Trip Report
Sahara Terrorized!
Friday September 28, 2012 10:10pm
Rock climbing. It definitely has elements of risk. What if you fall? What about uncontrollable variables like rockfall or unexpected thunderstorms? Yet none of these things worry me or my climbing friends overly much.

Falling? Climb within your skill level, have adequate pro, know how to fall safe. The risk for injury is small and manageable. Rockfall? Stay on route, don't climb sedimentary rock after a rain, wait until the season is solid, wear a helmet. Thunderstorms? Keep up to date on the weather report and watch the sky. Know your options for retreat.

Just about all of the risks associated with climbing can be mitigated and the information is out there. But there is one risk climbers may not be up to date on:

The Soloist.

Who are these rare creatures that suddenly appear without rope or partner? I'd always thought the soloist was an unwaveringly confident soul. Part of me has always been fascinated and bit envious of their ability to move unencumbered by ropes or gear up the rock. If only I could be so bold...

Recent events have knocked those rose colored glasses from my face and my romanticized notions have been shattered. Soloists are people. And people can be more volatile and unpredictable than, well -- pretty much anything out there.

It was a perfect late summer day. I was heading up Sahara Terror, which in spite of the name is a moderate 5.7 route on Tahquitz rock in Idyll wild. About halfway up the second pitch, I hear my partner shout, "P! You've got a soloist coming through."

I wasn't concerned, figuring he'd be past me and out of sight in moments. Still I decided to pop in a piece of gear and wait until he was well past me. We even spoke a bit as he climbed through. Just small talk, but I do remember him telling me that he couldn't find a partner that day and had decided to dial it back and solo something easy. At this point I'm still impressed.

He stops about 40 feet directly above me at a slight overhang. I'm thinking it best to wait until he moves over it before continuing up. He's hanging out for a while and I'm getting a bit impatient.

Not sure what the etiquette is here, but let's face it, we all know what I'm thinking, "F*#k. This guy might actually fall on me. But I'm surely over reacting. He's a soloist...on an easy climb. He knows what he's doing." Hoping to ease my worries, I call out in a lighthearted tone, "You're not gonna fall on me right?"

Wrong! Well, the wrong thing to say apparently. He turns around and says with a voice just seething with hate, "What did you say to me?!". Trying to diffuse the situation I respond, "Oops sorry. Is that bad luck or something? I didn't mean anything by it." Again, apparently the wrong thing to say.

I spent the next few minutes (though it seemed infinitely longer) being bombarded by a maelstrom of hate. As it was coming at me I was mostly hearing, "RAWRRR! " There were actual words though, "RAWRRR you stupid bitch, RAWRRR you f*#king as#@&%e f*#king with my headspace RAWRRR!!!" It was then punctuated with the mysterious question, "HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT!?!

I realize the guy was scared, little kid scared. He wasn't a free spirit at one with the rock, but a frightened man-child with what was proving to be a very fragile headspace. He was channeling his fear into hate and instead of hating himself for being such a pussy, he unloaded it on me.

Sweet and loving saint that I am, I respond, "Well if that's what it takes to make you feel better, it's okay with me." Again, somehow not the response he was perhaps hoping for.

He gets quiet for a bit. Then he remembers something . He forgot to break out the c word, "You f*#king CUNT! RAWRRR! goddamn stupid f*#king CUNT!" etcetera

At this point my partner decides to say something. "I think that's enough." Angry Soloist is appalled, "Did you hear what she said to me?!?" I add, "Look man, I did say that I was sorry so I'm not sure what else you need me to do." The climbers on the next route over join in, "Do you mind dude, we're trying to climb here."

Angry soloist mutters to himself and FINALLY makes the move. I look down at my partner and say, "I'm going to wait a bit. I want plenty of space between me and him." Climbers on the next route agree, "Yeah, that's probably a good idea."

Thankfully Mr. There Are Reasons Why I Don't Have A Partner has headed through my route and up to the left. I continue climbing, glad to be free of this bizarre and unexpected threat.

After it's all over, I'm struck by how calm I was throughout the situation. I knew I had to be nice since he was above me. I didn't want him to fall on me and was feeling like he was super capable of throwing loose rock at me if the opportunity arose.

