Tales of RunOut and Treacherous Fall Potential


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Trad climber
New York, NY
Topic Author's Original Post - Feb 8, 2007 - 06:17pm PT
How about some stories on big run outs and the feelings it provoked, of times when you were wishing for gear and not getting it, looking at unpleasant falls and crap like that?

I don't have much, but I know some of you people have some good ones. I really only have 2 instances. The first was leading p2 of Bitchy Virgin. The route was the first R-rated line of the Gunks, but now is reted G-PG, due to the "advent of small camming units," as the book tells it. I had one small cam, and the rest of the line I protected on nuts and tricams. I actually found plenty of placements....but in my heart I knew they were bogus. It truly knew I had to not fal, because there was a good possibility of ripping gear. I didn't want to experience that if I could avoid it, but the honest to God truth was that I feared going down onto the belay, and that just couldn't happen. It was one thing to hurt or kill myself.....bad enough to ruin my partner's day with something like that. But quite another thing to bring him down too. A wholly unacceptable situation. Very powerful, being presented with moves that were tough for me, and I HAD to commit to making them...not just "trying." Man - I still can feel the experience today when I remember.

I wrote about it here, but honestly, I am more interested in reading about your harrowing runs.

the other one was p1 of a climb called Diane. It is listed as a 5.8 in the book, but the first pitch is 5.4PG. My partner and I had gotten to the cliffs a little late, and she had her eye set on Moonlight. We got there, and of course there was someone on it. So, we headed on.... Finally we come across this line and my friend suggests I lead it. I had been pooh-poohing other suggestions for my lead and it was becoming evident that I was a clucking chicken.... I looked at the route and could see it, but also that the first piece was 20 feet off the ground. Still, the climbing looked straightforward, and so I agreed to give it a go.

As I did that final shrug of the rack, straightened my shoulders and stepped up....the commitment seemed to grow exponentially....But I cast off anyway, after getting my partner to fully understand I may downclimb and chicken out.

Personally, I like routes where I can set a solid multi-directional piece on the friggin ground, if the climbing starts off at my limit. I like it even on easier stuff too....but anyway. One thing I do NOT like is having to get more than 3 or 4 moves up before I can place gear, if the climbing is even slightly technical. I will never be a highball boulderer, that's for sure.

Well...this climb had a fairly easy start, but you have to get real close and stay balanced very soon after getting on. And, of course, that first gear placement seems like it's getting further away with each move.

Queasiness starts to come into my stomach as I get to the point where I know that coming off is no longer safe. The balance act begins to feel like a thumping bass line..."Oh," I realize..."that would be the throb of my heartbeat."

When I finally got to the gear spot, it wasn't as bomber as I'd hoped. It wasn't crappy, but it wasn't one of those "Oh....I feel so much better" feelings. But, it was what it was. At least I had a nice big juicy cam sunk. Two more moves and I realized I was friggin in deck zone again! It really felt like the route had duped me. I even heard a sinister laugh....or was it me, giggling with nervous energy?

I got the second piece in, at maybe 30 feet. To a lot of people, this wouldn't be any sort of an issue at all, But it wasn't a lot of people; it was me. But after that piece, I felt okay. The climbing continued to be runout on smallish , balanc-y holds, but it was very straightforward. The crux was a reachy one, and had some commitment factor, and then more run-out straightforward climbing. Nice, interesting dance, back and forth, finding the easy way through.

I was pretty happy doing it, after knowing the deck would not be a possibility, because I really do place a lot of gear. Still at the stage where there's so much going on in a lead, that I don't stop to analyze whether it's necessary or I can make some more moves safely, this rote forced me to climb above gear beyond my comfort level. It was interesting, the sensation of the gear becoming more distant, and my commitment adjusting to maintain equilibrium....

Anyway - that's it for me. Your turn!

Feb 8, 2007 - 06:54pm PT
Ho ho ho

Did someone just run it out? Close your eyes, turn away and don't look.

50 feet out with no pro on the last pitch of the Sun of Heart freaking out making hook placements where there are none. I had to climb out on the edge because where you normally climb there was a waterfall running down the crack.

What's a Werner to do, help! Shipley laughing at me and yelling summit or plummet.

Isn't it fun?

Trad climber
new york, NY
Feb 8, 2007 - 07:07pm PT
Summit or Plummet! Love it.

