Was I right to speak my mind to a noob?


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Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 21, 2013 - 10:52am PT
I've been climbing close to 50 years and only once before did I ever give some cautious advice to a young climber.
I usually keep my mouth shut, but a few days ago, I felt strongly compelled to speak my mind, rather than feel haunted later that I never spoke up.

I was returning from the Tetons/Wind Rivers, with a few other guys, driving down thru Logan canyon. We decided to stop by a roadside sport climbing area to take a look. My 2 partners jumped on a climb and didn't view the scary scene which was about to take place in front of me.

This guy was just starting up a bolted sport climb, and seemed to be in a great hurry to get going, while his 2 son's, perhaps around 10 years old watched. The guy was belayed by another climber, who definitely had more experience, as I had previously watched him lead another climb with some good technique.

As the guy started up, I immediately surmised that he was in way over his head, climbing with VERY poor technique. The bolts ran in a straight line, but this guy went way off to the left, after clipping the first bolt.

He told his partner that he couldn't go any higher and that he was going to fall. His partner suggested that he down climb, but soon after, he came off taking a pretty wild whipper.

I assumed the guy would access the situation and compose himself after his close call; but instead, he kind of threw himself back onto the climb with wild abandon. His kids didn't seem to be bothered as they scampered around at the base.

I was pretty horrified as I continued to watch him lead past his only bolt, failing to clip the next bolt, since he stupidly didn't even check to see how many quick draws were on his harness before launching off.

He yelled down to his partner to throw him some quick draws as he barely hung on. He then climbed way right of the route, with much difficulty, missing the needed bolts for pro. I almost couldn't watch the scene as he
was level with the chain anchors, but too far right to reach them easily.

He then yelled down that he was holding a rock with his foot which he had dislodged, and to get clear. His son's and friends ran for cover, and somehow he reached the chain anchors, still not clipping in. I wasn't really worried about the 50 pound rock, which came crashing down, but more concerned that he still hadn't clipped in. He was far enough above the last bolt that he would of hit the deck, 70 feet below, if he had come off.

I had never seen such a display of poor leading and felt strongly compelled
to give some cautionary advice, especially since this guy had 2 young boys.

Instead of approaching the leader, I waited till his belayer was alone, with nobody around.

I asked him if he knew his partner well. He told me that it was his brother. I then explained to him, without trying to spray, that I had many years of experience, and had never scene such a display of careless leading.

I explained to him that I was only concerned for his brother's safety and that if he continued in this manner, he would most likely get killed, leaving his kid's fatherless, and to "tone it back a bit".

He seemed to be a bit irritated, and asked me what I meant by " tone it back". I explained that I felt his brother needed to be more cautious and gain experience in a slightly less aggressive nature.

Rather than say more, I ended the conversation.

A little while later, my friends climbed a hard 5.11, on sight, while they watched. The guy I gave the cautionary talk to seemed to warm up a little, after the display of fine leading by my partners.

We left soon afterwards, for our flight out of Salt Lake.

Any comments?

Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Aug 21, 2013 - 10:58am PT
Darwin is my belayer.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Aug 21, 2013 - 10:59am PT
Someone that stoopid isn't gonna take any advice - let Darwin have his way.
I was raised by a single mom and I turned out ok.

TV, remind me to never get in a quick-draw contest with you. ;-)
Josh Higgins

Trad climber
San Diego
Aug 21, 2013 - 11:03am PT
It sounds like you handled the situation well, and even if they didn't seem receptive at the time you might have planted a seed in their mind that will grow. It's a shame you've waited 50 years to start approaching other climbers. We should all try to be more proactive about approaching others with safety issues. It took me a long time to start approach others as well, and I regret not starting earlier.

It's all about the approach. A great book that helps with stuff like this is How to Win Friends and Influence People. I use those techniques when I'm about to criticize someone, since it can hurt their ego. Example:

Kids TRing off a non-climbing pulley on a single bolt. Instead of telling them they're doing something wrong, I frame it in a constructive positive opportunity, and ask a "yes" question. (If you start a conversation with a question the other person will reply to "yes" to, the rest of the question will probably go better) So... I ask them, "Hey guys, would you like to learn some stuff about how to build a better anchor and why?" They say, "Yes." Results in awesome interaction and they learned a ton!

Josh Higgins

Trad climber
San Diego
Aug 21, 2013 - 11:13am PT
And another story that comes to mind. Two guys were trying to climb Fingertrip at Tahquitz. The leader has gotten off route on the 5.8 corner to the left, and traversed about 40+' out left, protecting it, then climbed all the way back to the proper Fingertrip corner and built a belay about 50' off the ground. I walk by, and see the follower awkwardly heading left cleaning gear. I stop, think about what they're doing, and ask, "Is your plan to have the follower clean all that gear?" "Yes." I look at the follower, "You realize that if you clean it all, then the second you take the last piece out, if you fall you'll swing 50' and hit the ground?" Look of huge surprise, "No!" "Would you two like any help getting your gear back?" "No." At that point, I wandered off. They were big kids and can make informed choices on their own. I walked past again later that day, and there were no blood smears or bail gear, so they must have figured out how to get the gear back safely.

J-Tree is the land of super-sketch that requires constant interventions. I've saved quite a few people out there, but thankfully I've never seen someone get hurt.