Moments later, there was a huge rockfall on Wong/Long. No one was hurt, but it was just surreal. I had such a strange feeling that it was somehow connected. A couple of pitches later, the clouds rolled in. Thunder and pouring rain for the last two pitches. WTF oh well. None of that was even one tenth as disturbing as Mr Happy.

At the top, my partner and I were recounting the events of the day. I realized in that moment that maybe I am an actual grown up. I kept my cool. In fact, it wouldn't be exaggerating to say that I was basically unflappable. It's probably because I teach first grade...

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About the Author
clmberbell is a social climber from the astral plane.

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Comment on this Trip Report

Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
  Sep 28, 2012 - 10:28pm PT
Unreal. Good on ya' for maintaining a cool head.

Since when has a falling soloist become an objective hazard at the crags?

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Sep 28, 2012 - 10:29pm PT
Good job for staying cool. Let that shyte wash over you, release whatever is still stuck to you!

The Desert Oven
  Sep 28, 2012 - 11:46pm PT
Crazy story. Glad you are ok. Good on you for taking the high road and keeping your cool.
mountain dog

Trad climber
over the hills and far away
  Sep 29, 2012 - 12:11am PT
I bet this guys soloing days are soon over. One way or another.

Trad climber
  Sep 29, 2012 - 12:26am PT
That guy sounds like a pretty bitchin dude. You should count yourself lucky to have share the rock with him.

BTW, He's gunna die!!!!!
ß Î Ø T Ç H

Boulder climber
  Sep 29, 2012 - 12:49am PT
Was half expecting "The soloist's name was Alex Honnold. Now you know ... the rest of the story."
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Sep 29, 2012 - 04:39am PT
Yep, there are some sketchy soloists sometimes - not comfy to climb under or near them.
And some climbers who can't keep their cool and act like jerks.
5.7 is challenging for a "casual" soloist - you really do have to be very solid.
I semi-soloed Sahara Terror once, when my wife was leading it with her dad. Some of it was trickier than I wanted, and I think I eventually tied in....
Big Mike

Trad climber
  Sep 29, 2012 - 01:24am PT
Had this happen to us here in Squamish earlier this year. Wasn't very impressed with his choosing a busy route on a weekend.. Nice Tr, way to get it done.
Ol' Skool

Trad climber
Oakhurst, CA
  Sep 29, 2012 - 07:42am PT
A bit fragile of a mindset for soloing, perhaps?
Sounds like a candidate for Darwin award...

Trad climber
  Sep 29, 2012 - 08:25am PT
Sorry you had to get blasted with hate and profanity.

I am wondering though why did you say anything at all?

Did you think questioning him while he was feeling sketchy would
improve his performance and keep him from falling on you?

Glad that you felt solid and safe you should have because you had
a rope on. I think you should have kept quiet and discussed how
the soloist wasn't solid and everything with your partner at the belay without involving him at all. He may be a jerk but he is a human being that maybe would be different if he hadn't gotten in over his head.

I hope he has learned his lesson and doesn't solo as well as blast
those sharing the rock with him.
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
  Sep 29, 2012 - 09:34am PT
LOL! Well written report.

Sahara Terror would be a poor choice for a first multiple pitch solo.

Jim Henson's Basement
  Sep 29, 2012 - 10:21am PT
Wow. There's a reason Mr. Happy doesn't have a partner.

I've been passed by soloists on a number of Tahquitz routes. Generally they are in a calm focused state and either fly on by without hesitation, or are are relaxed enough to chit chat without loosing their cool. Someone that easily thrown off balance probably should not be soloing IMO.

I'm not sure what the "etiquette" is since most sololists usually aren't hanging out long enough to have to decide issues of diplomacy. I guess verbalizing the idea that he could fall was not a great idea. The lesson after reading this story.. I'd keep comments like that to myself.


Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Sep 29, 2012 - 09:45am PT
It's amazing how much teaching kids prepares us for dealing with climbers.

Nice stuff, thanks!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Sep 29, 2012 - 09:53am PT
Well written, thanks for sharing!
the angry guy has issues for sure, but it is probably best not to upset some one sketched out, in a deadly situation,

  Sep 29, 2012 - 10:12am PT
Well, thankfully there is the internet, so you can get some revenge calling him names and stuff here. Couldn't let it go?