Social climber
The West
Feb 8, 2007 - 07:27pm PT
Yeah Walt brought out the peril sensative glasses response (I couldn't look) in me, the belayer, on an attempt on that arching wide (Lightning bolt) crack on Mt Broderick. He ran it way out after i bailed on the lead, underclinging the flake while his feet were popping off unsavory black lichen. The only pro he had in between the belay and his spot fifty or more feet father along were 2 home made giant cams with a bad cam angle, known to jump out of cracks at odd times times, at the last posssible moment a smaller side crack materialised; he threw in 3.5 friend, clipped it into the rope and fell, saving both our lives, for a while, anyway.

Feb 8, 2007 - 07:35pm PT
Yeah Jaybro

That was insane for sure. He could have easily have died that day.

Trad climber
A cube at my soul sucking job in Oregon
Feb 8, 2007 - 07:40pm PT
Early in my leader career, and second time to Lover's Leap we ended up on East Wall. We'd just done Pop Bottle, and didn't really look at the guidebook too carefully before heading up. So there we are at the top of P1, a big sandy ledge, having no clue there the route is supposed to go. First I try the dihedral in the corner, no dice, crap for pro, lots of lichens, not it. I downclimb, scratch my head, and end up going straight up on the right.

After a couple non-reversible moves and not finding any worthwhile pro, there I am. I'm told there is some OK pro in there, but me being a noob leader, I sure didn't find it. I've lead at most 5.8 at this point, and did that in very poor style. I'm facing about 8' of liebacking with my feet on lichens, and my hands on a pretty rounded corner. Ugh. Pro is about 6' below my feet, and consists of a #6 nut sticking halfway out of a bottoming crack, and the rest will do nothing for ledgefall. Aw f*#k. Paste feet, pull on edge like my life depends on it, and start a walking. I had no clue if better stuff lie ahead, and didn't even know what I was going for, or how I was going to exit the lieback. After 8' I do a tricky exit out of the lieback, bellyflop, and pant.

Another hour goes by while I look all over the east face for the remainder of the route, or heck just a good anchor spot... I eventually downclimb enough to rejoin the route (thanks to the red sling on that #1 friend, like a moth to a flame...).

Upon pulling myself and an anchor together at the bushy ledge my partner starts up. It takes him 2 falls to follow the lieback section. Still not sure why I didn't splat.

That section wasn't marked in my book as being part of any route, but my buddy Tad told me a few years later it was 5.9.
Wild Bill

Feb 8, 2007 - 08:13pm PT
Climbing a new line on Mt. Starr King a few years ago. Was about 60' feet above my only piece (a small friend behind a thick flake) making hard 5.9 face moves on virgin terrain. Making a high step onto an exfoliation flake, feeling and hearing those little granite ball bearings crunching under my contact patch, blowing away lichen and crust for each move.

Invigorating but nauseating. My partner came up to the belay, held up the single friend he'd cleaned, and just shook his head.

Trad climber
Feb 8, 2007 - 08:22pm PT
Climbing in the Czech Republic. Nyaaaaah!

Trad climber
Feb 8, 2007 - 10:32pm PT
As a new trad leader, getting in over my head has happened a couple of times. In Batesville Arkansas, there are some trad lines that I wanted to do. It looked pretty thin for gear but not all that hard of a climb so I launched off. I got about 15 feet up and got a solid piece in and moved on. Fiddled about for several minutes trying to find a spot for the next one and finally got a fair nut in about 30 off the deck.

As I moved up, I could not find anyplace to put gear. I moved up some more and again, found nothing. I kept going and I am maybe 60 feet above ground and can see nothing good above me except the anchors another 30 feet or so. I knew that if I fell, it would either hurt me super badly or kill me. Since this was just a 5.6er and I felt pretty strong, I just went for it. By the time I got to the chains, I was feeling it and regreting my decision. My belayer kept his mouth shut and watched. I used to wreck dive and we used to talk about feeling the "dark monster" close in. I felt it that day for sure.

Trad climber
Talladega, Al
Feb 8, 2007 - 10:39pm PT
my best climbing bud for 30 years had a full run-out fall both ways - around 300' (ropes were shorter back then) and lived with some injuries that required hospitalization ( I would have been the checkers champ by now) but continued to climb with no serious problems - mental or physical for the next 30 years(though he had a 100 footer later on with no significant injuries). As Paul Harvey says "the rest of the story" goes like this - he goes to the New River Rendezvous in May of last year- which I missed due to vehicle problems - and grounds from 20 or so feet and basically has the same injuries. Thanks to Mal Daley for helping him on the hike-out and checking in later at the hosp - you can call in that marker whenever you need it. I told him that first he was trying to show that you could fall 300 feet and live, and then he tried to show that you could fall 20 feet and die. He didn't see the humor in that. As some of you know I grounded from the top of a collapsed ladder in '05 and broke my back in 5 places. From these experiences I now theorize that life close to the ground is what is most dangerous. If you really want to live then you need to get several hundred feet between you and the ground - gives you time to make another plan


Trad climber
one pass away from the big ditch
Feb 9, 2007 - 01:59am PT
Marginal on the Grack, very marginal. Good style, no falling.

