Free Soloing: We All Do It All the Time.

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Messages 1 - 17 of total 17 in this topic
TWP

Trad climber
Mancos, CO & Bend, OR
Topic Author's Original Post - May 23, 2019 - 12:12pm PT
Yes, we all free solo. "We" being anyone who climbs outside on multipitch routes. Eventually, if one pursues this climbing genre, one will "free solo."

In other words, when does any ropeless rock climbing on fourth and fifth class terrain become a "free solo?"

As one becomes more confident on such terrain, one inevitably decides to forego a rope completely or simply runout a pitch without placing protection to avoid a ground fall (or bad injury in event of falling). Time constraints cause the expedient of speed to trump the need for protection in light of a low probability of falling. This is inevitable.

So the line between this acceptance of risk and simply heading off ground up with a rope is progression along a continuous thread.

With this perspective, I fault no one for their decision to free solo. I just hope the soloist is doing so with an intention consistent with a high probability of survival. Soloing for one's self alone is an example of "good intention" as opposed to an intent to tell others about your achievement. Given the human propensity to live in delusion and under the influence of ego/testosterone, I often wonder which intention is driving a given individual's decision to free solo.

That's enough from me for starters.
jogill

climber
Colorado
May 23, 2019 - 12:21pm PT
Need to start this discussion on a site that is not doomed to extinction in the near future. Try Happie's site. A few bugs but overall darn good.
Barbarian

Trad climber
Being held captive behind the Orange Curtain
May 23, 2019 - 01:14pm PT
I've debated weighing in, but what the heck.

I used to free solo...a lot. It started when I was in the Army and could not find partners whose schedules matched mine.
Later, when I lived in Yosemite, I soloed weekly. I had a circuit of easy climbs that I would solo. I would do them in the morning, and then climb with my regular partners in the afternoon.
These solos were my personal vice. I enjoyed climbing with others, but treasured my private adventures.

My last climb, before I "retired" was a free solo. I was 58 years old and in questionable health. I knew it was going to be my last, and none of the folks I would have wanted to share the experience with were around. I chose Sunnyside Bench Regular Route (a moderate 5.4 that was part of my old circuit) as the last hurrah, tied on my shoes, and started up. The 40 minutes I spent on the climb were perfect.

When it was done, I hurried across the trail, down the talus, and over to Facelift to check in for the day. I was done as a climber.

It's been a few years now since my climbing career ended. I follow what is happening in the sport, but have avoided climbing locales (except Yosemite during Facelift). I don't really miss climbing, though I will admit I have occasional dreams of soloing...and I always wake up with a smile on my face.

This is Barbarian, signing off from Supertopo. See you elsewhere in cyberspace or around the campfire in Yellow Pine.
Peace.
tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
May 23, 2019 - 02:39pm PT
Barbarian nailed it. the complete freedom of movement. I almost never solo anything hard for me. it's not that much fun. easy soloing on rock is like a Tai Chi workout with extras....
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
May 23, 2019 - 02:52pm PT
Good move...soloing things hard for you usually means not soloing for long.
skywalker1

Trad climber
co
May 23, 2019 - 03:19pm PT
Having free soloed many times as I got older I thought. What's the purpose? Am I trying to prove myself to myself? When I was video boating (soloing) I sorta felt the same way.

Admittedly it was enjoyable, But I also found that it was not as fun as climbing with friends or boating with friends. It felt strangley lonely. I get the unfettered movement but it's lonely for me. When I fly for a long time (paragliding) I get lonely.

Yes we do it all the time but it's only out of necessity for me.

My 2 cents

S....

tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
May 23, 2019 - 03:20pm PT
In the winter sometimes on longer climbs I get tricked by conditions and end up doing some harder and perhaps less secure moves than I normally seek when soloing but still winter is my comfort zone so its usually pretty reasonable even when it's pretty unreasonable ;)
tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
May 23, 2019 - 03:21pm PT
Skywalker. in the winter it's a lot warmer :)
Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
May 23, 2019 - 03:43pm PT
I came very close to falling off a route in The Needles (CA) climbing ropeless. I was at a belay at the top of the third pitch. I relaxed and hung out for a bit to take in the view, watch the sun low in the west and so forth. Without thinking about it I turned around and started to climb. I'd been totally solid all the way to there, and I just took it for granted. And the route was easy for me at the time. About three moves up, reaching for the first good lock my left foot came off. I wasn't sure how I didn't fall.

