collision with belayer

Last reasonably big fall was last weekend at Red Rocks - pitched about 15-20 ft while trying to get a draw clipped to a bolt - man was I pumped! No harm done, just air.

richard magill
Joined Jan 1, 2001
2,681 points
Dec 2, 2009
Interesting post, Tom.

To Richard Magill and others who have expressed similar views: Why the rejection of trad falls? Is it at all stylistic or purely a pragmatic safety consideration? There are a lot of bomber placements out there...

To Tom Hanson: I differ with your view that hanging on gear better fits the essence of climbing than does losing your grip. Neither is an ideal or elegant option. But one involves (or can involve) maximal effort to succeed at the ideal, while the other signals preemptive surrender of the ideal. Why is that better? Or to avoid the implication of good and bad, why is that more in the spirit of climbing?

If your answer is that it manifests control rather than loss of control, my answer is that is an artificial control, dependent on mechanical insertions in the rock. By hanging, you still lose control of--or perhaps temporarily withdraw from--your personal dance with the primal element. So what superior experience are you preserving? What are you controlling? The effect of gravity's pull? You could do that with scaffolding.

That last bit sounded snarky, but I'm just trying to play out concretely the implications. I have high respect for you and your contributions to climbing, not to mention your enrichment of Mountain Project.

Shawn Mitchell
From Broomfield
Joined Mar 4, 2008
325 points
Dec 2, 2009
Falling is failure.

Though failure can still be a learning experience & the learning experience might help to make you a better climber.

Otherwise pebble poppers would just jump off of boulders and call it good.
Buff Johnson
Joined Dec 19, 2005
1,511 points
Dec 2, 2009
Since I climb sport about 90+ percent of the time, when I am trad climbing I just like to avoid falling, period. There are lots of bomber placements, yes. But I just reserve my real "go-for-it" mentality to sport climbing. Probably an abundance of caution.

I think falling is not failure - quite the opposite. In my head, saying 'take' is closer to failure - but there is no real failure if you are out there having fun and doing your thing. It's all good.

Read Arno Ilgner's "Rock Warrior" book for a better understanding ...
richard magill
Joined Jan 1, 2001
2,681 points
Dec 2, 2009
Being an old Traddie', I've managed to avoid falls for much of my climbing life too, mostly due to the belief in 'The leader shall not fall' mantra of old. I know the sporty's will think that's odd, but that's because most of them have never never had to start a climbing life from the rugged start of placing gear and knowing your limits so you don't overextend on that gear. Sure, they push limits as do boulderers, but hey, their routes seem to often end in mid cliff anyway. I do enjoy the summit, the real top-out, more than the numerical ranking I can notch on my logbook. Woodchuck ATC
Joined Nov 29, 2007
3,370 points
Dec 2, 2009
My thoughts echo those of Paul Carlson, Aaron S, Michael Collins and C K Mills. I've fallen countless times sport climbing, and a handful (5?) times on trad lines. On the other hand, I've never willingly weighted gear (unless backing off a route) on trad, preferring either to downclimb to a stance or just go for the sequence.

The huge whippers you speak of might be a bit imprudent, but it just isn't in my wiring to willingly back off a move and settle for hanging on my gear; I'd rather give what I've got and, if it doesn't work out, go for the ride. I always feel like I'm giving up/failing moreso if I'm yelling "take" than if I'm yelling "FUCK-FALLING!"
Aaron Martinuzzi
Joined Apr 15, 2008
1,583 points
Dec 2, 2009
Tom Hanson wrote:
Yeah yeah, I know others will respond by quoting the gym/sport climbing mentality that falling allows one to push their limits and number grades. Tell me something I don't know.

Too bad you couldn't have left out that part in your original post. No need to insult those of us who don't agree with your philosophy.

I'm definitely with those who consider hanging on gear a greater failure than falling. Everybody has their own boundaries of comfort that they won't exceed, and there's nothing wrong with that; but just because you choose to climb conservatively enough that you never fall doesn't make that style superior. Like Buff said, falling is ideally a learning experience, and probably a better learning experience than hangdogging.

Tom Hanson wrote:
Are there any others out there who share my view that climbing is about absolute control of mind and body and feel that falling is failure?

No, I don't share this view, mainly because I think "absolute control" is a dangerous illusion for a climber to indulge in.