Jim Henson's Basement
  Sep 29, 2012 - 11:01am PT
Admit it Rincon.. it was you ;)

This was a weird situation. A sign of the time? A kind of... vertical road-rage? Guy just having a bad day? Guy is always abusive? No one knows. I don't know that is matters.

If nothing else, this TR is a lesson about what kind of comments you choose to toss out when a soloist is climbing near you. I hadn't really thought about it before but I will in the future. You don't really know what state of mind they are in and a mistake on their part will ruin everybody's day.

Name calling? I reread every word and failed to find any name-calling other than "Mr Happy" or "angry soloist". The soloist was the one doing the inappropriate name-calling from all accounts.

Be kind to each other people.

  Sep 29, 2012 - 06:05pm PT
Well done! School of Rock. Wait till the corporate state decides its profitable to require climbing licenses for everyone; it’ll be because of rock-road-rage guys like that. I get mad at idiots of that type too, and believe in sharing my feelings. If they can't solo around people who talk, they maybe are in the wrong arena.

  Sep 29, 2012 - 11:15am PT
"Name calling? I reread every word and failed to find any name-calling other than "Mr Happy" or "angry soloist".

I realize the guy was scared, little kid scared. He wasn't a free spirit at one with the rock, but a frightened man-child with what was proving to be a very fragile headspace. He was channeling his fear into hate and instead of hating himself for being such a pussy, he unloaded it on me.

And no Skippy, it wasn't me ;)
The user formerly known as stzzo

  Sep 29, 2012 - 11:22am PT
If nothing else, this TR is a lesson about what kind of comments you choose to toss out when a soloist is climbing near you. I hadn't really thought about it before but I will in the future. You don't really know what state of mind they are in and a mistake on their part will ruin everybody's day.

While I partly agree with you and think it's important to be considerate and respectful of this possibility, isn't "bad headspace juju" an objective hazard that any soloist should be prepared for?

I hope I'd have the common sense to not get myself so close to my limit that someone commenting about possible falling would send me over the headspace cliff.

Last time I "soloed", a member of the party in front of me flat-out told me that he didn't want me climbing above him because another soloist decked a couple of feet from him once. It didn't ruin my day -- I smiled and said I wouldn't want someone falling on me, either.

Jim Henson's Basement
  Sep 29, 2012 - 11:43am PT
Joking with ya Rin. Point taken on the name calling.. I stand corrected. Posting before coffee. Never a great idea. My bad :) My reading comprehension get's better after 3 or 4 cups of Joe:)

... and yes Stzzo.. if you can't handle "bad headspace juju" you shouldn't be climbing solo. Maybe shouldn't be climbing at all... even roped. Freaking out and screaming at people isn't the way to fix the bad juju.

I generally run on the assumption that anyone soloing probably has their head together, but that may not be the case these days. Best to err on the side of caution.


Sport climber
Sands Motel , Las Vegas
  Sep 29, 2012 - 12:41pm PT
Asking him if he was going to fall , in retrospect , wasn't the best thing to say...You should have started yelling hey batter , hey batter and " falling " while trying to rattle his nerves.. The knucklehead shouldn't be soloing and endangering the climbers below him...
James Doty

Trad climber
Phoenix, Az.
  Sep 29, 2012 - 12:49pm PT
The guy over-reacted but it was a pretty thoughtless comment.

Cumberland Plateau
  Sep 29, 2012 - 01:18pm PT
I reckon only in cali can an unroped climber give a roped climber crap. I imagine people around here would have a different approach.

Social climber
  Sep 29, 2012 - 01:24pm PT
I once unknowingly soloed above a party. They were upset, and asked what if I fell on them?

I felt like an as#@&%e and made some changes.

Doesn't matter what you said, or anybody else - dude was soling above and past groups of people, and lo, was offended when it was making them uncomfortable. He seems like a piece of sh#t.

(statistically, people are much more likely to get hurt leading 5.6-5.8 at tahquitz, but still. Dude sucks.)

