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24 April 2008 835 views 6 Comments
posted by bronco

So, here’s the deal, we are going to be posting some Q&A’s here on P&C. What’s on your mind? Send us your life’s questions and concerns and we will analyze and advise with our ever so wise council. If your question happens to get picked for posting and commenting it will receive solutions from all three P&Cers. Bonus!!! So bring it on, we are here for ya. (Warning: We are not opposed to hating as well as praising.)

Our first question comes from Shane Seaton of the Great State of Oklahoma. Here is Shane’s email (edited for space).

Hey P&C,
This weekend I was climbing at Lost Dome with Randy Banning. We wanted to put up a toprope on Made in the Shade 5.12RX so Randy could work his project…I am a fairly conservative climber (Read: scared) and Randy is a boulderer who’s never placed a nut in his life. Luckily, Crackalolo 5.10b has three bolts at the top so to him it was like climbing a highball with a rope between his legs. He did place one nut 15 ft up and then ran it out another 15 to the first bolt…I was watching him and suddenly got hit in the hands by something. His stopper wasn’t so stopped. We laughed about it and it scared the crap out me and I started second guessing my decision to lead it on those stoppers. Well, Randy talked me into it and after placing three of them in the 15 ft of crack I headed into the comfort of the bolts. It was great. The adrenaline. The gear. I had a taste of the trad life and wanted more. Then I got on Made in the Shade and sent it clean, TR of course. I wouldn’t have thought that was possible. I had been on it once before and it wasn’t too bad, but wow it felt good to do those moves.
So, here is life’s big question. What is my next step in climbing? Of course the next step after the TR should be the lead, but as I said, my head game is a little off and I have no desire to lead crazy RX runouts or place sketchy gear. I am not opposed to getting a head game and leading some runouts (no RX) and learning to place good gear. The rush I got that day reminded me of the first time I climbed. I wasn’t freaked out just adrenalized. So how do I get that rush and feel safe? Is this oxymoronic? Especially here in OK where our ethical hardass first ascentionists were scarce on bolts.

Please help me P&C

okay, peace out,
shane seaton aka okieclimber


Shaney Shane, I remember teaching you how to place gear at Upper Mt. Scott some 4 or 5 years ago. The route, Arm Bar 5.6. The gear, every last nut, cam, and hex I had. You climbed a ways and placed a #2 BD cam, it came out, but you pushed on and lead the thing with confidence. Oh my, it does my heart good to get your letter. So psyched that threw down on Crack-a-lolo, Sick! What’s more, the TR burn on Made in the Shade gave you a good glimpse of what these harder routes are about, and you did it clean! All in all, sounds like a steller day, a real confidence booster, a psyche regeneration if you will, and I will.

So, here’s the bizzynus. You basically want what we all want, climbing hard and not dying. Pretty worth goals if you ask me. Saddling up to scary gear, sport, or bouldering problems is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, some of the cleanest most aesthetic lines out there can be runout. So here’s my advice, besides the obvious “go out and climb a lot” line, when you are out there get used to placing gear on routes that you are comfortable with, something within your ability, but not too challenging. This way you know you can sit there and place bomber gear and feel good about moving on. Calculate your fall potential and if the gear below is good and the next section looks easy for you, run that shit out! Feel the exposure, embrace it. This is a good way to get comfortable placing gear in hard sections and running out easier sections with confidence. Hope this helps, happy climbing! When you’re ready come out and do Jules Verne with me in Eldo, that will test these newly found skills.

I’m probably the last person you want to take advice from about climbing hard runout shit. If you’ve hung around me and P&C crew for more than a couple days, you’ve doubtlessly heard of the infamous Arnie Whimper. While guys like Cassidy hill can grunt, scream, and will their way past hard and scary sections, I’m more or less reduced to a shrivelled manchild curled up in the fetal position emitting moans whines and whimpers. Basically, I’m a wimp. My balls are shrivelled up to the size of two peas in a desert sand storm.
Nonetheless, I would like to think myself a keen observer of humanity, so what I can offer you is my observations of how those guys you tote their giant brass balls to the crag in a wheelbarrow do it. To wit, I offer you: The Lessons of Dean Potter

  1. The Primal State.

    As it turns out, scary trad is a mind game that requires you to feel cosmically connected to beastly animals, the inanimate rock and most importantly the earlier, less intelligent ancestor of modern man. My best interpretation of the Primal State is that runout trad is, in reality, such stupid idea, that it requires you to transcend past your well developed sense of self preservation to a state of existing not dissimilar to cromagnan man who didn’t live past 23.

