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mattp

Performance Rock Climbing

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In a thread about what I termed a "truly moderate" climb, TimL brought the "modern" perspective to the discussion and said: "wake up people, 5.10 is moderate." He's right. In today's world, 5.10 IS considered moderate.

 

The drive toward performance rock climbing has changed many many things about the sport. There's always been competition involved and folks have worked at gaining strength and technique as long as there has been rock climbing but, back in olden times, most of us climbed at crags so we could gain skills for the mountains, John Gill was just about the only American climber who worked out so he could do one-arm pull ups or maybe even one-finger pull ups, and nobody admitted to "working a route" in order to make a "redpoint."

 

Performance rock climbing. What do you like and dislike about it?

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I dislike the posturing, when someone chimes in to say a particular hard route is "sweet" simply to say, yes, I have climbed it, behold me in all my glory. Route name-dropping. smirk.gif

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i think it's great that people push the limits of the sport. if that's what they enjoy about it, that's what they should do.

 

i suspect that i shall always be a moderate climber though. my aspirations don't lead me to goals of leading anything harder than 5.10+ if it happens it happens, it probably won't though b/c i think there are so many things to climb at the crags and alpine at that level and below. things much harder than that involve risks that i'm not sure i can justify as a parent. (ok-maybe some sport routes w/clean falls are harder than that and not too risky)

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I climb rocks in order to climb mountains. That's just my perspective. If someone wants to push themselves to the limit to redpoint 5.13, good for them, just don't be a dick to the rest of us that aren't at your level.

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I dislike the posturing, when someone chimes in to say a particular hard route is "sweet" simply to say, yes, I have climbed it, behold me in all my glory. Route name-dropping. smirk.gif

 

That Asterick pass climb (5.5) at Smith is SWEET but a little runout. Behold me in all my glory cause I only placed three pieces of gear.

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I love the idea that as climbers we have the opportunity to test ourselves against the highest level of climbing at this time. Any one of us can go to the crag and throw ourselves on the most difficult climb that we can find. I would have to say at least for myself that this would generally be a very humbling experience. But there aren't many other "sports" or physical endeavors where we have the opportunity to test ourselves at the highest level possible. I feel that I'm a skilled soccer player but I can't just head over to Europe to attempt to play in the English Premier League. Having been a competitive athlete all of my life, I think the individualistic aspect of climbing is what is very attractive to me. Anyways, just my thought.

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Good point CPOly. Climbing IS the ultimate amateur sport.

 

re: performance rock climbing, even though those hard crag climbers can be annoying spraylords, at least they help us realize that with improvment we too could lead 5.12 or better. Sometimes it takes hanging around with a more hard-core crowd to pull you out of a performance plateau and get you onto some challenging terrain where you actually make physical and mental gains.

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Most of the spray lords are not high performance rock climbers. Those guys are generally happy climbing, and don't seek to spray about it. One of the best climbers in the state, who has now taken up kayaking and is probably kicking some butt in that area too, is a guy most of us have never heard of.

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there is no longer a physical excuse for not climbing 5.11 and 5.12 or up. there is only a mental excuse. gyms, the application of training experience and athletic knowledge have put these grades within the reach of Joe Average. as proof new climbers can crank off 5.12 after just a couple of months in the gym if they really want to. the key is the discipline to train successfully. that is why i say the main limitation is mental and not physical. personally training bores me so i accept my upper grade limit as based on my willingness to put in the hours on the crags.

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Most of the spray lords are not high performance rock climbers. Those guys are generally happy climbing, and don't seek to spray about it. One of the best climbers in the state, who has now taken up kayaking and is probably kicking some butt in that area too, is a guy most of us have never heard of.

 

Are you talking about Michael Orr?

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I was referring to Dave Morales. A guy who got into climbing in a big way, real fast, and was climbing 5.13 within little more than two years - if that. An enthusiastic climber who could pull down not only the sport and trad climb, but ice as well. I never heard of Dave's spending much time in the rock gym, but he definitely had the focus and discipline that Dru talked about. And he'd climb with a bumbler like myself and have a good day doing that, too.

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One thing I find very interesting about this topic is the non-linearity, or perhaps the multidimensionality, of the old-skool to "modern" conversion.

 

What I mean here, is that Matt agrees that a 5.10 is now considered "Moderate", while at the same time, a 5.6- is no longer considered basic.

 

This idea seems to imply that the "modern" moniker correlates with gym/sport climbing. Midway is not considered basic by some because it involves placing gear, and being versed in the mechanics of multipitch.

