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Climber a not a leader...does it work...?

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Re: Climber a not a leader...does it work...?

Postby Alpinist » Mon Aug 22, 2011 1:52 pm

When we first met he made a lot of noise about big expeditions in remote areas and alpine climbing, therefore I understood that he had enough climbing experience not only to climb outside but also to lead some stuff.

Just because the guy climbed on a few expeditions doesn't mean that he has technical skill or can lead climb. You should not have assumed that.

This is not a difficult problem to solve. Ask some simple questions before your trip and then agree on what each of your roles will be during your climb.

-Can you lead climb?
-What have you lead? (And do you have the sunburn to prove it?)
-I expect us to alternate the lead during our climb. Are you up for that?
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Re: Climber a not a leader...does it work...?

Postby mvs » Mon Aug 22, 2011 2:37 pm

I'm always amazed by this kind of thing. I think this kind of stuff is really serious, I mean, life or death, right? So you should only report what you know you can do. If I say I can climb 5.9 I'll never try to shirk a 5.9 lead, there just won't be any discussion at that point. The place where I'll start hemming and hawing and yammering one way or another will be at grades above the one I said I could do. I just don't see any other way to make the act of meeting new climbing partners relatively sane.

Another important thing with alpine stuff is that a 5.12 climber might seize up on 5.6 loose alpine rock terrain. It boggles my mind. Maybe because for me the only way to reach the exalted heights of 5.12 is by a vast and slow pyramid of experience that will statistically contain enough bad terrain that I'd know how to deal with it by that fabled date. Sometimes I've been on climbs with climbers like this and my expectation that we could fly up the route were dashed because we made time-consuming belays on the chossy, pokey approach pitches that would normally be simul-climbed or soloed. Oops!

At least these disappointing days out result in fun stories. :)
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Re: Climber a not a leader...does it work...?

Postby CClaude » Mon Aug 22, 2011 9:19 pm

mvs wrote:I'm always amazed by this kind of thing. I think this kind of stuff is really serious, I mean, life or death, right? So you should only report what you know you can do. If I say I can climb 5.9 I'll never try to shirk a 5.9 lead, there just won't be any discussion at that point. The place where I'll start hemming and hawing and yammering one way or another will be at grades above the one I said I could do. I just don't see any other way to make the act of meeting new climbing partners relatively sane.

Another important thing with alpine stuff is that a 5.12 climber might seize up on 5.6 loose alpine rock terrain. It boggles my mind. Maybe because for me the only way to reach the exalted heights of 5.12 is by a vast and slow pyramid of experience that will statistically contain enough bad terrain that I'd know how to deal with it by that fabled date. Sometimes I've been on climbs with climbers like this and my expectation that we could fly up the route were dashed because we made time-consuming belays on the chossy, pokey approach pitches that would normally be simul-climbed or soloed. Oops!

At least these disappointing days out result in fun stories. :)


A 5.12 climber should be able to handle 5.6 loose, but a climber at that level puts their pants on (or tutu's or whatever else they wear) the same was as anyone else. I know world reknown climber (name withheld to protect a nice guy) who got spooked on a crappy, loose pitch even though the guy has done things that were MUCH worse (atleast based on what a witness had to say). Why did he get spooked, beats me but who cares. I've gotten my butt handed to me on things that should be relatively easy. I'll tell you out right that last week I got my butt handed to me on a 5.11 slab in Squamish. Something I should easily handle since I've been climbing .12's and .13's all year on basalt and sandstone, but its been a while since I've been doing slab (now Alaskan Highway was fun since the steep, burly stuff I am used to). I think anyone who has climbed for a while can tell similar stories about themselves.

What am I getting at? To expect that someone is perfect on all rock types, all the times is a stupid expectation. If they call themself a climber of (X) skill and they flub up on a climb at (x-1), cut them some slack unless proven otherwise.Everyone can have a bad day, not used to specific rock types,.... Now if they flub up badly on a climb (x-2,3) then I'd be more wary. Most of us need a couple of days to make transitions from one rock type to another. To be critical of someone because they don't uphold a specific expectation is stupid. Its also stupid if you aren't critically aware though.

Now the subject of someone who calls themself a climber that doesn't correlate to their ability is misleading. It happens. As Dow says, don't go after big objectives with someone untested. Do less ambitious objectives to suss out the climbing relationship.

Personally, the only reason I'd be against a rating system is that someone with a grief with someone could abuse such a system and really slander them. For me my number one rule is never to slander anyone, and if I don't have anything good to say about someone, to keep my mouth shut.
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Re: Climber a not a leader...does it work...?

