Separate Reality


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Social climber
The West
Nov 11, 2005 - 11:00am PT
my imagination ran wild at the belay below. Approaching the lip, I was pretty narrowed to the present.
Bryce Breslin

Oakland, California
Nov 11, 2005 - 01:44pm PT

Non-sequitur? Maybe maybe not, but here goes. Crowley, a climber, was one of the originators of chaos magic. To call someone who solos Seperate Reality a chaos magician seems apposite. This info, off of Wikipedia, weds Ed's and LEB's interests, I think:

The Gnostic State

"This is defined as a special state of consciousness that in magic theory is what is necessary for working most forms of magic. This is a departure from older concepts which described energies, spirits or symbolic acts as the source of magical powers. The concept has an ancestor in the Buddhist concept of Samadhi, made popular in western occultism by Aleister Crowley and further explored by Austin Osman Spare.

The gnostic state is achieved when a person's mind is focused on only one point, thought, or goal and all other thoughts are thrust out.

Users of chaos magic each develop their own ways of reaching this state. All such methods hinge on the belief that a simple thought or direction experienced during the gnostic state and then forgotten quickly afterwards is sent to the subconscious rather than the conscious mind where it can be enacted through means unknown to the conscious mind.

Practitioners of chaos magic attempt to be outside of all categories - for them, worldviews, theories, beliefs, opinions, habits and even personalities are tools that may be chosen arbitrarily in order to understand or manipulate the world they see and create around themselves."
Patrick Sawyer

Originally California now Ireland
Nov 11, 2005 - 03:28pm PT
Lois, in Ed's Nov 10 11:06 post that shows five pix in sequence, the climber in question is Heinz Zak (Austrian or German I'm not sure), and yes he is climbing without a rope - free soloing.

Ed's post of Nov 10 11:12 has two pix, the smaller on the left is from the cover of (a now defunct magazine) Mountain 56 and on the right is Wolfgang Gullich doing the first free solo of the route (the photo was taken by Heinz Zak). Unfortunately he died several years back. He was returning home from a radio interview in Munich when a drunk driver killed him. One of the top climbers in his day, it is more than just ironic that he should survive death defying feats only to die in such a way. Sad and RIP Wolfgang.

You can solo a route using a rope and self-belaying yourself, whereas free soloing is just you and the rock (and chalk bag and shoes) (and physical and, most importantly, mental strength).

Trad climber
Nov 11, 2005 - 04:21pm PT
There is a wet feeling in my palms?
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Nov 11, 2005 - 04:27pm PT

Soloing means climbing by yourself. Free soloing means climbing without a rope or some other sort of protection. The terms are not synonymous. Since free soloing is the more restrictive term, it almost always takes the modifier, free. Roped soloing is the norm, so the modifier is usually dropped. If a free solo climb is really hard, it is likely that the climber has done the route before. However, there are examples of free-solos of route that are on-sight, which means that the climber has not done the route before.

Free climbing means climbing the rock while using the equipment to protect yourself if you fall.

Aid climbing means using the equipment to get up the rock—these sorts of climbers are really nutso and tend to focus on the amount and quality of beer they can drink.

You have probably realized that there are different styles of climbing. In the ‘older’ style, the climber tried really, really hard not to fall--slip in your words. Originally this was because there was strong evidence that the ropes would fail, or the belayer—the person holding the other end of the rope—would drop you to your death. (This is called an accident, although some climbers refer to it as rancid karma (karl) or the natural result of the cycle of life and death (Werner). It is analyzed and written up in an annual report issued by the AAC. Generally it is a good idea not to climb with someone inclined to drop you on your head if you fall.)

Some of the posters on ST are from this ancient school of climbing. Soon they will die of natural causes. Although their bodies are still hard and sculpted, inside they are shriveled old men of the normal sort, inclined to post excessively on ST’s Forum about how great they used to be.

