/ UKC article: Feeling Safe is Dangerous
Climbing isnít safe; itís dangerous."
All of my climbing as a child was seconding and TR, when I got back into climbing last spring, I decided the only way to get out and climb what I wanted to was to lead. So I bought up the kit, took some advice from and watched some friends I climbed with. Then just got out and started leading stuff.
Climbing aint safe, know too many people who have been hurt and a few killed. The transition from Indoor to Outdoor jumps over the danger factor very quickly. Im not sure what the answer is, Leading is good and IMHO the most fulfilling way to climb, but it does increase your risk. In the end people learn from there mistakes in most cases, I hope.
Last summer I tended to lead the easy stuff and second friends up harder, that way I got in some harder climbs, whilst still having the experience of leading things.
Be safe and enjoy your rock :)
Yup it's dangerous, but encouraging inexperienced climbers to lead when they may be metally and technically ill equipped doesn't sound like the best plan.
"The Rock Warriors Way" - oooh dear no.
Getting initially out on the rock and learning your craft at a pace that suits you would be a better approach (imo).
Anyone who gets into this sport thinking "climbing is safe" is paddling in the shallow end of the gene pool
Who are these people who know everyone's psychology and can prescribe for everyone? They sound dangerous to me.
Sounds a good reason to prefer the traditional approach to learning climbing with a start in hill walking and scrambling before 'proper' rock climbing - that way leading seems natural from day one (and is probably safer than scrambling anyway).
Military training is unsafe. It is better to go straight into a firefight so you know the risks from the outset.
A good analogy.
I thought the article was complete bollocks; it is acceptable to others only because some people like it's macho only-people-who-are-good-enough-can-go-climbing overtones.
Being at the sharp end of a rope is undoubtedly where most of the fun is at, but I suspect if you made every newbie start leading immediately, the edale mountain rescue team would start sending you their overtime bills.
It can all sound a bit tree hugger like- read the book tho. The basic premise is that climbing is not entirely unlike martial combat. We find ourselves in a situation where we need to take the risk in order to complete the task, yet it is while actually doing it that the learning takes place and if we hold onto to life to dearly we make be making as serious an error in judgement than if we are reckless.
I can't really sum up a whole book which is drawing parallels with a long history of warrior ethic (does sound a bit cheesy) in a paragraph, but the book has a lot of intersting points to make. Author seems like a cool guy too, 5.12 trad climber from back in the day when that meant passive pro only.
I agree. Climbing is a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and if folk only want to top rope in an indoor wall let them get on with it....
i notice you didn't say if they want to top rope outside let them get on with it :o)
I started off indoors but led my second ever outdoor climb ( trad) i feel this did do me good as i was v nervous about it. However after doing it i realised it wasn't the massive challenge i thought ( it was on a diff !!) and i've progressed steadily since.
Horses for courses though - can't see myself ever becoming a 'warrior'
On the contrary, it sounds like "macho-man" idiocy. I don't accept that there are parallels between war and climbing. Most soldiers are there because they have to be. We climb because we want to; nobody makes us. Nobody is going to shoot us, or steal our land, or kill our family if we don't climb. The comparison is fatuous.
I really can't agree with the analogy that insured car drivers are more risky than the MOT, Tax, Soap and insurance dodgers we have to deal with here in the UK.
Read Cubby's articles on scotlandonline.com where he talks about leading his old E1's and E2's in Glen Nevis. Although he put up probably the hardest route in the world for its time(Requiem E8 6c) and many others, he admits to finding E1 hard at times. Quite refreshing, especially for a punter like me.
It refers to martial combat though, which is quite different from the laser guided warfare you may be thinking of. Looking at Iraq, perhaps your description is not as accurate as it seems.
While I can accept that Arno's believes may be considered spiritual, he's not macho- in the least. On the contrary, he comes across a thoughtful, sensitive person who considers climbing a path to personal growth.
Read the book and then tell me what you think. I don't agree with it all and there's a strong link to Carlos Castenada's stuff which isn't really my cup of tea either, but I did at least read it before deciding it wasn't for me.
Most climbing is not either safe or dangerous. There's a big difference between risk and danger.
I do agree with the idea of leading relatively early. Sure I started in a wall (with group lessons)but when they ended after 4 sessions I answered an add for a partner at the wall and went outside the following weekend-to Bamford as it happens. After seconding routes most of the day (the first was a VS crack in a blank wall. "This is how you jam.....",very memorable) we had a place the entire rack around the base of the crag session (with analysis and commnetary on the placements) prior to placing the entire set of hexes leading up a diff crack. Recommend it as a technique - think that waiting and waiting would definitely have made it much harder, but pick an easy route that is easy and obvious to protect, and rest while doing so. The experienced climber I was with then commented on all the gear up the route(good, bad, could have been better by...) and the belay. He had of course picked one he could easily have soloed! Does rely on being out with more experienced climbers though.
