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 Post subject: Thoughts on soloing
PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2012 6:10 pm 
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Joined: Thu Oct 26, 2006 7:59 pm
Posts: 167
I thought it would be polite to direct any discussion about soloing here. One question that came up in my mind is maybe it can be a sincere path towards personal growth, I asked a friend his opinion on this a few moments ago and I thought he gave an answer worth quoting:

"
It's easy to come up with reasons why it can be a tool for growth in many ways.... but it's just talk, I think. Spinning words to give the comfort of justification. Most of the soloing I did, I did alone, and never told anyone about. So It was not ego boosting in the form of boasting or showing off. But I got addicted to the feeling of freedom through conquering fears... something like that. It gives such a powerful calm. If you are addicted to this feeling of total focus and commitment, then soloing hard routes is the easiest way to get your fix through climbing. I don't think I'm drawn to soloing hard routes any more. I'd still dream of soloing long easy routes - best way to enjoy a good day in the mountains.
"

Any other thoughts on soloing out there?


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on soloing
PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2012 7:00 pm 
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Joined: Fri Feb 26, 2010 5:05 pm
Posts: 159
Location: Pretoria
Real Name: Theunis de Bruin
Like I really get the whole soling thing and being free etc - we all know you are absolutely going to send the route otherwise you wouldn't have tried, but what if something out of your control happens? a hold break, cramp up, find a lizard/snake on a ledge or even a wasps nest. Something out of your control - and you fall... R.I.P


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on soloing
PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2012 7:23 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jun 27, 2008 8:38 am
Posts: 722
Location: Port Elizabeth
Real Name: Derek Marshall
All cool...each to his own, but don't splat next to me & ruin my weekend.


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on soloing
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2012 4:36 am 
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Joined: Wed Jan 25, 2006 7:53 pm
Posts: 117
I have already stated my opinion and don't see any substantive points calling for a reply in Simon's response.

Out of curiosity who are you SimonS? You seem to have some strong views on how we should behave in our climbing community...


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on soloing
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2012 5:51 am 
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Joined: Wed Jan 25, 2006 7:53 pm
Posts: 117
This is the article I was thinking about. It's actually by Michael Reardon, a friend of Bachar. I think it's interesting that some of the very best soloists admit to a measure of uncertainty.

http://www.climbing.com/exclusive/above/decking/


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on soloing
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:15 am 
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Joined: Mon Jul 02, 2007 9:55 am
Posts: 278
Location: Pretoria
Real Name: Brian Weaver
I have a pretty strong opinion about soloing: I think it is for people in a league of their own. It is a test of mental and physical ability. I have a great deal of respect for these people and I will have a special place in my heart for their achievements and I will always feel jealous of them in some aspects.

Having said this: I have done my fair share of soloing and I will never solo hard climbs even if I have never fallen off. Climbing with protection is dangerous enough. I had an 8m ground fall yesterday while trying to onsight Witless (25) in Boven with gear that seemed to be good. I walked away thanks to the gear ripping and reducing the force of the fall and I'm very grateful to be in one piece and able to climb again (soon).

Alex Honnold wrote this in an 8a.nu interview:

"JENS: what do you think about other people out there taking big risk soloing?
ALEX: I've definitely climbed with some people who seem to be taking too much risk, but it's hard for me call someone out on that since it's like the pot calling the kettle black [if you know that saying, basically it means that I'd be a hypocrite].

I think everyone can judge for themselves just how far they want to push it. I know that when I watch someone who looks shaky but who goes for it anyway it makes me really uncomfortable. But it's their choice, and maybe they feel really solid, even though they look terrible. Everyone can make their own choices in life."

Take into consideration icon free soloists like Derek Hershey died while soloing a 5.9 route. This is something around grade 17. John Bachar died soloing a grade 22. Both these climbers could solo much harder and yet died young and alone falling from a cliff.

I feel that soloing is an achievement that is best not publicized, 8a.nu has a policy against publicizing solo ascents (as was actually stated in the Honnold article). I know that some magazines have the same policy as they do not wish to create a world of hype around soloists even though they are pushing the limits of the sport. It is a very tricky balance.

I don't want to hear that one of my friend's died while climbing. I've lost friends to climbing, it really sucks. Freak accidents do happen and are unavoidable. I don't want to hear that a friend fell to his death because he climbed without a rope. I'll never tell someone not to solo, that is not my prerogative but I can say that I will not solo...

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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on soloing
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2012 8:35 am 
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Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2007 1:59 pm
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steveB wrote:
This is the article I was thinking about. It's actually by Michael Reardon, a friend of Bachar.

They both dead yo. :(


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on soloing
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2012 9:24 am 
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Joined: Fri Jun 27, 2008 8:38 am
Posts: 722
Location: Port Elizabeth
Real Name: Derek Marshall
Nice one Brian. Agree, agree!


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on soloing
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:13 am 
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Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2010 2:52 pm
Posts: 98
Location: Cape Town
Real Name: Lukas Malan
Good post, Brian.

Personally I think it's irresponsible. But I can appreciate why climbers would do it. And I have no problem with it as long as these criteria are met:

1. Keep it to yourself.
2. Do it at a time and place where no-one can witness you crater (imagine what you'll do to a 10-year old by having your mangled corpse thud down next to him/her).
3. Do it in a place where, should you crater, the people that have to recover your body wouldn't need to take risks doing so.