Younger climbers, starting in about 1975 or so, started developing much better gear to hold falls and they started falling more. If you think about how you learn to walk or ride a bike, generally you fall over, until you get it. It is the fastest way to learn. These young whipper-snappers, with total disregard for the natural order of climbing styles, surpassed their elders. The elders have been really, really pissed ever since. Eventually, the whole idea of lots of protection and the acceptance of lots of relatively harmless falls, became a sport—hence sport climbing. Some people have taken the whole falling is sport to extreme levels and just fall—they don’t climb, they just fall. This is not to be confused with the associated sport of falling down while drunk on the beer. This is not a sport—this is training for aid-climbers.

So to answer your question about how often climbers fall is difficult, and relative. A traditional climber on a run-out climb (that means that there are great distances between protection points) is not likely to fall, because it is risky. A sport climber will fall often, as part of the sport—go figure.

Lately the two styles of climbing have created super human climbers who are completing spectacularly hard all-free (quickie quiz time: What does all all-free mean?) climbs on tall boulders like El Capitan. The big to-do about Tommy Caldwell climbing both the 'Nose' and the 'Salathe' all free in one day is the most recent example of this. Please note that his partners—his wife Beth Rodden and our host Chris McNamara—belayed him with ropes to protect him if he fell (which he did, without consequence) and then they--Beth and Chris--climbed the ropes with special gear so that they could quickly get to the top of the pitch and allow Tommy to climb the next pitch. A pitch is the unit of measure that we use in climbing—it is exactly 46.57 meters long. (Quickie quiz: How long is a pitch?)

The Huber brothers, pictured in the "Bridwell how old are you really" thread--posted by Mike Graham, Gramicci, are also masters of this sort of very difficult climbing. The old guy in that picture, with the tectonic plate facial features, fake mustache and wig (who used to be younger at the top of that thread—threads can really age you) is one of the elders of our tribe. He is so old that we refer to him as “The Bird.” Note that we do not say “Bird.” We refer to him as ‘the’ Bird--you might write it this way: *the*. (Where does that period go, anyway?) This is in reference to his ability to fly and his penchant for plumage. Peter Haan has written about both of these abilities in a recent threads. (Quickie quiz: Who is “The Bird?”)

The term “partner,” refers to anyone who is climbing with you in any of the forms, although generally it means someone who is belaying you (Quickie quiz: What is the meaning of belay?). Sometimes, a partner does not climb with you, but instead meets you at the top to help you down. Sometimes, they stay at home and worry about you—thinking about the weather and risk that you are facing, while in fact you are doing what climbers most like to do, which is sit in the Mountain Room Bar drinking beer and talking.

Regarding you question about deaths from free-soloing (Quickie Quiz: What is the difference between free-soloing and soloing?), there are relatively few. Although it is very risky, people who do it are generally very well prepared. The famous climber, Wolfgang Gullich, who soloed “Separate Reality”, died in an auto accident. (Please note that I did not use the modifier ‘free’ when I said solo. This is a very famous climb, Gullich was a very famous climber, and his free-solo ascent of “Separate Reality,” has blown everyone away for years. Hence, we drop the ‘free’ since everyone—well almost everyone—interested knows that he didn’t use a rope. That’s why it’s a famous incident.)

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Nov 11, 2005 - 04:35pm PT
Lois - the ropes, as we use them, are there for protection in case something happens. If you are climbing at a level that you are reasonably sure that nothing is going to happen that will require the protection of the ropes you might go ahead and climb without the ropes. It cannot be explained easily, a poor analogy is how kids grow up... at first the parent is always there, walking on the street with the kid to make sure that the kid doesn't do anything fatal... and to teach the kid what to do and what not to do. Eventually everyone gets the feeling that the kid knows enough to go out on their own, without the need for parental protection. It is not to say that the risk has been reduced to zero, just that it has been reduced to a sufficiently low level that the parent and the kid feel ok, which is pretty damn low.