Asking him if he was going to fall , in retrospect , wasn't the best thing to say...You should have started yelling hey batter , hey batter and " falling " while trying to rattle his nerves.. The knucklehead shouldn't be soloing and endangering the climbers below him...


Paul Martzen

Trad climber
  Sep 29, 2012 - 01:24pm PT
Sounds like you ran into a weirdo. If this behavior was common, then you would have expected it and not bothered posting. Your comments seemed perfectly innocent to me. If you said them to 100 other climbers, how many would react badly? One or two maybe, if that? Most would just explain their difficulty and ask for patience or ask for a bit of help. If it had been me above you, I would have apologized for being in your way longer than intended and explained my difficulty. Probably joked back at you, "If I do come off, do you think you might be able to catch me?" If I was really stuck, I would have apologized and come back down or asked for a belay.

Once the guy exploded at you there was nothing you could do about it except be puzzled. Funny story. For people to say that you should not say anything to a soloist, is just silly in my opinion. Who wants to be paranoid about everybody you run into.

Trad climber
  Sep 29, 2012 - 01:25pm PT
The guy is a pussy. If he is going to solo thru people on 5.7, then he better be prepared for anything that is said or done.

Sport climber
Sands Motel , Las Vegas
  Sep 29, 2012 - 01:34pm PT
I was at the crux of bishops balcony , top-roped , off the couch and having not climbed in ages with a soloist under me ...I was worried that i might pop and hit him but i kept my mouth shut and tried not to make a tense situation worse...

some eastside hovel
  Sep 29, 2012 - 01:37pm PT
Damn....Climbing's getting more like surfing every day. ;-)

Trad climber
  Sep 29, 2012 - 04:17pm PT
Paul is spot on. I see nothing wrong with a little humor to lighten a potentially tense situation.

The fat part of the bell-curve
  Sep 29, 2012 - 05:23pm PT
Soloing a route when someone is already on it is a dick move, even without the verbal assault.

Mountain climber
La Mancha
  Sep 29, 2012 - 06:01pm PT
Ego has no place in climbing, especially soloing. That guy sadly probably doesn't have long on this plane and it will likely impact all of us. Good job on keeping your cool.

Trad climber
Little Rock and Loving It
  Sep 29, 2012 - 06:53pm PT
Sahara Terror may be moderate, but is not without significant objective risk. Lots of loose stuff up there.

Boulder climber
  Sep 29, 2012 - 08:28pm PT
Mr. Happy has to write "I will not cuss out the teacher" five hundred times on the blackboard.

Social climber
granada hills
  Sep 29, 2012 - 08:38pm PT
I usually strike up a friendly conversation with anyone I meet on the way up. At some point I ask if they mind if I pass, never had a bad reaction or a "no."

In fact I always ask for a spot as a joke. I get laughs every time. :)

Feeling bad on many levels about this story. Been thinking about this since I saw it on FB. I would hate to be the one to lose my cool so badly over your remark. He may have been thinking the same thing, 'your not going to fall are you?' all the way up to there. He may have been really angry at himself for being scared on what he thought was a perfectly easy climb on the rope. He was probably cursing his 'no-show' partner and his decision to solo. It may have been his first solo. It may have been his first time on the slick granite with out a rope. Whatever the case, we all can see that your remark was probably just the last tiny straw that led to the melt down.

I also would hate to be in your position P, causing a person to totally breakdown with your one question. Not saying you did that on purpose. But maybe you could have made the correct assessment that this guy was close to pitching and was over his head and possibly in a panic? Then maybe you could have said something funny or perfect to give the guy the opportunity to relax, take his time and continue on(and LIVE). Maybe next time you could say "looking good man!" or "take your time, no rush bud." or "hold that pose while I get your pic, that looks so bitchen!" Something friendly. What you said sounds a little confrontational when I read it.

The language this guy used in his tirade was inexcusable and wrong. No matter what you said you did not deserve that. I had a hard time reading that part of your story.

Now if that guy is just a D*ck all the time then F him.

Glad you posted this TR. Take care.



Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Sep 29, 2012 - 08:41pm PT
Guy was a puss.

1)Don't go up on something that already has a party on it. They could drop a cam or rock on your noggin.

2)STFU. If you're not solid, STFU some more and focus.

3)Refer to number 1.