Back down on the ledge, with my heart in my mouth, I started yelling at myself in an effort to get it together. "You stupid son of a b*tch, you got your stupid ass into this, now get it out!" or some such thing. My friend Troy Bailey was sitting down in the notch. When I got down he asked me what I was yelling about. I don't recall if I told him or not.

After that it was never the same. I decided to recognize the fact the I wasn't cut from the same cloth as Bachar, Croft, etc. I went back to leading such things.

And yes (to the OP,) there are lots of times where leading is a solo from the point of the danger. It doesn't really feel that way though. There's something about having a partner...
tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
May 23, 2019 - 04:28pm PT
One of the things I remember from my martial arts days is constantly telling myself that your belt means nothing, what your rank is and who you are means nothing. Anyone can beat you if you don't do the things that got you that rank, the things that made you who you are.. Soloing is the same way. you can't mail it in. You have to be there 100% even when its easy....
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
May 23, 2019 - 05:00pm PT
After I got caught in an avalanche on a long solo ski traverse in the Cascades I came to the
startling conclusion that continuing such behavior would likely make me a statistic.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
May 23, 2019 - 05:55pm PT
your belt means nothing, what your rank is and who you are means nothing. Anyone can beat you if you don't do the things that got you that rank, the things that made you who you are.. Soloing is the same way. you can't mail it in. You have to be there 100% even when its easy...
Nicely put and terrific analogy!
burnin' vernon

climber
May 23, 2019 - 09:47pm PT
After I got caught in an avalanche on a long solo ski traverse in the Cascades I came to the
startling conclusion that continuing such behavior would likely make me a statistic.

Been five hundred feet high solo and having one of the great "zen moments" of my life. I was at one with the pores in that granite (Squamish), the sun, the breeze, and even the wind surfers racing the bay below. Free to move at ease sans any rope drag, placing gear, etc. No fear - All flow. Also been fifty feet off the deck and.... there but for the grace of dogs....

It is a double edged sword. Once you got real responsibilities, i.e. other folks depending on you (kids), the incredible shrinking ball disease hits you and stuff you solo'd twenty times is now beyond your head space. And that is okay.
JLP

Social climber
The internet
May 23, 2019 - 10:34pm PT
progression along a continuous thread.
I see where youíre coming from, but donít agree. For any particular grade and level of protection, other than X, itís a very significant step change to do it without a rope. If this continuity lies in claiming the removal of the rope at some more difficult grade is the same as no rope on an easier grade, I still disagree because now itís apples and oranges substitution, not continuous.

Free soloing is extremely dangerous high risk behavior.

The only caveat Iíd add is I donít really consider 5.4 and below to be freesolo climbing, youíre just scrambling and so many do it at this level without consequence. If youíre totally dialed, active, fit, current on the style, maybe that goes up to 5.8 at the same level of comfort and risk? Thereafter youíre a free-soloist - your margin for error thins out considerably.
TWP

Trad climber
Mancos, CO & Bend, OR
Topic Author's Reply - May 24, 2019 - 07:05pm PT
JLP: I agree with everything you just said. In my original post I should have added one sentence after the one you quoted. "For any climber to really 'free solo,' they must state that is their intention from the ground up and set off rope free; anything else lacks the final degree of commitment that comes with expression of complete intention to climb without the protection of the rope."

However, I still assert that many times the multi-pitch trad climber (and alpinists) do intentionally forego protection; once that happens, and in that admittedly less committed context, "we become free soloists."

I think we agree, as clarified. Yes? No?

P.S. I ran across a free soloist on a 5.7, four pitch climb in Red Rocks, (Brain farting the name of the route right now; will add later if memory returns.) He caught up with me and my partner as we finished the final pitch. We talked a long time. He was 73 years old and claimed he had been "free soloing" ever since he began "climbing" by "scrambling" up the rotten peaks of the Canadian Rockies. Your 5.8 threshold doesn't hold water as an absolute, but I understand your point. This fellow's point in free soloing was definitely survival so he limited himself to 5.7 and below. Still the real deal in my book. You can read his post about free soloing in Red Rock on Mountain Project. https://www.mountainproject.com/forum/topic/111810444/ropeless-red-rocks
wilbeer

Mountain climber
Terence Wilson greeneck alleghenys,ny,
May 24, 2019 - 07:09pm PT
I am going with what Mr Donini said.

Beside that , I am not soloing to impress any.
AP

Trad climber
Calgary
May 27, 2019 - 07:22am PT
Soloing is a blast but I gave it up when I became a father.
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