The five stages of “backing-off” climbs.


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Trad climber
Dec 20, 2009 - 01:17pm PT
I think Messner backed off more Himilayan stuff than he was successful on. The stages also have to do with age:
In your 20's - We can't back off they will laugh at us in the bar
After your 40's - Who cares, we got out, failed, can always come back later.
The ice climbing temperature limit follows this as well:
In your 20's - It's not any colder than -35 we can do this
After your 40's - My God its like -20 C we had better wait for the Chinook.
The most rewarding ice climbs at this stage feature
an approach involving running shoes and tights.

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 20, 2009 - 07:40pm PT
Fellow "Back-offers" Thank you for posting up.

I haven’t really thought about the fact that “backing off” is out of fashion.

In the early 70’s I did a slideshow on “New Routes in the Sawtooths” for the U of Idaho Outdoor Program.

After the show, a student came up and talked with me. He was genuinely puzzled that I also showed two new routes that I had “backed off.” He had never seen a climbing slide show with that sort of stuff in it.

I tried to explain that we were climbing in a area with no guidebook and a lot of summer thunderstorms. I added that the “backoffs” were future projects.

I don’t think he got it.

A “slight disagreement” over route-finding in the Sawtooths. Of course the gentleman with the rock was correct.
Captain...or Skully

Social climber
Top of the 5.2-5.12 Boulder
Dec 20, 2009 - 07:43pm PT
The gentleman with the rock is ALWAYS correct, eh?
lars johansen

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Dec 20, 2009 - 08:19pm PT
Jeff Altenburg used to keep a "chronicle of descent" written on his insulite pad!!

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Dec 20, 2009 - 09:32pm PT
nice jeans there; great for waiting out a thunder storm. ha

I've never backed off anything, so I wouldn't know about stages... lol

heh. if this is true all it tells us is that you've never tested your limits.

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 20, 2009 - 10:36pm PT
BVB: Thanks!

After reading your post carefully, ---I see you also know that “backoffs” are a sign of character and wisdom.

There is a lot of “wisdom” in retreating before the thunderstorm, rather than in the thunderstorm.

Ice climber
Ice Caves at the Sads
Dec 21, 2009 - 12:47am PT
"you know, I don't think I'm up for it today"
said by me after a long walk from TM to the base of the west ridge of Conness

Trad climber
Berkeley, CA
Dec 21, 2009 - 03:58am PT
Maybe this back-off thing is coming back into fashion?
It was my best year of back-offs:
 North Buttress Middle Cathedral
 Conness Harding Route
 Reg Route Higher Cathedral Spire (started close to sunset, windy, storm)
 Braille Book (rain, sleet, snow)
 Coonyard Pinnacle
 Marginal (2nd pitch anchors getting too dark to see, no headlamp)

Before that, only back-off was Hawkman's Escape and I got my vengeance during this last year.

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 21, 2009 - 12:24pm PT
Nutjob: That is an impressive list of high-quality backoff's.

I think you are in contention for:


Any other qualifiers?

One lead sport climb backoffs don't count.

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
Dec 21, 2009 - 12:39pm PT
The late Serge Couttet, one of the famous Couttet brothers (Roland)of Chamonix guide fame, once told me (in his heavy accent), "The mountain, it will always be there, you will enjoy it much, at a later time"
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Dec 21, 2009 - 03:41pm PT
relevant new post:

Hobart, Australia
Dec 21, 2009 - 10:51pm PT
dang if that "acceptance' part is a good feeling though. Lots of agony before getting there though. Only backed off a few major projects, tough times! Worst one was backing off the Sea of Dreams after a lot of weather setbacks over a period of a month or so, then it was pretty much winter.

Trad climber
Josh, CA
Dec 21, 2009 - 11:13pm PT
For me there is only one phase:

"F*#k this!"
tom woods

Gym climber
Bishop, CA
Dec 22, 2009 - 12:13am PT
I only have one back off that bugs me, the rest, very quickly end in acceptance. Once you've done a lot of climbing, the back off is easier to do.

The thing I worry about though, is that once you've backed off a few things, it gets easier to do too.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Dec 22, 2009 - 12:36am PT
When I was young, I almost never backed off anything. I was all "Do or Die!"

Then I was taking some old friends up Triple Direct and just before Gray ledges I took an extra long whipper (One pulled piece and some bad belaying) Burned my hand good, or rather Bad.

I finished leading up to Gray ledges and we crashed. Next day it was obvious that they (high school buddy and ex-girlfriend) weren't up to leading anything and I couldn't know if my hand was going to get wrecked if we kept going so I made the monumental decision to bail.

I decided not to get my panties in a bunch about it either,

In fact, we had good weather and plenty of food and some booze so the next day we rapped to Heart Ledge and partied in the pleasant sunlight for the rest of the day. Rapped the rest of the day the next morning. WAY more fun bailing than climbing as I was hauling every pitch and the ex-girlfriend brought silly things like a whole bar of soap!




Dec 22, 2009 - 12:51am PT

Well Said and final Answer!
Victoria Vulture

Trad climber
Victoria, BC
Jan 4, 2010 - 05:13pm PT
It seems that in the last two decades backing off climbs has come to be considered as failure rather than part of the adventure.Few ascensionists appear willing to admit or discuss retreats. Can't we laugh at our own folly any more or are participants confusing these games we play with "serious" occupations ?

Mountain climber
Triumph, Idaho
Jan 4, 2010 - 06:19pm PT
Attached is a photo of Fritz contemplating stage two on his first big back-off. The approaching thunder storm kept us from getting in over our heads on Old Hyndman. (That mountain is half choss anyway)

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 4, 2010 - 10:07pm PT
Tacoites: A Big Welcome to Stein Sitzmark!

One of my first climbing partners and a constant contender for the coveted "Backoffer of the Year" award from the "Decker Flat Climbing & Frisbee Club" (DFC&FC).

Our first Sawtooth summit was Mt. Regan 10,200 Ft. in 1970.

That trip also marked the start of the DFC&FC.

Stein led the "Tylorian Traverse" and then helped to "Stabilize" dangerous rocks on the summit.

Welcome Stein!

Social climber
Jan 5, 2010 - 12:11am PT
hey there fritz.... say, i am not a climber... though a hiker... (haha, well, was a tree climber in my old days)...:))

but i must say:

as to this:
BVB: Thanks!

After reading your post carefully, ---I see you also know that “backoffs” are a sign of character and wisdom.

There is a lot of “wisdom” in retreating before the thunderstorm, rather than in the thunderstorm.

so very true... i have really been enjoying your post here...
there is a hight skill art in backing-off---even as there is a high skill art, in pressing on ...

yet--if AND WHEN either skill comes from the ol' gut, they will never be used wrongly, or "become a habitual" weakness (as if quitting) or folly (as in pursueing beyond reason)...

the true challange is to be the master of the rock-at-hand and the time-at-hand, by god's good grace...

really good stuff you have here...
as in "real" life issues other than climbing, there TOO is a time to back-off whether one would inwardly not want to... but by doing so--later, with wisdom, proper timing, and reflected insight, come the victory...

a very cherished thing, is victory...

say, graet stuff...
a happy hearty welcome to your friend and climbing partner, imstein....

(hope i spelled that right)

*say, feel free to make "imstein" a welcome to the forum, post, if you like... sounds like he's got a treasure full of posts to share, too...

if not, mabey one of us will... will check back later...
god bless...

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