  2. Caves.

    As it turns out, the best way to enter The Primal State is to spend a lot of time living in caves. This not only lets you dissociate yourself from the effeminating effects of modern luxury and feel more deeply connected to the caveman, it also gives you such a feeling of worthlessness that the only way to justify your pitiful, filth besot existence is to risk life and limb for the fleeting honor, glory and commendation of a scary send.

  3. The Moment.

    To climb scary trad, you have to somehow Be in The Moment. After years of contemplation, I think I’ve finally figured this one out. The Moment is a perfectly infinitesimal unit of time. There is not past not future, nor what has been nor what will be. The wonderful thing about The Moment is that, once entered, you are no longer aware of the shitty gear beneath you that probably couldn’t hold a mouse and is just waiting to deposit your corpse on the talus field below, nor can you think about the slopers greased with death’s own oil awaiting you above. How do you get there? No idea. I think it has something to do with yoga mats, Warrior One, and chanting mudras, darhmas, and namastes to yourself. I don’t really know. But if you ever figure it out, let me know.



  • zibaby
    zibaby said:

    I am not a pro.
    I am not a superhero.
    I have no intentions of climbing 5.14 ,ever.
    I have impressive forearms that are only fluff and get me nowhere.


    I have (or used to have) a knack for getting in “the zone”. The bad part about getting in the zone so easily, is that it makes it hard to teach it. It just comes.

    You know- those who can; do, those who can’t teach.

    But maybe I have some thoughts.

    I love the dialogue of risk assessment and keeping it cool on the sharp end. At least in theory. Really I hate dorking out on all of this, and avoid rc.noob because of it.

    This conversation is absolutely best done on site, in person.

    a little perspective:

    When I first started climbing it was all about the adventure,less about the numbers. I moved to Tuscon (from Missouri) and quickly started climbing 5.9-5.10 R’s and eventually X’s because I loved the mental aspects and the idea that I might die, but probably not. This all cumulated with a particular 5.11 X route in cochise stronghold, where at one point I broke a huge hold on easy ground and took a 40 footer, caught by a #4 BD nutty.

    Soon there after, I climbed 10d R/X on Golder Dome in the Dragoons where I ran it out 25 feet of difficult face climbing to find the bolt hanger was broken open. I climbed a cactus to the anchor and curled up in a cave, sucking my thumb and dry-heaving.

    Still I continued to seek the rush.

    So, I am still sharing stories and not answering any questions- but here are my thoughts…

    I am 32 yrs old and a recent dad, so these days the only time I climb x-rated routes recently is by accident, or on FA’s.

    I love that you casually flashed the route on TR- this is the beauty of an R/X rated route, especially on gear. The rating can often stem from the lead- the extra effort required to dink in the gear, the over-gripping caused by refusal to fall. This is why it’s so hard to rate a route like this. Was that 5.9 or 5.12!? Toprope it to find out, and then woe to the unsuspecting on-sighter.

    some ideas to help:

    a. purposeful falling- falling on sport routes or well protected gear routes to be respectful and comfortable with the process. Plenty has been written about this.

    b. don’t climb r/x routes at your current lead limit or near to it until you don’t have to ask for ideas on how to move forward. At that point you will know.

    c. practice “marshmellowing”- when you are out on the sharp end, and your hair is pricklin’, imagine every hold is a marshmellow and try to not crush them. Relax to the very minimum that you need to hold on.