A sea of friction is right!

Feb 9, 2007 - 09:40am PT
I was climbing at a great granite area in Switzerland called the Grimsel Pass, and headed out with my then-girlfriend to do some 3-star 5.10 slab route. We'd heard it climbed a gorgeous black water streak, which along with a guidebook topo showing some bolts in the middle of the streak, was all the beta we had, since neither of us spoke or read German.

After an uneventful first pitch or two, sure enough, we found ourselves beneath a stunning black water streak on perfect rock. I start right up the middle of the thing on thin friction, and keep going looking for the bolts the topo indicates are there. I figured they must be painted, and thus hard to see in the dark colored rock...

Despite no bolts or other pro in sight, I continue up, foolishly making unreversible (for me) mid 5.10 moves on pure, sustained friction. 20', 25', 30', 35' up. Somewhere along the way, it occurs to me (I can be a bit dim, it seems) that something ain't quite right, but by then I'm fully committed. A femur up my nostril seems like a best case scenario at this point.

I make a couple of more moves, when my gf suddenly says "ummm...Derek?". "What???" I say testily (I'm rather gripped, you see. 40' ledge-out potential has that effect on me).

"Look out to your right". I do.

"No, further right. Out near the edge of the water streak".

My eyes scroll about 25' right across utterly featureless terrain and catch a glimpse of gleaming metal salvation. A bolt! I look down below it, following the edge of the streak, and see 2 more. All below me. I look above. There are at least 2 more in a plumb line with the others. All far enough away they may as well have been in Ohio.

To make a long story not quite as long, I ended up having to run out the entire 60' pitch to the belay, able to see the occassional bolt over to the right, but completely unable to reach them.

After approximately 37 years on lead, I finally made it to the belay, clipped in, and promptly dry-heaved.

What a dumb ass. Gotta love it. Cool route. Do you think I get credit for an FA? lol....


Trad climber
Boston, MA
Feb 9, 2007 - 10:39am PT
Not much of a story, but I'm pretty much a pussy, so it's all I've got:

Ever do a senility onsight? One of those climbs where you're onsighting it even though you've done it before?

North Conway. Never done this crack before, but it sure does look sweet. Retaliation is the name. I'll spare the boring details, but just mention that most of the thing is an undercling/lieback job on balancy feet where if you tried to get down low to find a place in the crack for gear, you'd immediately ping. Based on the crap gear I'd placed by feel alone, I didn't feel much like pinging. Made it to the belay in one piece. My second, a strong climber, fell so many times, and got more frustrated than I'd ever seen her in her life. How I managed to keep it together and not fall... ?

On the way down, it started to dawn on me. Wait a minute, that felt kind of familiar. Uhhhh. Gears grinding in my brain. Yeah! When I first started climbing, I'd followed a strong leader on this same route. Found it so tenuous, balancy, awkward. Now it all came back to me in a rush - when I finished the pitch, I had said to my leader - "Holy crap - amazing nice lead! That's one climb I will never, ever, lead."



Sport climber
Buzzard Point, TN
Feb 9, 2007 - 10:47am PT
Missed the anchor way right on "Sh#t Hooks" circa '91 and (accidently) finished on a nebulous bachar solo route. The two pieces (RPs) I had in above SH fell out when I pulled up the rope. My "buddy" drew a chalk X mark where I was likely to land...while I was on route...thx bud.

Heard that's all been "straightened out" (?)

Boulder climber
Sick Midget Land
Feb 9, 2007 - 12:12pm PT
I just don't want to talk about them. Too many. Too scared. Too stupid.

East Coast US
Feb 9, 2007 - 12:37pm PT
2nd pitch of the Salathe / Free Blast circa 1991. Three of us were fixing three pitches late in the day for a morning blast-off. One partner led the 1st pitch, another jugged up on a free rope, and I cleaned the pitch.

It was a full-on cluster f*#k at the hanging belay, so I grabbed whatever gear I could get a hold of plus the lead line and a haul line and a bottle of water and took off. Back then I said, "hell, it's only 5.8!" Well the biggest piece I had on the rack was a 2.5 Friend and I placed that 10 feet off the belay. I got up a bit higher and realized that the crack was getting bigger, but the layback edge is *so* good I just kept going. Fifteen feet below the belay I got myself situated on some face holds out right before the final OW moves. Then I looked down.