So with free soloing... the rope and the anchors and our belayer are the "parent" and we are the "kid", as you climb more and more with a rope you start to understand your limits, what you can and cannot do. Climbers will often say "climb like you don't have a rope", it is a statement encouraging awareness of the climb and focus of mind and body.

Once one can do this, it is a small step to actually climbing without a rope.

No one denies the consequences of failing to be immaculate in terms of motive and ability. People do die. But the risk is not reckless.
can't say

Social climber
Pasadena CA
Nov 11, 2005 - 08:38pm PT
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Nov 11, 2005 - 11:17pm PT
Dear Lois:

I think that you have some good questions. I will take a stab at answering some, but I hope that others will chime in to help describe our sport.

Regarding falling for the purposes of dangling, this is one of the most sublime off shoots of rock climbing. It uses much of the same gear, but it reverses the general relationship with gravity. Climbers are mostly concerned with using the effects of gravity to keep their hands and feet pushing in a secure direction on the holds. Fortunately, gravity does not move around—sort of boring, in fact. But it is possible to do all sorts of tricks because of the steadying force of gravity.

It is probably a natural extension of using gravity to stay on the holds in ascending to using gravity to fall through space—the rate of fun is a squared function of time and the cosmological climbing constant, C cubed, which Werner keeps in a box in Camp Four.

Anyway I am getting way too technical; danglers just walk to the top, tie onto a rope and jump off. One distinct advantage of this directional shift in climbing is that it really levels the playing field—for the most part, every body has fun at the same rate—as Ed has taught us. The sport of dangling relies exclusively on the equipment, so it is closely related to aid climbing. It is a lower form, for sure. But, it also often comes after aid climbers have been drinking beer as part of their training. It can have unfortunate consequences if you land on your head before the rope stops your fall.

You also point out in your questions about partners one of the bedeviling facts of climbing. Partners are not the opposite of enemies. A partner can be a friend or an enemy. As a partner, their main task is to belay. Belay can be used in all language constructions. It even has a sense of intimate relationships with one's partner, if it comes to that. However in that sense it has sort of a Biblical tone that is a little off-putting. I digress. Sorry.

Your friend, Juan, posted a picture of a young lady properly belaying her man at JT. As can be clearly seen in the picture, it is not clear if she is a friend or foe. Juan didn’t stick around to get any pictures of any other sort of be laying that might have occurred later.

Belay comes from the Middle English word beleggen, meaning to beset or surround. Originally, belaying was a sort of entertainment in which two combatants were tied together on a rope and were made to cross rough country for the pleasure of the paying crowds—think of the gladiators and the slaves. The race usually ended on a hill or promontory with the first person to ascent being given a chance to do it again with another combatant. The loser…well the loser lost.

The rope attaching the two was to insure that the person who was fastest would not necessarily always win—the slower of the two could pull him down. Any way you can see by this simple device, it was possible to have lots of fun.

There are many aspect of modern climbing that retain the original pleasures related to beleggening, the gerund form of beleggen. This also gives rise to the uncertainty of the status of the person holding the rope. As you can imagine, if you were not sure of the status of the beleggener, you might be a little apprehensive. You might even take up free-soloing as the lesser of two evils. (Quickie quiz: what is beleggening?)

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Nov 11, 2005 - 11:39pm PT
Side Bar
what is a belay?

A casual belay, not great because her partner falling would pull her in the direction of the upper rope, she's not tied in to an anchor! The rope goes through a braking device which is on her waist attached to her climbing harness.

Here is a climber falling, his belayer has got his right hand back to affect the brake, the belayer is secured to two bolts drilled in the wall, and the leader (the guy in flight) will be stopped by the rope going through a piece of protection placed in the vertical crack. He's going to take a pretty good ride because the rope has slack here and there in it.

The leader was only using the natural features on the rock to climb; he was free climbing.

Here is a pretty typical look at a belayer (from the leader's point of view). These guys are climbing on El Capitan, Lurking Fear is the name of the route, and it requires aid climbing.