Fuggin pusscake.
dee ee

Mountain climber
Of THIS World (Planet Earth)
  Sep 29, 2012 - 11:16pm PT
I can't believe people like that actually free solo.

His psych is all wrong.

Good on you for not letting him blow your buzz.

I'd have a hard time sayin' "stfu IDIOT!"
John Vawter

Social climber
San Diego
  Sep 30, 2012 - 12:55am PT
I've never tried to pass a party while soloing. I traversed to another route. I was once distracted by comments from a nearby roped climber and when I weighted a loose rock and nearly went over, I took a deep breath and said to myself that I had to be extra careful when engaging in any conversation. In other words, it's the responsibility of the soloist to keep it together in spite of the distractions. Your comment was impertinent, at worst. But you weren't harassing him. And because he interrupted your climb, he sort of had it coming. I'm struck by the lack of self control that the soloist had, and IMO, he had no business up there if he was so upset by your comment.

Social climber
Portland, Oregon
  Sep 30, 2012 - 02:55am PT
Soloing a route when someone is already on it is a dick move, even without the verbal assault.

Dunno. I've been passed by a few soloists while roped and it was always mellow. All depends on how you make the pass eh?

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Sep 30, 2012 - 10:38am PT
Good story. It is TOTALLY uncool to solo a route someone else is on.

edit: I understand how difficult it is to find an unoccupied route in Cali.

Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
  Sep 30, 2012 - 10:34am PT
"Soloing a route when someone is already on it is a dick move, even without the verbal assault."


Trad climber
Los Angeles
  Sep 30, 2012 - 10:37am PT
You may teach 1st grade but you write like you're a literature professor. Sorry about your ordeal but that was a really great read. I was on the edge of my seat.
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
  Sep 30, 2012 - 10:40am PT
Now that I really think about it, soloing above others, or, climbing underneath someone soloing or bouldering is a major violation of common sense.


Trad climber
Mancos, CO & Bend, OR
  Oct 1, 2012 - 01:47am PT
A first grade teacher who climbs rock on the weekend?

Where were those first grade teachers in 1957 (when I was a first grader)?

Needless to say, they didn't exist.
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Sep 30, 2012 - 03:59pm PT
Great story!

Trad climber
Central Valley, CA
  Sep 30, 2012 - 04:19pm PT
Good job on keeping your cool and not antagonizing the guy any further.

Reminds me of the story PTPP shared when Alex passed him during his triple linkup. FWIR, Pete made a similar joke, but being the nice humble badass that Alex is, he just kept on.

The difference is that Alex is solid, confident, and a cool guy. While this dude was a complete d#@&%e. If someone can come apart so easily from a friendly joke, then they have no business climbing cordless.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
  Sep 30, 2012 - 04:36pm PT
Sounds more like Sahara Turret's.

Should have called him "crater bait" and dared him to prove how macho he was.

Social climber
the astral plane
Author's Reply  Sep 30, 2012 - 07:21pm PT
I wrote this up, after one of my climbing buddies suggested it. We both thought it was kind of a funny story. Meant to be a comment about the unpredictable nature of the climbing experience and a cautionary tale with regard to dealing with soloists! (BTW I have a pretty funny Alex Honnold story, but that's another thread.) Suffice it to say I'm constantly growing and maturing (hopefully) through the strange and wonderful world rock climbing! I guess I was secretly hoping that guy might see it though...

Trad climber
  Sep 30, 2012 - 08:02pm PT
Look...I'm sorry for all the things I said, but I was freaking out, and didn't expect to run into anyone else on a rock as big as Tahquitz, and...

Just kidding. Wasn't me.

But what a great read! Frightened people do and say crazy things, and whether or not your initial comment to him was the best of the options available to you, his reaction was fully reptilian. No moderation, whatsoever.

My initial thought (without knowing this person) was that he felt like all activity around him should accommodate itself to his endeavor. I agree with the above posts that if you're going to solo something like Sahara Terror, you need to be ready to hear just about anything from anybody. Otherwise:

a. You are focusing so deeply on your own activity that you can't take in other stimuli;
b. You implicitly expect others to take you as seriously as you seem to be taking yourself;
c. You are not at all comfortable enough to be soloing at that level.