Postby Kai » Mon Aug 22, 2011 10:13 pm

I've been on both sides of this dilemma. There have been times when I have climbed with a new partner and have found his skills to be much less than he had made them out to be. (not just leading, but belaying too.) I've been dropped by an incompetent belayer, and I've looked down from an overhanging ice pitch at my belayer only to see him rummaging around in the pack, no hands on the rope. I've been misled on numerous occasions and ended up "guiding" people on climbs where I expected us to be equal partners.

However, I have also been the idiot gumby on occasion. To my knowledge, I've never let anyone down on my belaying or attentiveness, but there have been times when I have underestimated the climb and/or overestimated my abilities or fitness, and have wimped out on leading things that I should have been leading. I've had to swallow my pride and get hauled and batman up a pitch (or back off a pitch) that turned out to be well beyond my abilities. I've also been known to get horribly off-route more than once.

So, I try to be careful when evaluating new partners, and I also try to be forgiving when my partners don't perform up to my expectations. For partners who are simply unsafe, and/or are inattentive belayers, I don't typically ever climb with them again. However, for partners who got in over their heads, I will often climb with them again if I enjoy their company. I find that it's only after several climbs that we work out the partner dynamics and figure out what we can and can't climb together.
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Re: Climber a not a leader...does it work...?

Postby CClaude » Mon Aug 22, 2011 10:22 pm

Kai wrote:I've been on both sides of this dilemma. There have been times when I have climbed with a new partner and have found his skills to be much less than he had made them out to be. (not just leading, but belaying too.) I've been dropped by an incompetent belayer, and I've looked down from an overhanging ice pitch at my belayer only to see him rummaging around in the pack, no hands on the rope. I've been misled on numerous occasions and ended up "guiding" people on climbs where I expected us to be equal partners.

However, I have also been the idiot gumby on occasion. To my knowledge, I've never let anyone down on my belaying or attentiveness, but there have been times when I have underestimated the climb and/or overestimated my abilities or fitness, and have wimped out on leading things that I should have been leading. I've had to swallow my pride and get hauled and batman up a pitch (or back off a pitch) that turned out to be well beyond my abilities. I've also been known to get horribly off-route more than once.

So, I try to be careful when evaluating new partners, and I also try to be forgiving when my partners don't perform up to my expectations. For partners who are simply unsafe, and/or are inattentive belayers, I don't typically ever climb with them again. However, for partners who got in over their heads, I will often climb with them again if I enjoy their company. I find that it's only after several climbs that we work out the partner dynamics and figure out what we can and can't climb together.


You said alot of what I was getting to but more eloquantly.
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Re: Climber a not a leader...does it work...?

Postby Vitaliy M. » Mon Aug 22, 2011 10:41 pm

Very interesting thread. I do not see why one would overestimate what they could and cannot do by a mile (it puts both people in danger). As a relatively new climber I always told people what I have done, grade I am usually comfortable leading/following, and my concerns/strengths/weaknesses. It is important information. Some people do not understand 'consistent leader of X' and 'I lead X couple of times.'
"Expeditions" vs climbing trad/ice on lead are two different things. Climbing west buttress on Denali didn't help anyone lead 5.12/WI5 yet : (

CC 5.11 slab?! THAT IS INSANE! (at least ones in Toulumne I have seen...look featureless)

Kai, that's a great point.

EpicMike! AHHAAHAHAHA would be fun to read about how two epicmikes climb something together...
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Re: Climber a not a leader...does it work...?

Postby PellucidWombat » Mon Aug 22, 2011 11:26 pm

Vitaliy M. wrote:I do not see why one would overestimate what they could and cannot do by a mile (it puts both people in danger).


I can name a couple of reasons since I've been out with many new or untested partners and am used to attempting to screen them for their adequacy as partners:

1. They have poor self-assessment.
e.g. when I request partners for a route with x-thousand feet of gain and y-miles (scrambling or approach), I've had many people express interest in the climb who had never done x-thousand feet of gain or y-miles in a day, but they considered themselves fit and assumed they could do it. When I tell people about a route, I never assume their interest in attempting it means that they have a realistic concept of what the details of the route really mean. I ask them things like how many feet or how many miles they've done in a day and how easy was it, highest altitude reached and how they felt (for higher altitude peaks), their perceived hardest day out and why (quite revealing and gets across things not shown by numbers). Similar thing with technical details. I don't assume a 5.11 leader can handle a 5.9 chimney or OW, or that they'd be comfortable simul-climbing. Of course you can't know everything from questions, but I think it is good to anticipate for a given route what is really critical and probe deeper on those details.

