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#58614 - 07/06/11 09:41 PM Re: Free Soloing [Re: phlan]
schwortz Offline

Registered: 09/10/03
Posts: 308
i wouldnt know the death rates per hour of various activities. thats not the point. but i dont think it would be any higher for soloing than for many other things.

in any case it doesnt matter. in absolute terms it happens far less frequently. so any spectator is more likely to witness a roped fall. as you say it is indeed a tragedy either way.

#58615 - 07/06/11 09:43 PM Re: Free Soloing [Re: phlan]
Coppertone Offline
old hand

Registered: 08/17/00
Posts: 1055
Loc: Newtown, CT
While climbing in and of itself is a selfish activity, at least there are some levels of protection including, ropes, gear, partners etc. There is room for error, you can easily make a mistake and have little consequence other than a fall onto rope only go up and give it another go. If you make a mistake soloing you are dead.

Soloing is the ultimate indulgence in selfishness. I also have no problem with it when you are not married and don't have a wife/husband and children that depend on you every day. I have soloed some easier routes myself, however once my kids came along that ended as well some some of the more run out riskier leads that I had done in my earlier climbing career. In my opinion soloing when you have children that depend you is just plain selfish, irresponsible and a bad decision. I have tremendous respect for the accomplishments and contributions of some of the climbing greats that have past over the years such as Dan Osman and John Bachar but I have a real problem that they died and left children behind. While they may have been following their hearts and doing what they loved when they died, at some point it is no longer just about you and what you want to do. Your actions have lifelong consequences for those closest to you.

I realize that this is a different tangent to this thread but I think that it is an important one.

#58620 - 07/07/11 10:03 AM Re: Free Soloing [Re: Coppertone]
schwortz Offline

Registered: 09/10/03
Posts: 308
agreed its a different tangent.

i dont intend to disagree with you, as i dont have a wife or kids or responsibilities at that level so i certainly cant speak from experience with these kinds of decisions.

but i'm curious though. what do you say to the soldier, race car driver, cop, fireman, etc who has a wife, kids, family, mortgage, job with responsibilities, etc? are they selfish?

i'm not saying that those hazardous occupations are the same as free soloing, but they are still choices nonetheless. for dano and bachar you could argue that they werent making selfish choices for fun. they were doing it for work. thats how they made their living - as professional climbers. in that sense its not much different from the cop, soldier, fireman, miner, oil rigger, etc who gets killed on the job. i'm just curious where you would draw the line.

my knee jerk reaction is that i think its bizarre to label someone as unjustly selfish for free soloing and not for a host of other voluntary recreational activities that millions of otherwise "responsible" parents participate in all the time. how many drive for fun? or drive fast sportscars for fun? or drive fast or off road cars in risky dangerous ways for no reason? or go hunting? or who ride motorcycles, ATVs and snowmobiles? how about drinking for fun? you can do all of those things in conservative and responsible ways, but accidents happen in all of them, and i'm willing to bet that the accident rates are as high if not higher than free soloing. and there are a lot of otherwise responsible parents out there who partake. selfishness in free soloing might be better measured by your overall competence at it, the appropriateness of the situation, your experience, your intent, etc - not the worst case scenario, which would likely rule out a host of other professions and lifestyle choices.

#58623 - 07/07/11 02:04 PM Re: Free Soloing [Re: schwortz]
rg@ofmc Offline

Registered: 12/25/99
Posts: 2472
Loc: Poughkeepsie, NY
The situation is certainly complex and subtle and I'm not going to make judgements about anyone else's choices. I think that, in general, spouses or partners of dedicated free-soloists know very well who they have cast their lot with, at least if they are able to be honest with themselves, and if they choose to have children, they participate in the complex dilemma about what is or is not appropriate.

My personal choices correspond to Dave's. I've done a ton of free-soloing over the years, up to a grade below my maximum leading ability at the time, as well as a slew or R- and X-rated leads. I loved it all, but gave it up when my daughter was born because I wanted to be around as she grew up and, although I was very confident about my abilities, the odds that were once acceptable just seemed different.

I have to say that even 24 years later, I still miss free-soloing moderate routes and often feel I have to resist the pull. In a way I feel that free-soloing is really the essence of what climbing is all about. I might add, however, as I close in on 70, that I can no longer trust my body to respond in the predictable ways of my youth, and of course I am nowhere near as strong or as fit, and this would almost certainly keep me from going back to soloing in any case.

Bachar, who I've know peripherally for years, faced all of these issues and made choices that proved to be fatal. His death had a deep effect on me, because if anyone in the world could live the free-soloing life and die of old age, it would have been him, and any lesser mortal now has to ask why they think they can control the risks when he did not.