Thanks for the entertaining read, and I'm impressed with how you kept your head together!

Social climber
So Cal
  Sep 30, 2012 - 10:35pm PT
If he was that sketched at the second pitch overhang, consider yourself lucky that you weren't served with a plummeting meat bomb when he got to the business a few pitches up!

One thing about the intardnet.

When you are one,

Everyone knows it at the speed of light /electrons in copper.


Sport climber
Sands Motel , Las Vegas
  Oct 1, 2012 - 01:38am PT
speak for yourself TGT...

Sport climber
La Quinta and Penticton BC
  Oct 1, 2012 - 02:32am PT
What a great story, you are definitely an admirable person, If I had kids, I would send them to your school.
Seems like your soloist could learn something about the important reasons for climbing from you, I'am sure he would fit in well with a first grade class. :-)

Trad climber
West Los Angeles, CA/Joshua Tree
  Oct 5, 2012 - 03:05pm PT
The author was very patient. She may have used words that got in the head of the soloist but he was a dick for keeping them waiting and then cussing them out, especially with the c-word. He should never have been soloing if some other climbers got in his head to the point he could not have got further.

Fortunately I've never had this happen. The routes I've been on where soloists came up and passed us kept going and were confident and sure. Which is why we let them pass. We were just in their way and they kept climbing and going.

This guy seems like he was neither.

Kudos for keeping your calm OP.

Trad climber
AKA Dwain, from Apple Valley, Ca. and Vegas!
  Oct 1, 2012 - 02:42am PT
That Soloist probably CUTS in front of the lines at
Magic Mountain's roller coaster rides also.

When I use to solo a lot before my injuries,
I never soloed on a route that someone was on.

Trad climber
  Oct 1, 2012 - 03:49pm PT
That d#@&%ebag deserves 10 lashes with the cat o' nine tails.


The free solo climber is an climbing party of 1, that can pass quickly, with little fuss. A pass by a fast roped party is a much slower and complicated operation. If it is totally uncool for the soloist, it is 10x worse for a fast roped party to pass someone.

I've always liked being passed by both the soloist and even the fast roped party as they always have taught me something.

I was honored to have Werner Braun free solo past us on Reed's Direct years ago. He passed without inconveniencing us in the least and he gave us an excellent seminar in advanced jamming technique.

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
  Oct 1, 2012 - 01:01pm PT
"Damn....Climbing's getting more like surfing every day. ;-)"

Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
  Oct 1, 2012 - 01:01pm PT
Oh,.. and I disagree with Skeptimistic about him impacting on all of us.

At worst it will be an unlucky few.

Social climber
  Oct 1, 2012 - 01:33pm PT
I'm glad you wrote this up and poo on rincon for sayin' you can't let it go.

You do the entire climbing community a service when you describe a situation like this. Who cares that name-calling happened.

And I agree with those who say that you shouldn't solo on a route where you need to pass roped parties. Can't find a route with nobody on it? Find something else to do that day. Get up earlier another day to get yer solo on.


Social climber
Has left the building
  Oct 1, 2012 - 01:57pm PT
Honestly, it sounds like you did him a favor. He might still be stuck there if you didn't help him get his hate on... (But yeah, he shouldn't have been there in the first place.)

  Oct 1, 2012 - 02:45pm PT
I would have been seriously unhappy if someone climbed above me on Sahara Terror, soloist or not. There is significant objective hazard on that route and that is one route at Tahquitz that I can happily say I would never climb again.

Is there still that large microwave sized block on the route that is held only by a manzanita? or did the little bush finally say aw ta hell with it and finally let go?

Trad climber
moab UT
  Oct 1, 2012 - 06:55pm PT
Thanks Climberbell,
While your comment to said soloist may have been unnecessary his reaction was clearly over the top.
That being said, as others have noted, it may have been his first long solo, and he may have realized he was in way over his head. Let it go, hopefully you can both learn something….

Having logged many miles climbing alone with my thoughts, I guess I’m responding more to some of the respondents. First off, its not a ‘dick move’ to solo past people. I’ve done it countless times and most people are nice and considerate. Many ‘easy’ routes have become so crowded its impossible to have them to yourself. I’ve done at least three routes this year where I’ve had to pass folks and after walking over six miles to get to the base there was no way I wasn’t going. Climbing is fraught with countless hazards, embrace that people, it will make life taste all the sweeter!