 

However, perhaps the gear and multipitch only factor into the basic versus moderate classification. Do you guys think that Godzilla/City Park/Slow Children is moderate? It is 5.10+, relies quite heavily on gear, but has nice easy belays to set up. Very similar to Midway in terms of gear/multipitch considerations but of course at the other end of the moderate spectrum in terms of technical difficulty.

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I dislike the posturing, when someone chimes in to say a particular hard route is "sweet" simply to say, yes, I have climbed it, behold me in all my glory. Route name-dropping. smirk.gif

 

So what do you think about trip reports?

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Posturing, name-dropping, and elitism are not new to high perforance rock climbing.

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I'm curious what percentage of all climbers out there(however you want to define that) have ever placed a piece of gear? 10% of people who have shoes? 20% of people who have climbed outside? 30% of all those who have ever lead a sport climb? I dunno, just wondering.

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Nice thread Matt. Let me start with a little background. Over the past couple of years I started climbing and searching out harder traditional routes and climbing areas in Index and Leavenworth. In most cases I found that amazing routes have been left untouched for many years. By amazing I mean solid *** routes. Many of the pitches on the upper part of the Index LTW have been reclaimed by nature. These are truly amazing routes that deserve attention. There are also so many other routes that I have not had the chance to visit at Index that I bet are amazing. Another example, Midnight Rock. There are so many good routes up there its unbelievable. I'm talking in the 5.9, 5.10 range and also 5.11. Really, it has to be one of the best crags for quality and position in Leavenworth. The bummer is it appears that a lot of the routes are being reclaimed since not many people are climbing at the crag. This leads to doubt about the standards in Washington’s crack climbers are not that high, especially when compared to other areas.

 

By no means did I want my earlier post to sound snobby. But when you actually look at the grades, 5.9 and 5.10 are moderate. When you look at hard traditional climbs that are being currently opened, new training methods and better gear, it goes to show that traditional grads are moving upward and hard climbs of yesterday are the moderates of today.

 

I would find it hard to say that hard crag climbers are just that. Many do much more in the mountains and walls than just crank hard at crags. I think the ultimate is to go out into the mountains and climb hard traditional lines.

 

My earlier post is more of a call to get out and get on it. Crank hard, climb some routes that you've never done before. Washington has some super good climbing areas that do not see much traffic and offer high quality routes.

 

At the end of the day it is all about having fun and who gives a shit about grades. Personally, I'd like to see more people crank, but if thats not your cup of tea, then do whats fun. I'm not a gifted climber. I'm strong, I train and climb to get better, and sometimes crank. Like I said, at the end of the day its about having fun with your buddies and bigdrink.gif.

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I think in many ways the quality of the climbing experience has changed. Socially it is easier to get information and hear about what others are doing. Gear wise tremendous changes in protection and shoes have dramatically changed the sport. These are both the result of and cause of increases in the number of people climbing. By centering the discussion around “performance” without regard to the whole picture divorces the discussion from reality. Take a rack of hexes and lead Twilight Zone and then take a rack of TCS and lead Tips. Then discuss performance. Or take a pair of shoes with sticky rubber and lead A Question of Balance and then put on a pair of EBs or PAs climb it again and compare performance. Heck try EBs on any of the Static Point routes.

 

This site is not really an RC oriented site and does not reflect the true nature of WA climbing. I was at Smith a few weeks ago and witnessed a couple Seattle area women flashing hard .11 on lead (both placing gear and bolt protected). Seattle area men climbing 5.12 and 5.13 bolted routes. None of these people post here on cc.com. They are also very nice non-bragging types.

Edited by Peter_Puget

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I was at Smith a few weeks ago and witnessed a couple Seattle area women flashing hard .11 on lead (both placing gear and bolt protected). Seattle area men climbing 5.12 and 5.13 bolted routes. None of these people post here on cc.com. They are also very nice non-bragging types.

 

Sweet. But many can lead bolted routes. Whats the percentage of people that lead 5.11/5.12 traditional routes compared to 5.12/5.13 bolted routes.

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re: performance rock climbing, even though those hard crag climbers can be annoying spraylords, at least they help us realize that with improvment we too could lead 5.12 or better. Sometimes it takes hanging around with a more hard-core crowd to pull you out of a performance plateau and get you onto some challenging terrain where you actually make physical and mental gains.