All climbers indulge in a certain amount of double-think. They know that even if they are careful, climbing will eventually put them in risky situations, and they trust that their experience and mental control will see them through. Free-soloing is not some completely different activity, it is just a matter of degree, something that it is important for all climbers to understand. With that understanding ought to come tolerance, because we are all actually playing the same game.

#58624 - 07/07/11 02:05 PM Re: Free Soloing [Re: schwortz]
SethG Offline
old hand

Registered: 12/16/08
Posts: 714
Loc: NYC
Coppertone, my earlier post was intended to address exactly the kind of mentality you exhibit in your post. I used to feel the same way. The stakes are high in climbing, but we take safety precautions. Soloing, on the other hand, risks death at all times and is therefore more dangerous, irresponsible.

But this kind of thinking doesn't honestly evaluate climbing. You can't protect every move, and most of us when we climb might as well be soloing at times when we climb through easy territory. The way we protect ourselves at these times is to try to remain well within our limits. The same can be said for leading on ice (during which most people find it unacceptably risky to fall) and alpine climbing (during which every party makes a constant decision whether the territory can be done solo or requires roping up).

Take my earlier example of the soloist I saw on High E. I assume this person was a competent climber at a much higher grade than 5.6. He knew there was almost no chance he would fall off of High E. I've never fallen off of it either, but I don't feel that kind of comfort so I don't think it would be wise for me to solo it.

But I can't say he was wrong to feel that comfort. If I say he's wrong then I'm wrong for climbing the cruxy bottom of Raunchy without stick clipping the tree. If I say he's wrong then I'm wrong for soloing up the Uberfall to help someone with a toprope setup on Phoebe. If I say he's wrong then I'm wrong for climbing City Lights, with its 5.4 runout above the crux. That would be a potentially deadly fall, but I feel there is practically no chance I'm going to fall there. So I happily climb it and enjoy it.

I'm saying you can't draw this easy distinction between soloing and roped climbing. Both involve the same evaluations of the risks you are comfortable with. Different people are comfortable at different levels.
It's true, I have a blog.

#58625 - 07/07/11 02:15 PM Re: Free Soloing [Re: SethG]
chip Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 10/06/01
Posts: 2679
Loc: Sittin' Pretty in Fat City
I really appreciate the cogent and passionate discussion. You folk are a pleasure.

Edited by chip (07/07/11 02:15 PM)
Edit Reason: oops

#58632 - 07/07/11 06:53 PM Re: Free Soloing [Re: phlan]
stoopid Offline

Registered: 10/09/08
Posts: 67
Loc: West Sand Lake, NY
Originally Posted By: phlan
what is is the proportional deaths of tens of 1000's of people who hike or climb on a rope to the hand ful who free solo. somehow some of this rings hollow. a tragedy either way, but to me a soloer is sticking their neck out a tad even if they are a world class athlete.

That was what I was thniking to... percentage wise, I suspect there's a higher mortality rate per solo climber than per roped climber. Don't know if it's 1% higher, 100% higher, or how we could even find out those numbers.

I'm not sure I'd go as far as banning the practice, or think scornfully of those who engage in it... but it's not something I would condone either.

Didn't Dan Osman die base jumping with ropes or something non-climbing related?

#58639 - 07/07/11 08:54 PM Re: Free Soloing [Re: stoopid]
whatthegunks Offline

Registered: 05/09/09
Posts: 136
Loc: High Falls, NY
Soloing requires complete focus. When done well, smoothly, in control, it is the ultimate expression of mastery of the pursuit, mastery of body and mind. Choose to or not to but do not claim that you are smarter or better because you are tied to a rope.

If you use the rope master the technique, do not delude yourself that the latest gizmo added to a giant rack of gizmos makes you better, safer. Admit that the gizmos are a crutch, that holding on, moving smoothly and maintaining a clear and calm mind are first.

Before insisting that people do not solo how about this advice; finish your knot, double back your harness, always put knots in the ends of your rope when you rappel, if you are not going to tie the rope to yourself or an anchor put a knot in it so it can't get through your belay plate=close the system, protect the second, place the good piece before you wobble your way to that ledge you see above you risking a ground fall, practice lowering somebody with a plaquette style device before you are on a ledge 50' off the ground, admit your limitations and then work your ass off to push past them. Do not fake it.

#58640 - 07/07/11 08:58 PM Re: Free Soloing [Re: stoopid]
chip Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 10/06/01
Posts: 2679
Loc: Sittin' Pretty in Fat City
Yes, Dan Osman died when he made a jump off an overhanging face, sorta like bungy jumping, and there was rope/anchor failure. It was a practise he had done numerous times before.

#58647 - 07/07/11 11:43 PM Re: Free Soloing [Re: chip]
retroscree Offline

Registered: 06/29/11
Posts: 397

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