Secondly, as to Mr. Happy, any soloist who claims to have never had ‘A Moment, a real OH SH#T!!! Moment’ is, quite simply, a liar. That or they haven’t really soloed all that much. Again, we learn and adapt or we perish.

The strangest interaction, or rather, the strangest dude I ever interacted with was on the Bastille Crack in Eldo. I passed him and his friend at the top of the second pitch and he told me if I fell on him he was going to beat me up. He was serious. Weird.

Embrace life people, with all its risks and rewards.


The fat part of the bell-curve
  Oct 1, 2012 - 07:43pm PT
First off, its not a ‘dick move’ to solo past people.
Well, I guess we'll just have to disagree. In reference to short, popular climbs, I think that a route is "yours" while you are on it. I've had the experience of someone (not a soloist) climbing up right behind my daughter while she was following Five and Dime. He had to wait below her while she got the rope unstuck from behind a cam. We dealt with this on the freeway getting to the crag, can't we have a little space on the rocks? If someone is on it, wait till they're finished or climb something else.
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Oct 1, 2012 - 08:45pm PT
I've been passed by soloists on a number of Tahquitz routes. Generally they are in a calm focused state and either fly on by without hesitation, or are are relaxed enough to chit chat without loosing their cool. Someone that easily thrown off balance probably should not be soloing IMO.
That was kind of my thinking. That kind of quip should not have received the response it did. I'm assuming the guy was just wigging and was too gripped to down climb and walk it off.

Two points. One, it is kind of a dick move to solo above someone when the party can't really avoid any rockfall or other objective danger the soloist might create. Oddly enough, move people does feel this is an issue when a faster party passes a slower one. Years ago, (I think, and this is only my recollection) Randy Vogel and Charles Cole passed a party over their objection on Middle Cathedral and ended up dislodging a rock that hit the party below. At least that's the story I've heard. If I've got it wrong I invite them to correct me. I'm just making the point that if you believe soloing above someone is wrong but passing isn't, how you distinguish the two.

Back on track, every time I've soloed something, I've either tried to be first on the rock or last, that way I don't need to deal with passing. Or at least park it until the roped party is in a safe spot to be passed. Climbing is important, but so is positive human interaction.

Trad climber
Upland, CA
  Oct 3, 2012 - 08:39pm PT
Well, thanks for writing up the story. It was interesting, and humorous, to read.

All of the soloists I've seen have been quite in the zone but I always make a point of being as quiet as I can when they're in the vicinity. If there are people climbing around me, whether they're soloing or not, it seems like a nice courtesy to keep distractions of others to a minimum.

Social climber
  Oct 5, 2012 - 02:06pm PT
Most of the time I have gone to Tahquitz or Suicide, in spite of the fact that Idyllwild is a short drive from zillions of people (some fraction of whom are asshats/d#@&%ebags/whatever) everyone was cool.

I guess I have been lucky, because that guy did not sound cool at all.

Hopefully one day he will be able to take responsibility for his own decisions and not blame other people for his mindset. You did right, although pointing out that he was being a man-child/pussy/whatever is a bit superfluous. (Anyone who acts like that automatically qualifies)

It's surprising to me because all of the soloists I have ever met on-route were cool people just out enjoying the day, sans impedimentia, and were pleased to see other people doing the same. That's the mindset that I admire and it's the one I need to go solo myself. If I'm worried about falling off, it's not fun, so I don't do it then.

When soloing in the past (usually easy stuff, sometimes off-route onto things that would be easy for strong climbers, but challenging to me), especially in weird situations like a leader getting nervous while I wait to pass their rope team at the belay, I have always reminded myself whose decision it was to solo. That invariably puts things in perspective for me. It seems like this guy could have avoided some bad mojo by doing the same thing and/or backing off. He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day, or something like that.