2. They have poor risk assessment

They see climbing as similar to any other sport, not fully appreciating the risks, and expect it to be fine for you to pick up the slack if/when they become inadequate partners. Similar thing to watch out for when taking a sport climber on a trad climb, cragger on an alpine climb, etc. on their conservatism on their self-assessments and self-reliance when entering increasingly less predictable and more dangerous terrain.

I've had a few bad cases of partners in this category. I'd say their core problem is that they don't fully appreciate the potential danger of these climbs and what can go wrong if they get in over their heads. In fact one of the worst cases was with a guy who I climbed with based ONLY on personal references from a climber friend and some general resume stuff like 'climbs 5.xx on sport, boulders Vx, has been leading trad for a year and is just starting to do some alpine climbs & looking for more alpine experience'. That was a mistake :o

-------------------

I watch closely to see how well people match up to their claims of adequacy in both of these areas- some people underestimate themselves and some overestimate themselves. Getting that sense of a partner helps me determine how to view them in the future as partners in terms of adjusting my expectations of their strengths, abilities, judgment, and blind spots. It is also enlightening to pay attention to how they cast themselves in the future when they fail to meet expectations (bad day out, innocent mistake, or blatantly misleading or dismissive?).
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Re: Climber a not a leader...does it work...?

Postby Vitaliy M. » Mon Aug 22, 2011 11:50 pm

Out of all people I have ever met PW had probably the most horror stories I have ever heard (about other people not being ready for what they planned and agreed on doing).
What works for me is having regular partners, and realistic (sometimes not) goals. With new partners doing an assessment of what they have done works as well.
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Re: Climber a not a leader...does it work...?

Postby PellucidWombat » Tue Aug 23, 2011 12:01 am

I try to have regular partners but either people disappear, 'hook up' with someone else as a regular partner, don't get out nearly as much, or don't quite have the proper skills for a given climb. Of course anyone climbing at higher levels can attest to these difficulties in finding a partner. Been climbing with about 30 different people this year and it's been getting tiring! At least most of this year's climbs have been easy enough that I don't mind going out with the mindset of 'guide', and I've been sticking more to cragging routes of 5 pitches or less and doing less alpine :-/
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Re: Climber a not a leader...does it work...?

Postby Dow Williams » Tue Aug 23, 2011 7:45 pm

Vitaliy M. wrote:Out of all people I have ever met PW had probably the most horror stories I have ever heard


That in and of itself reflects poor judgement and is as big of a red flag to me than any.
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Re: Climber a not a leader...does it work...?

Postby CClaude » Wed Aug 24, 2011 9:30 pm

Vitaliy M. wrote:Very interesting thread. I do not see why one would overestimate what they could and cannot do by a mile (it puts both people in danger). As a relatively new climber I always told people what I have done, grade I am usually comfortable leading/following, and my concerns/strengths/weaknesses. It is important information. Some people do not understand 'consistent leader of X' and 'I lead X couple of times.'
"Expeditions" vs climbing trad/ice on lead are two different things. Climbing west buttress on Denali didn't help anyone lead 5.12/WI5 yet : (

CC 5.11 slab?! THAT IS INSANE! (at least ones in Toulumne I have seen...look featureless)

Kai, that's a great point.

EpicMike! AHHAAHAHAHA would be fun to read about how two epicmikes climb something together...



Remember not all slabs are created equal....There is a difference between a slab where you get a micronut or cam (or decent cam) or a 1/2" 5 piece bolt every 10 or 20ft versus a slab where you get a 1/4" rawl bolt every 30-60ft. For me its not so much the grade but the availability of the gear which defines if a slab is reasonable or not.
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Re: Climber a not a leader...does it work...?

Postby Dow Williams » Wed Aug 24, 2011 10:12 pm

Image
This (typical for Kor) wet granite slab traverse is only rated 5.8, but with only one to two questionable pieces between us....and a roof above and below us...neither I nor my second were taking the pitch lightly...awesome experience once you are on the completed side though...funny how that works..
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Re: Climber a not a leader...does it work...?

Postby Vitaliy M. » Wed Aug 24, 2011 10:21 pm

Yes, as a new leader I feel like I could lead some 5.9s (have only several) when I could see that I could protect it well, but feel shaky even if it is a 5.7 with runouts, hell even some 5.6(especially when you know that ledge bellow is not made of foam)! BUT when I look at that 5.11 type slab I HAVE NO IDEA how it will be humanly possible for me to climb it some day, if I even keep up my interest towards climbing for the rest of my life. So great job to you for climbing your way up to that level CC!

Great pic Dow!
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