Sunday, May 6, 2012

Rock Climbing 101

We were out climbing with friends today at Waterline - as was most of the West Kootenay judging by the crowds - and, as is common early season, people came in big groups and with many beginners in tow. Now, there are almost no beginner routes at Waterline, the bulk of routes are in the 9's to 12's, and, despite what some people seem to think 5.9 or 5.10a routes - particularly steep, pumpy routes such as those found at Waterline - are not beginner routes.

Despite this, the usual gangs of "friends" (really with friends like these who needs enemies?) were putting top-ropes on routes in the 10's for their buddies. Almost without exception, the "buddies" could not climb the routes and merely spent time flailing about giving the route a nice polishing for who ever led it next. There were also a few very sketched out leaders thrutching their way up the one or two easier routes, but again, there are better places to start lead climbing than Waterline.

I am not sure what desperately thrutching your way up a route that is way too hard for you, whether on lead or top-rope, is meant to do. Certainly, it does not teach good movement skills, balance, body tension or any of the other skills necessary to climbing. In fact, I would wager that the ingraining of poor habits in this way retards rather than advances climbing performance. And yet, everywhere you go you see beginners struggling on routes far too hard for them; the practice is literally endemic to the climbing population.

So, if you are thinking of introducing your friends to climbing or are taking out some novice climbers, start them on a 5.4. If all goes well, work your way up the grades, but, whatever you do, don't wear them and the route down by putting them on anything harder until they've mastered the easier grades. You'll be doing everyone a favor. 
Novice climber rappelling a 5.6

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