John M

Aug 21, 2013 - 11:21am PT
I think more people should speak their minds, but also learn how to do it. Nature posted a thread about how it helped him to feel less attacked when someone asked if he had a good knot, rather then if they could check his knot. Most people seemed to miss the point that it makes a difference how you approach things. Peoples egos get in the way. The thing is that sometimes no matter what you say, peoples egos will keep them from hearing you. In fact, they can even get very angry and become aggressive. So you do have to be careful. I agree with the notion of planting a seed. Sometimes it lands in fertile soil and a person learns something. Sometimes it lands among the rocks and the person doesn't learn anything. The way I look at it is, did I lose anything by telling them. If they are aggressive and attack me and I get hurt, then sure, I regret saying something. But how often does someone really get physical if you back off. Its never happened to me. So the next question is this. how would I feel if I didn't say anything and they did get hurt. I could use the excuse that they wouldn't have listened anyway, but what if they had listened. Do you want that on your conscious. And I am not talking about going around and correcting every mistake you see. You know the difference. I believe that you did the right thing, but you have to be non attached to how they take it so that it is no skin off your back if they don't take your advice. You did your best and then leave them to their own choices.

Trad climber
Nevada City
Aug 21, 2013 - 11:22am PT
+1 for josh, edit, and john, the method of approach makes all the difference.

Aug 21, 2013 - 11:29am PT
Ya did it all wrong Steve.

Screw this modern politically correct way homo sh!t.

Scream at em and yell "Ya stupid American idiot".


Big Wall climber
Aug 21, 2013 - 11:33am PT
I've spoken up a half dozen times or so, usually not really bad stuff. The worst was a gal who was belaying off of her non-load bearing keeper loop in the gym. Her partner/near victim at least was moderately horrified, she had a wierd "Well nobody told me I couldn't do it that way" attitude.

I guess I'd rather be the guy who takes a lump for getting involved than live with guilt. The case was of Kitty Genovese was used as an example by my mom when I was a rather little kid, and it still sticks with me every time I see a bad situation and have decide to walk on or get involved, climbing or not. Cheesy I know, but that's how I'm now wired.

Trad climber
Aug 21, 2013 - 11:39am PT
Got to wonder how long this dude has been climbing? I could not imagine he had much experience as he would already be dead or injured since he is so reckless.

Hey...if it makes you feel better , might as well say some thing to the dude.

Seems like his belayer was a gaper too. Hopefully they figure it out before one or both learn the hard way.

These dudes will show up in the future trying to rap the Nose.


Bleau, cham, pink granite coast
Aug 21, 2013 - 11:43am PT
I think the standard thinking is something like:
Decking from under 30 feet, you ll be hurt,
decking from above 100 feet, you ˆ ll be dead.
Those are ok. Itīs decking from the middle zone that
is scary,
because you will be maimed for life and that might be
a long time.

Can īt remember which master wrote this wisdom.
Perhaps Largo, Steph Davis, Lynn Hill,
Anyhow. Not decking is why we have ropes and cams.

What s the best joke in climbing?
Alex Honnold sponsored by a rope company.


Gym climber
berkeley, ca
Aug 21, 2013 - 11:46am PT
Offering help = people may choose to listen and benefit.
Judging with statements about fatherless kids = only you hear your actual advice.

If it was a kid leading I'd feel different, but I feel like I have to respect another adult's right to lead over their skill level and decline my feedback even if it means I pack up to avoid getting involved in the carry out.
steve shea

Aug 21, 2013 - 11:50am PT
Hey Steve, sounds like a typical day at the crags. Missed you in NH. We were in Canada part of the time no comms. Ran into and spent some time with Henry at Zealand. Did your daughter apply for the job in JXN?

Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 21, 2013 - 11:58am PT
Hey Steve,

Yes, she interviewed there, but took a job at Fryberg Academy in Maine.

Let me know when your in N.H.

Social climber
Aug 21, 2013 - 12:23pm PT
Attaboy. But , honestly, do you need this horrible peanut gallery to tell ya whatchya already know ?


Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Aug 21, 2013 - 12:30pm PT
tone it down doesn't mean anything in particular. Best to stay with things that are more clear, IMHO.


Trad climber
Yacolt, WA
Aug 21, 2013 - 12:33pm PT
You were absolutely right to speak your mind. Of course the technique in which the message is delivered will have an immediate impact on how it is received.

Beside the humanitarian gesture, there is a selfish reason for speaking up. When people get hurt or die, it affects the rest of us. Land managers and land owners are given ammunition to block access or impose rules. Relatives sue. That old argument that the risk I take only affects me is untrue. I have sat across the table from government officials and tried to negotiate access for climbing. They will whip out pictures and stories of carnage, and they don't want the liability or publicity that comes with it. Perhaps there are parks which can accept visitors taking those risks. However, many land managers feel compelled to remove that risk from their lands.

Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 21, 2013 - 01:55pm PT
In hindsight, what was going thru my mind in this case was the fact that this guy's kids were innocent bystanders, in this scene, who would suffer the consequences, if things went bad.

This was different, in my mind, compared to the lone solo, which many of us have done. In both cases, if you slip, you die; but in this case, it seemed
the guy wasn't even aware of the consequences.


Trad climber
Nevada City
Aug 21, 2013 - 01:57pm PT
while i fully respect any lamans ability to darwinise themselves, i agree with seamstress on the selfish nature of feeling the need to speak up. frankly, i probably would have said something, and if i did, it would be for purely selfish reasons. ( i suppose he did have kids there, maybe not ENTIRELY selfish ) occasionally if i see people doing obviously dumb stuff i try not to pay close attention at all for similar selfish reasons, so i dont feel the need to overstep my bounds.
The Larry

Moab, UT
Aug 21, 2013 - 02:07pm PT
I saw some guys setting up a rope jump on Corona Arch. I asked them if they knew that ropes stretch.
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