This is a picture of a climber negotiating an overhang using aid techniques, basically climbing on sling ladders which are attached to anchors the climber places in the rock. The more difficult climbs don't have much to put anchors into.

"Back in the day" belays looked a lot like this:

This belayer is using his body as a break, the good old hip belay. I can't quite see if he is anchored in, but he has a great "belay stance", his butt is sunk in behind the rock flake. It is probably that he is not anchored to the rock at all, The yellow sling with the carabiners attaching the rope to the anchor would take a lot of the force of the fall, pulling the belayer towards it in the event that the leader fell. If that anchor failed, then the likely outcome would be that both of the climbers would plunge off the cliff.

Thus Roger's statement that in the old days you didn't often want to fall.

Our boy John Long, who posts widely, and often here at SuperTopo basically collected and systematized the whole science/art/technology of building safe anchors and published his research in two books... though when many of us on SuperTopo learned, we learned without the benefit of the books.... but by talking to each other.

I like the old days in terms of talking to each otehr, but web forums are not a bad way of communicating... and the equipment and knowledge we have now is lightyears away from some of the stuff we used to do, and that is good.


Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Nov 12, 2005 - 01:00am PT
'Cause that's the way they did it in the Yosemite Climber photo?

classic photo. whatever happened to diegelman?

for bonus points: who is belaying d.d. in the yosemite climber pic?
Russ Walling

Social climber
Nov 12, 2005 - 01:29am PT
Ed says something like "do it in the style of Ron..."

Not sure if it was in this thread or not, but didn't those guys lower perlon through the crack tied to 2x4's on the top of the roof to preprotect it??? Werner, do you know??
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Nov 12, 2005 - 08:07am PT
ok,ok, so I get a little romantic at times...
...just go fire the thing, Gripper dude, however you do it.

(Russ knows too much and is willing to reveal story behind the sends, and their photographic representations)

Trad climber
Albany, NY
Nov 12, 2005 - 09:28am PT
I have been lurking here for a couple of years. How cool is it to find my picture posted above by Ed Hartouni. I feel like Cameron Crowe in Almost Famous.

Here's the picture you didn't see though!

Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Nov 12, 2005 - 09:56am PT
That's a cool picture, Walt. You are now famous, start counting.

But the real question is when are you going to take your separate reality--feet only--for a spin without the rope? If you pulled it off, the counting would go on forever. :-)


Flagstaff, AZ
Nov 12, 2005 - 11:04am PT
on the right is Wolfgang Gullich doing the first free solo of the route (the photo was taken by Heinz Zak). Unfortunately he died several years back. He was returning home from a radio interview in Munich when a drunk driver killed him. One of the top climbers in his day, it is more than just ironic that he should survive death defying feats only to die in such a way. Sad and RIP Wolfgang.
well put, Patrick.

Nov 12, 2005 - 12:47pm PT
They dropped slings thru the roof on the first ascent. There wasn't any other way to do it without resorting to using pins.
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Nov 12, 2005 - 01:28pm PT
Werner, how long did Ron work that the crack before he could do it? Was this all done with pre-placed slings?

What happened after the first ascent? Did Ray do it with his 'Friends,' placing them on lead?

I think that the evolution of this route is really interesting.


Social climber
The West
Nov 12, 2005 - 02:26pm PT
Roger & Ed, that was as good as it gets, informative with style and edge; somewhere Batso is jealous. I hope you have other things pending, cause otherwise that might have been it.

Highly karmic people have died producing less.

Truly inspired. All of cllimbing is right there.
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Nov 12, 2005 - 02:48pm PT
Thanks Jay. I hate to admit the possibility, but Lois may be a climbing forum muse. He, he, he.

Our little climbing world is really wacky, in a way that is not apparent until you try to explain it to someone. Wouldn't it be great if Warren were posting up!!!


Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Nov 12, 2005 - 05:11pm PT
Lois, this all kind of circles back to the fact that passive words and pics really aren't the instructional media of choice for understanding climbing, its paraphernalia, or the idioms bandied about in these topical aeries.
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