    d. get schizophrenic- learn to chat with yourself. I often use “it’s just climbing” or “you do this every day, just do it now” to pull over especially creepy or low possibility moves while runout. Last week I was very run-out in Zion, my fault for bringing a small rack. I was on rotten 5.10ish ground with micro cams 15 feet beneath me. “just do your thing, just do your thing…” was under my breath and luckily I didn’t have to test the wee little widgets… which leads to e…

    e. Accept your situation. If you choose to climb r/x routes, don’t tell your mommy, but also, don’t make excuses. You CHOSE to be here. For some reason, the little devil on your shoulder wants to feel this sensation. Don’t blame the FA’ist. Don’t blame your belayer, don’t blame peer pressure. It is up to YOU and you alone to be there. SO embrace it. “I chose this, because it will make me sharper. I chose this, because I want to proceed. I chose this because for me, chasing numbers is not enough.”

    f. Living is cool. Choose life. Remember this or something like it. I like what Hans says- “the only thing better than climbing is MORE climbing.” Maybe you are not cut out for scary traditionally protected climbing. Some folks are eternal noobs at placing gear. If that is you, get better, or go back to bouldering, but don’t die trying to find out. I recently retro-bolted a number of my routes at Sams Throne because it was proven to me a number of times that my gear fiddling skills were superior to most folks. I have finally accepted this. I felt guilty(and this is my own little devil to fight) denying 95% of the community the great lines I had discovered. These days, as best as possible, I try to keep two pieces between me and the ground at all times unless I am f…

    f. soloing. yes, F— SOLOING! no, not really. You have to come to terms with the fact that if you are climbing x rated routes, you are in fact soloing. you fall , you die, or wish you did. I am not going to tell you to solo; but if you are climbing x rated routes, you should be very comfortable with the idea, or accepting the fact that you are pretty much there. I hung up my active soloing shoes when I got married, but my answer when folks ask “how hard did you” is “hard enough not to be comfortable chatting about it”. Others are more mature than me and can chat about it freely. I never got there. Anyways… try it, at very moderate levels, to get your head in the game. Ironically, moving from soloing to “R” rated routes can kind of freak your brain out a little bit, which is okay I guess.

    My last comment is that Bronco used the word “hard”. I hate this word. What is “hard”? It’s a sliding scale, it’s based on an ever changing perspective, and usually irrelevant. The better way is to use the term “difficult” or “difficult for me”. Yes, semantics. But I have friends that think “Hard runout trad” is freeing the Hallucinagion Wall (VI 13DR/X); but I also have friends that are terrified to solo a 5.6 chimney. Which is “harder”?

    Okay, rambling over.
    back to my heinous learning curve for the week… wind surfing in 35 mph. uggh, I am the noob amongst a bunch of grey hairs.


    • Andrew
      Andrew said:


      • Bronco
        Bronco said:

        Not to toot his horn, but zibaby is probably the most qualified person I can think of to answer this question. His experience on “hard” runout routes is far and above the combined P&C crew. After reading his post I am in complete agreement with all points made. The comfortable marshmallow pinching, schizophrenic, cool soloist combo is dynamo! Really though, not that he was saying it, but I don’t think I really brought thoughtful articulation to that post. I don’t buy into the fluffy forearm lie either, those things are steel son, STEEL!

        • Terry
          Terry said:

          i loved all the comments…especially the one from zibaby.
          for me, its always been about the adventure…i can’t stand to “wire a route” for this reason. its also about the ability to downclimb if it feels bad or unwillingness to fall if you choose to commit.
          if you guys have read my account of the fa of “made in the shade” onthe wichitamountains site, you know i was in “the zone” when i did that one. its really a feeling that you should never plan or rush…it just happens and you will know it when the time is right.

          arnold, i have pics of you leading crackalolo the first time…i’ll send them to you. that was a long time ago.

          shane, maybe the next step is to lead crackalolo without the bolts…its a totally different climb this way.

          • oxford
            oxford said:

            Kudos to Shane for asking a great question. I feel genuinely educated after reading this post and the well informed comments. Zibaby’s comment should go in an article in Climbing.

            • zibaby
              zibaby said:

              or Maybe R&I

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