Friday, 14 August 2009

climbing words of wisdom, vol 1

In the past few days I have partaken of a range of differing climbing experiences, ranging from bouldering with small children, to teaching ‘less experienced climbers’ the various nuances of trad climbing with double ropes, to climbing in new venues with long walk-ins and disgusting descents. In these past few days the following little snippets of sensibility have made themselves apparent to me and so I thought I would share:

  • Approach shoes are fantastic things. Small enough and light enough to clip onto the back of your harness so you needn’t risk your life on steep wet grassy banks in shoes that are about as grippy as a wet turd in a sewer pipe. Approach shoes (or at least the amazing 5.10 tennies I’m now the proud owner of) are also often capable of climbing quite well, so for easier routes you may not even need to go through the modern day rock shoe ‘foot-binding’ ritual. Brilliant, or at least they are when you DON’T leave them in the boot of your car. D’oh.
  • Wet slimy rock really is just that, wet and slimy. There is no getting around it – if the rock is wet and slimy, it is going to be manky and frictionless. Remember this.
  • Scary Incompetence comes in all shapes and sizes, and believe me there is a never ending supply of terrifyingly incompetent actions that can be made within the realms of the climbing world for you to become witness to. If you ever think to yourself “well, now I’ve seen it all!”, you are wrong. You will never, ever have seen it all, and there will always be someone, somewhere, who will be capable and keenly ready to display even more terrifying and unsafe actions than you previously even considered to be possible. Trust me on this one.
  • When out for a pleasant day’s climbing, lunch is a really good idea. Whilst surviving on the ‘emergency’ chocolate supplies buried in your rucksack is occasionally permissible, it is usually a good idea to actually have a think about your day to come, and to pre-prepare some kind of sustenance for yourself.
  • Nut keys are an absolute essential for anyone climbing trad. They are useful in a whole host of situations, not just when you’re seconding a route where your mate has seemingly devised a never-ending trail of chinese puzzles instead of simple gear placements…For example, when leading there are a number of situations that may require the use of said nut key, from the fairly obvious “oh crap that nut has gone in at a strange angle, will never hold a fall yet seems to be permanently stuck” moments when you do actually need to re-adjust some failed gear placement, to the more obscure, but even more vital, ‘removal of wildlife from vital holds’, usually being of the spider or slug variety. The wildlife removal may also be necessary as a second or belayer – occasionally, you just may find yourself faced with a huge caterpillar sitting on your nice neat pile of rope…


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