 

Who are these "annoying spraylords"? Out of the numerous climbers DFA has crossed paths with who climb "hard" -- say, 5.12 or harder -- none stands out as some kind of egotistical spew-hound. In DFA's humble opinion, this idea of the hard climber as jerk/snob/sprayer is a myth that gets perpetuated by people who typically climb at a more moderate grade, and who have never actually interacted with anyone who climbs much harder than they do.

 

In reference to Iaiaiaiain's comment about people who comment on a great route they've done that is hard, it's all relative, G. Peep: if you are a 5.10 climber and you're talking with some homies around the fire or at the pub about great routes, are you being a sprayer if you chime in about a bitchin' .10 you did last weekend? Or would that only be "spraying" if you're talking to a bunch of people who climb 5.6? Maybe you've been climbing long enough that 5.6 doesn't really challenge you much anymore, and you can't really remember a 5.6 that stuck in your head as being a great route, or at least not nearly as cool as some of the tens you've done. Likewise, when someone chimes in about a bitchin' .12 or .13 they've done, maybe it's because the route is really cool, and, even though it's way harder than what you currently climb, they aren't just spraying. After climbing 5.12 for a while, and floundering on some low-end .13s, a lot of 5.10s don't really stand out in comparison. Sure, there are some goodies, but when you take into account the quality and engagingness of the moves, it's harder things that stick, at least in DFA's head, and, if you asked the Doctor about his fave route, you can bet your ass that something like Chain is going to beat out Wedding Day, any day.

 

cry.gif

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I have no idea. I would say that what I meant to suggest is that performance is a relative concept. Perhaps climbing certain 5.12 trad today given the changed enviroment is no different than leading a some .9 in the 60s.

 

Trad can be easier or harder than a bolt protected climb. For example Phoenix in Yosemite requires less commitment than many sport climbs.

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I think that when compared to the past more climbers with natural athletic ability are being introduced/participating to the sport. This is a huge change.

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I think that when compared to the past more climbers with natural athletic ability are being introduced/participating to the sport. This is a huge change.

 

This is something I hadn't considered before, but I think it's quite true. With gyms and competitions and training regimens and magazines and X-games and generally more mainstreaming of the sport, people who are athletic and gymniastically inclined are indeed more likely to find their way to the crags. This is almost certainly one of the reasons for some of the expansion of the technical high end.

 

----

 

I think we are all in some measure of agreement that performance standards have greatly increased with the advent of gym and sport climbing. One question that occurs to me is how does this affect climber's longevity with the sport? It seems to me that with this emphasis on how hard we can climb we are likely to see people drop out of climbing sooner when they decide they can't keep up with their peers or are past their peak or something.

 

If you look at climbers of today who have been climbing for 30, 40, 50 years, some of them were once and maybe still are "gifted," but many are just normal average climbers who still find it fun.

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I dislike the posturing, when someone chimes in to say a particular hard route is "sweet" simply to say, yes, I have climbed it, behold me in all my glory. Route name-dropping. smirk.gif

 

That Asterick pass climb (5.5) at Smith is SWEET but a little runout. Behold me in all my glory cause I only placed three pieces of gear.

 

 

 

Oh Asterick is "SWWWEEEEEEET", no question about it. I'm not gonna dog it next time I follow it either like last time.

 

I used to hear that complaint about elite climbers spraying. I think it is due to the fact that most of them which I have been around, really- really focus on their climbing. To the exclusion of damn near everything else typically. They don't talk about bowel movements, their kids, the local sports teams or all the rest of the trash us mortals discuss, cause they are so focused on climbing. So when you are around them, that's what gets discussed. It's not usually spray per-see, just the main thing in their life so it gets talked about, read about, and dream't about near 24/7. If they have a success on a hard route it gets shared, as it should be.

 

On the first part of the thread: I too noticed folks are climbing harder. It's good to see. It surprises me we don't see more accidents from folks getting in over their heads as part of the learning process.

 

 

 

_________________________________________________________________

 

Still striving for moderate in my advancing age..........

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This is a great thread! DFA and billcoe make excellent points about people who climb hard. I've noticed, as I inch upward ever so slowly in ability, that what used to strike me as bragging or spray is often just enthusiasm. At times, I've felt put off by it, but in hindsight I think that's just because I just didn't understand what it was like to climb harder routes (like, you know, Godzilla smile.gif ) or because I felt inferior. It's easy to feel sprayed-upon if you don't understand the conversation.

 

A lot of people around here have said that European climbers are far superior in ability (in general) than Americans. Does the European emphasis on climbing as a competition sport account for this difference?

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