From Decatur, GA
Joined Nov 14, 2006
4,536 points
Dec 2, 2009
For me, the whole point is pushing into unknown territory, its about building courage and confidence. I have never thought of climbing as an opportunity to obsess over control. Control is important, but to me the most incredible and personally beneficial aspect of climbing is pushing myself to take reasonable risks, to struggle against irrational or unfounded fear (the fear of falling, usually). I am never more disappointed in my climbing than than when I down climb or take rather than pushing out of my comfort zone. The idea of climbing being an exercise of total control seems, to me, preposterous. Pete Hickman
From Tacoma, WA
Joined Sep 4, 2007
515 points
Dec 2, 2009
I guess I also want to add, that I downclimb all the time; particularly climbing trad routes. Downclimbing is pure strategy and aids in the problem solving aspect of the sport. I just try to do it in a way where I am finding a place to rest while staying on the wall and my own strength, not downclimbing to gear. Colin Kenneth
From San Francisco, CA
Joined Mar 3, 2006
344 points
Dec 2, 2009
Tom, isn't that you from the other day at Castlewood?

Rock Climbing Photo: Tom, isn't that you from the other day at Castlewo...
Tom, isn't that you from the other day at Castlewood?
Chris Cavallaro
Joined Jan 1, 2001
251 points
Dec 2, 2009
From what I have gathered talking to other climbers from your origins, Tom, you are in good company there. My buddy Roy climbs in the same style and I would doubt he has taken many if any leader falls. He has climbed Astroman twice, guiding up a client on one trip. So obviously he didn't need to take falls to get extremely competent on the sharp end.

I think the inclusion of taking falls into the learning process is a very recent addition to climbing and that sport routes made that possible. I have logged many, many lead falls on bolts and have only gotten a little rope burn from one. But as for trad falls, I have only logged two at the start of "Chockstone." on two well set nuts. That's after eight years of trad leading. I've not taken any falls since.

I definitely don't care a whit about style when it comes to falls in the backcountry. I absolutely refuse to care about that jive when the consequences could be a life threatening injury hours from anyone that will probably ensure a sufferfest even if one survives. Having a kid makes that decision easy. I will just pull out the aiding if it gets hairy. No sweat. Mentally, I can handle easy runouts.

(Just saw the photo edit:)

Er, Tom. If you are going to take falls you could at least do it with a little more dignity.
From Colorado Springs, Colorado
Joined Jan 1, 2001
1,680 points
Dec 2, 2009
JLP wrote:
I tend to set a 3 RP attempt limit for myself. If can't get a route faster than that, I ask myself why and focus instead on whatever weakness was at play - on easier routes.

I've never set a limit for redpoint attempts for myself, but I'm totally on board with this philosophy. Working and working a given route, for me, climbing in the 5.10 to 5.11 range, doesn't help me improve as a climber - it helps me climb that single route. Climbing a lot of different routes slightly below my limit, hanging on and thinking through difficult sequences has, I've found, benefitted my climbing more than lots and lots of tries.

I think this attitude is also a factor in why I prefer to continue climbing into a section I know might be at my limit rather than take (given that downclimbing to a stance isn't an option) - I'd rather test my mental abilities actively - that is, while moving into a tough section sort of pumped - than think it out while resting.
Aaron Martinuzzi
Joined Apr 15, 2008
1,583 points
Dec 3, 2009
Climbing is a practice. As in we practice "control", but are never perfect. That's what keeps it interesting to me! I control as much of the experience as I can- gear selection, fall assessment, my breathing and movement. Challenging climbs at my limit are an exercise in managing doubt and desire. It's such a dynamic process and I think it over-simplifies it to equate falling with failure, or try to fit it into the dogma of 'leader-must-not-fall'.

Tom, IMO it seems to me like this pride you have in not falling is holding you back. Of course, you can play the game anyway you want! This is not about pushing grades- it's about testing the boundaries of our personal limits. How many of those moves that you've down-climbed from might have gone?

One more thing- "unexpected" and "out of control" mean two different things to me, though they seem to mean the same thing to you. I've fallen because a foothold crumbled and to me this was unexpected, but didn't mean I was climbing wildly or out of control.
Joined Jun 23, 2007
155 points
Dec 3, 2009
Sometimes I fall and sometimes I hang on my gear. When I fall I feel good. When I hang on my gear I feel like a bit of a puss. But both have helped me progress and advance my abilities. S.Mccabe
From boulder, co
Joined Apr 7, 2009
82 points

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