Keep in mind John Bachar, Derek Hersey, Tobin Sorenson, Michael Reardon et al...

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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on soloing
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:27 am 
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Joined: Mon Jul 02, 2007 9:55 am
Posts: 278
Location: Pretoria
Real Name: Brian Weaver
Michael Reardon didn't die soloing... Freak wave washed him out to sea after he finished his solo in Ireland... Not important but fact...

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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on soloing
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:36 am 
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Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2007 1:59 pm
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Well he didn't die from falling while soloing... but he did go soloing that day, and he died before he got back. Would he be alive if he'd been tied in? Who knows, but he'd probably have a better chance of staying on the ledge where he downclimbed to. Not important, not even fact either, but supposition :)


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on soloing
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2012 4:44 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2005 11:59 am
Posts: 132
Location: Pretoria / Johannesburg
Real Name: Andrew Blanche
I think the topic should maybe be called "thoughts on risk"

The truth is that technically we all solo to the first bolt or bomber cam placement.. Think of it as just not clipping or sinking that cam. Some people are ok with the first bolt being 5 meters up, some want it ankle brakingly close to the ground - which is probably more dangerous.

I think if you are conscious and aware of the risk you are taking and you are ok with it – it’s a personal matter.

I commute to work on a motorbike – arguably more dangerous than soloing a route that you are familiar with. Do I think commuting is dangerous, no, do I think soloing is dangerous, no. What freaks me out is people who don’t wear safety belts in their car, while they chat or sms on their cell phones. The stats will bear me out that more people die of negligent driving than soloing.. and although they dont mess up your climb on a warm afternoon at the crag – they ruin your Monday morning traffic – but we are insulated from that and therefore its ok.

Do you solo?
Do you eat tuna that is beyond its best by date?
Do you talk on your phone in the car while driving?
Do you have unprotected sex with people who you dotn know their sexual history?
Do you drink and drive?
Do you climb without wearing a helmet?

Either one of these could kill you – but we all perceive the risk differently and therefore prepared to take the risk.


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on soloing
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2012 6:03 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jan 17, 2006 1:23 pm
Posts: 124
Location: Gauteng
Some good comments here. Taking risk is an intrinsic part of mountaineering – each of us has his own perception as to level of acceptable risk (real risk is something different altogether as Chalk has pointed out). But I think owing up to such actions and “assuming the risk” goes beyond what happens on the climb but also what pro-active steps you take before.

None of us live in a vacuum and the responsible thing to do is to own up to what you are intending to do and thereby limit the impact of our high risk actions on those that are involved / affected whether directly or indirectly. One specific thing is to let someone know what you are up to and what to do in case things go South. To me there is a big difference between “secretly” soloing / taking big risks on your own (soling solo?) with on-one knowing vs. soloing with the knowledge or even physical support of an understanding and trustworthy mate.

From a rescue point of view: It is a general Search and Rescue policy not to judge any person in need of assistance and therefore the response to a call for assistance will in general be the same manner regardless of the risk profile of the person’s activities. However, if you are pushing the limits on your own please do it in a responsible manner by letting someone know where EXACTLY you are and when to expect you back. After recent searches for individuals that threatened to commit suicide (not the quite same but related in some way) I can just state that it is very shellfish towards friends, family and search and rescue personnel to not leave any word on where to find you and have no back-up plan at all. Rescues and recoveries, although not ‘cheap’ does not involve nearly as much time and resources as a large scale search which is then followed by a rescue / recovery.

We all take a measure of risk and from time to time make mistakes and things can easily take a turn for the worse with someone having to come and pick up the pieces. But to me it is shellfish to not take responsible actions prior to taking risk so that when things go wrong / out of control, friends, family and search and rescue organisations does not spend lots of unnecessary time and resources to search for the proverbial needle in a haystack or even worse, leave family and friends wondering and dealing with the uncertainty of where you are and whether you are still alive.


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts on soloing
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 5:06 am 
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Posts: 167
Chalk brings up the interesting point on the perception of risk. Though I don't necessarily believe that driving your car is more dangerous than soloing (crunch the numbers on how few soloists there are out there vs how many thousands of people are on the roads everyday), it seems to me, the greater perception we have of the possible risk, the more seriously we take the activity, which often means the chance of injury and death is a lot lower than an armchair critic might believe. It is said there have not been many serious accidents on hard grit for example. Climbers tackling these routes practice the routes carefully and know every placement on the route.

Alternatively, almost every time I go out climbing I notice an aspect of safety I'm not happy with: too much slack, too little slack, inattention, no partner checks, no communication etc. Every time you tie in you have a feeling of safety which is not always as real as you might think. This leads to mistakes of complacence. How many close calls or deaths have you heard about for this reason? As one example, I was climbing at Monteseel on toprope once, and I was distracted by something my belayer was saying and forgot to complete my knot; we didn't do any pre-checks, I set off and luckily got to the top. As I was weighting the rope, I could see the knot start to unravel... I scampered over the top and re-tied... So really, it wouldn't surprise me that much if, once the numbers are crunched, the chance of death or injury amongst climbers, including beginners, is not all that much lower than the chance of death by soloing.

The issue most people have a problem with, is the the possibility of the hype surrounding soloing leading someone to take risks he or she is not fully prepared for.


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