The rope was running 60' with no gear to the 2.5 Friend, then 10' to the belay. My partners' eyes were the size of tea cup saucers. I think I got what is called 'snail eye' at this point, but was fully committed. I took a drink of water, stepped back into the 5.8 squeeze and vowed to jam whatever body part into that crack that would keep me from pasting a slanting corner 100' below.

I don't remember much except forcing my head into that crack and grabbing loose chockstones and choss in order to grovel my way up to the anchor.

I was toast for a few days after this and I was probably the reason we bailed from the Salathe @ Lung Ledge a couple of days later. That Hollow Flake was talking to me.

Trad climber
Lee, NH
Feb 9, 2007 - 03:14pm PT
That Hollow Flake was talking to me.

I recall Hollow Flake as a climb-like-you-mean-it experience. Not super hard, but spooky looking down as you heel-toe with the rope through a whole lot of nothing, way up off the deck.

Trad climber
LA, Ca
Feb 9, 2007 - 03:39pm PT
The route: Race With The Devil, Suicide Rock
When: At least 15 years ago (but I remember it like yesterday.)

The first pitch has one bolt, about 1/3 of the way up, just above the crux. Too Strong says "No sweat, I can catch your skinny ass in my hands from there.." So I get to the bolt, and express reservations about the runout above, which still looks hard. He says "Don't worry, I can run downhill faster than you can fall."

On both counts I believed him. Yikes! (And trust me there were no tunes playing in my head right then.)
Inner City

Trad climber
East Bay
Feb 9, 2007 - 03:50pm PT
How great is this thread? Another opportunity for the everyman (or less) to share an adventure. I previously described my petrifying experience on Shoot the Moon (5.9x) below Lunar Leap on Lembert dome in Tuolumne (another thread.)

This one was on Black Dagger in Red Rocks (5.7R) Maybe harder than that--It was the second or third pitch where you go up a long right facing crackhedral, as a challenged crack climber with good length, I moved out onto the face, eschewing the safety of the burly wide bit to move higher. Higher and higher I went, until the face holds started to wane and I was still 15 feet right of the crack. Looking down, my rope was blowing out into the breeze and must have been 75 feet to my last piece...my spot was fine, but I had to move left, as above the angle steepened and would not be good. Downclimbing seemed a non-option for me as well, as fear started to take over.

I considered my situation, yelled meaningless things at my belayer, who must have wondered about my sanity having left the corner so long ago. I think it was a 5.8 move I made back to the now easier corner and backed off of it, replacing my foot a number of times before finally committing to the move, a matching foot thing, and, YES, over to the JUG. I was so scared that my whole body started shaking, now that I was safe, next to an easily slotted cam. I couldn't move for 5 minutes.

There must be some added value in telling these tales, as my present sweaty hands may help me to not so stupidly go to such a place again. Thanks for listening....the route on up, including the "tunnel through" bit and final pitch were quite a joy...ah climbing..

Feb 16, 2007 - 11:41am PT
Rumney late one afternoon towards the end of fall:

I arrived with about an hour and a half til dark. A quick jog up to the nearest crag and I was soon swept away in that weird momentum you get after a half dozen climbs in quick succession. It had rained the day before and some climbs were still marred by seepage.

The light was fading fast, but I wanted to do one more. All that was left was a 5.9 that I'd never done. I knew that it had a low crux and figured I'd give it a go.

The crux was harder than I expected but felt fine as I was only 10-15 feet up. I entered the wet section thirty feet off the deck and was struck by the realization that I couldn’t down-climb from where I was; it was too dark and wet.

I stayed calm, shook out a little, and continued. Things were in control for the final 20 feet to the anchors - until I realized that the anchors were just beneath the cliff top and the top out was questionable. There was a small overhang at the anchor, and I fiddled around there for a few minutes, gradually getting pumped, trying to decided what to do. I'd reached past the anchors and felt above - it was covered in a wet muck of muddy grass and leaves and was steeper sloping than I’d expected.

Eventually I did what I had to do (as people do...) -- I threw a heel hook in the muck and rocked up onto it, hoping that it wouldn't pop. Then I locked off and reached above, clawing for grass roots beneath the mud.

I was frozen there for a minute (thoughts flashing through my head of how my climbing partner would explain it to my mother...).

Then I went for it, both hands in the muck, all the weight on that soggy heel hook, standing up on the wet sod...

Scrambled up on top and sat on a boulder, head in hands, heart exploding... A hollow feeling of escape, not victory, followed me down the trail to the car...

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