Solos, Run-outs and Lids

Solos, Run-outs and Lids.

The lad is friendly enough and looks like not a bad climber, though not awesome, definitely climber not punter.  At the moment I am virtually writhing in rage with him though, because he is soloing in front of my eight-year-old son; who tells me he thinks its cool.

I tell Ellis I can name hundreds of good climbers who died soloing, and reel of some names.  Ellis says 'that's three.  Who else?'  It is an hour later I finally think of John Bachar, bollocks, normally my memory for death is so good.

Now, not that I am all holier-than-thou with soloing.  No, I don't do it, but roped climbing trad definitely involves times when you could potentially deck out if you fluff it, especially as my style is evolving into a run-it-out-don't-pump-out style.  This is in part because of my encounters with Scottish winter, in which it is not an advantage to be hunting round for buried gear placements wile the temperature drops and the day approaches dusk.
The point of Scottish Winter?  Photos as clickbait.

Soloing produces a reaction in people because the lack of a rope and harness indicate, as clear as you like, that the person visibly cannot depend on the backup of gear.  If I run it out, taking serious risks by skipping gear, you cannot tell unless you know the route and can assess how I've climbed it.  Soloing is quickly identifiable as more risky, and it is this that has led to a lot of videos about it, often featuring Alex Honnold, or people who want to be him.

Soloing seems to produce more of a mental effect as well, a more profound experience.  It certainly looked that way when me and Tom watched the soloist try his foot one way and then another on the crux, then back to the first way again.  Just watching was terrifying, then he made the move and spent only seconds shaking out before keeping going.  He was on a slab, and sheer tactics suggest - take a bit longer before you go, but having already done that route, I did know he was onto easier ground, moves no harder than v.diff.

People climbing the top end of trad can have the ability to climb very fucking hard indeed because they know they can take the falls onto gear - Hazel Findlay springs to mind, especially her interview with the Enormocast.  This is not the dominant, slightly wussy mainstream British culture, where we have a hundred year old culture of disapproving trad-blokes with socks up to the knee declaring 'The Leader MUST NOT fall.'  As if this would be a moral failing on a par with giving in to the temptation of masturbation on a lazy afternoon, or cowardice in battle, rather than a failure of grip, stamina or technique (masturbation could only aid these attributes).

Safety first: lid, gear and bomber anchors,
even when clearly incredibly high.

Soloing embraces this risk limiting ethos.  You really cannot fall without obvious risk of death or serious injury, so the frame of mind must be that you cannot allow the possibility of falling to arise.  Some soloists won't wear a helmet, as this accepts a possibility of a fall.

Unlike the bloke parked in the middle of his middle-aged group of crag-rats, who are chatting by the end of the crag.  His female companion asks him where his helmet is.

BLOKE:  I've forgotten it.

Woman:   Naughty Boy

BLOKE (huffily) : I didn't realise you were a school teacher [this said in a tone implying that nothing could be worse]

The Bloke is on the defensive, and badly.  Everyone else at the crag has a lid on and he plainly feels threatened.  Its his own guilt, the woman he is talking to doesn't actually seem to bothered

BLOKE:  Anyway, I saw a car accident once where everyone was wearing a seat-belt.  If that car had burst into flames they all would have been dead.  I was first on the scene, and I had a hell of a job getting them out, if that car had burst into flames, they would all have burnt.

He clearly feels that this proves his point that he should not have to wear a helmet AS IT IS CLEARLY MORE DANGEROUS TO WEAR A HELMET due to a car crash he saw years ago involving seatbelt.  I wish 'Eh?' was a two syllable word, just so I could put 'fucking in the middle of it, but I will have to settle for 'E-fucking-h?'

Now, fair enough, if he had had the nuts to say 'I choose not to, despite being aware of the risk and statistics' I think that would have been fair enough.  Or 'I have assessed the risk at this part of Stanage, and as it is not Horseshoe Quarry or the fucking Alps I do not believe there will be any risk of falling rock', again fair enough.

As it is, this asinine, illogical, and plain invented bullshit makes him the biggest dickhead at the crag.  So much so, that I go an make friends with the soloist, who after all, has accepted the risks he runs.  He might be lying to himself about his own mortality, but he isn't pretending its safer.