Here's hoping that this sort of exchange never happens to you again, but it sounds like you handled it gracefully and the guy did not die or wig out, so nobody was the worse for wear. Good for you.
scuffy b

heading slowly NNW
  Oct 5, 2012 - 02:46pm PT
Thanks for posting this story.
Good job staying as calm as you did.
I solo a lot by some standards. It's easy to overlook my impacts on
other climbers, either potential or realized.
I think that in a great many cases it is a dick move to solo past other
The party being passed did not sign up for the possibility of having
a soloist above them. Doesn't matter how great or bombproof you are.
We can all use reminders that we have more impact on other people than
we usually acknowledge.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Oct 5, 2012 - 03:00pm PT
When I solo I make damn sure there are no witnesses to my terror.

Trad climber
Erik O. Auburn, CA
  Oct 5, 2012 - 07:36pm PT
Thanks for the report.
Now I know what not to say....

Lake Tahoe, Nevada
  Oct 5, 2012 - 09:25pm PT
Nice article, and great job handling a complete d#@&%e bag of a soloist. Cool and calm rules the day, especially climbing...
little Z

Trad climber
un cafetal en Naranjo
  Oct 6, 2012 - 11:28am PT
Too bad the soloist ruined your day. I can’t see that you did anything wrong. I suppose you were just lucky he was able to keep it together enough not to fall on you.

I was also terrorized the last time I climbed this route. That was back around 1984. My gf and I were climbing behind another couple. We shared a couple of belays and pleasant conversation. We stopped for a bite to eat at the little alcove at the belay before the regular crux pitch. The other team continued on. They had done the crux pitch and the guy was about half way up the next one (last or 2nd to last pitch) when I started out again. He screams "ROCK" and I hear the terrible scrapping of something that starts sliding then bouncing down. The deep rumble identifies it as something big. I look up and there is a huge crash and explosion of rock fragments and dust and I see the woman´s body flung out onto the face. Her rope comes taught and she is hanging upside down about 10 ft below the belay ledge. My gf can´t see anything and is in a panic, but as fate would have it, we are at the spot where the route takes a little jog to the right and so are not directly under the rock fall. The rest of the route below gets showered with debris. I climb up to the woman as fast as I can and reach her in about 5 minutes but she is clearly already dead - one hand amputated and a massive gash on her chest, no sign of a pulse, and as she was hanging upside down like that, looked like all her blood had drained out onto the rock. By this time her bf, who has untied from the rope and downclimbed to the belay (!), is yarding on the rope trying to haul her back up to the ledge. I move up to the belay, get us both anchored, and we bring her body up to the ledge. He tries to resuscitate her (that was grim) and then when he finally accepts her demise, falls to pieces. People on the ground, on the top, and my gf are all yelling to find out what has happened. I have to let them know that there is a fatality but no other injuries, although the bf is close to non-functional. I wait with him and try to help him get it together for what must be done until some other climbers, who have rescue experience, rap down to us. Then we decide that they will help get the bf out. I will bring my gf up and we will clear out. My gf is also not in very good shape, especially after she has to climb over the gore on the face, past the woman's body on the ledge, and around her grieving and sobbing bf - people who just minutes before we had seen happy and full of life and who were like ourselves enjoying a beautiful day on the rock. Not too long after that my gf dropped out of climbing. I did a lot of thinking, and the smell of pulverized granite can still transport me back to that moment in a flash, but the bad wasn't enough to cancel out the good, and so I continued to climb.

Sport climber
Sands Motel , Las Vegas
  Oct 6, 2012 - 12:24pm PT
Geeze...! I did that route several times in the 70's and remember pulling gingerly on the scary loose block..

Trad climber
  Oct 6, 2012 - 12:33pm PT
Little Z,
I remember that day well, it is still the cause of my wanting to climb at Suicide over Taquitz when given the choice. I was climbing at Suicide the day that happened. Still gives me pause.

Trad climber
  Oct 6, 2012 - 12:56pm PT
Climbers need to follow the lead of construction and mining who have crews to clean areas of loose dangerous rock.

Close an area to climbing. Then send up crews to rappel and clean the routes of loose rock on their way down. An awful lot of loose, dangerous rock could be cleaned in just one day.

James Doty

Trad climber
Phoenix, Az.
  Oct 6, 2012 - 12:53pm PT
little z, intense experience. Thanks for posting.
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