I remember now, Its called "The art of War"...
haven't read either book properly though although from the summary article I think I will be.
Fair comment. I'm doing a part-time masters degree at the moment as well as working full-time, and reading for pleasure is a bit of a distant memory.
For a while I was thinking he was going to propose starting out with soloing - doing so will even more "make you acutely aware of the consequences" ;-)
I find it hard to believe that there are many people that do not think about the consequences of falling if they are leading.
For myself I am sure seconding was essential for just getting the basics right.
It was fashionable a while ago for wanky management consultants to spout stuff from Sun Tzu's The Art of War, thinking they're some sort of business samurai, and charging £1000 a day for the privilidge. This sort of thing obviously gets up the nose of us cynical brits. 'Rock Warrior ...' smacks a bit of this, and I guess this is a problem with this book in the UK. Just a problem with perception.
Safe and dangerous are imotive terms and whoever said it was right: Climbing is neither, it has different levels of risk.
> Most soldiers are there because they have to be.
That would be true if Britain still had a conscription Army, which is not the case. You sign up because you want to. The underlying fact of joining the *armed* forces is that you may well be involved into wars and killing people. When I was a kid I wanted to pilot jet planes. What was putting me off joining the Airforce was the fact that by doing so I may well find myself in the situation of having to drop a nuclear bomb onto people that hadn't done anything to me. It's something you ought to think about *before* joining (ended up failing the health check anyway so the conundrum was quickly solved).
As far as the parallel between martial art and climbing is concerned, Mark Twight in his Extreme Mountaineering, refers an awfull lot to Bruce Lee's Junkun Do (or whatever it's called) as a mean to mentally prepare for the mountains. It may sound like macho-speak but I can't help thinking that the development of awareness from martial art practice is probably very usefull to keep it together when the sh*t hits the fan on a mountain...
I meant reading the climbing book. But only if it crosses my path, don't get much reading for pleasure done these days as the bus to work is too short- end up missing my stop if the book is good- and it is hard to read on a bike!
I'm quite interested in reading about the mental aspects of climbing, as it's probably the limiting factor for lots of people. I just can't bring myself to buy a book with the words "Rock Warrior" in the title.
Anyway, I'm off to do naked Tai Chi and meditation in the garden in preparation for my gnarly forcoming ascent of Pinnacle Ridge.
> That would be true if Britain still had a conscription Army, which is not the case. You sign up because you want to.
And another thing!
Kids sign up for a variety of reasons, not least because of socio-economic factors and because they fancy an active, exciting life with some good mates. Very few actually want to find themselves pinned down in a bombed-out building on the edge of Baghdad. So, they are not really 'there,' in that specific position 'because they want to be,' are they? Which is the point you seem to have mistaken above.
And there was me thinking it was the biggest load of bo**£cks I'd read in ages ;)
something like that anyway
"encouraging inexperienced climbers to lead when they may be metally and technically ill equipped doesn't sound like the best plan"
I've always looked at it sort of the other way round. Once a beginner decides they want to have a go at climbing (rather than a safe adrenaline buzz on a top-rope) having been told its a dangerous activity I'd normally face them with the reality as soon as possible. A lead on their first day out being preferable in my view. Of course I always use a well protected and technically easy route, I've seen them move on rock before (second, tr or bouldering) and I've been through all the gear and basics. This approach makes sure they are genuinely aware of the danger and massively improves concentration on safety techniques. Ive known people think of themselves as adventure climbers (some with years of experience) who are IMHO kidding themselves: they are really along for the ride and if the leader gets into trouble they are in for a rough time as they've always avoided the sharp end.
Most other adventure sports have much bigger risks than climbing that are less easily controlled even by the experienced. Do people get taught to ride horses surrounded by crash mats with a safety rope?
"Anyone who gets into this sport thinking "climbing is safe" is paddling in the shallow end of the gene pool"
Tell that to all the parents who's kids go on a top-rope trip: climbing has many forms some of which have less risk than a game of football. I agree there is a sort of dishonesty in way a lot of outdoor groups sell (they especially dont warn it can be addictive and quickly lead to much more risky forms).
My first ever rock climbing route was to lead a multi-pitch one in Glencoe. I had never top roped a route or been to an indoor wall. So I can't comment what is better and safer in the long term. I will say that in nearly 40 years, I've never had a serious accident, even when I soloed routes near my limit.
People are all different and need different approaches.
Interestingly Johny Dawes refers to Tai Chi and martial arts as a philosophy which helps with climbing - much of this is harnessing the power of the mind and body, focus etc.
A lot of this sounds like it might be helpful to interested people, and those who like a bit of macho stuff can label it how they like, equally those less into this can feel happy that it is a part of any sport these days (sports psychology etc.), yoga, meditation and the nice fluffy side of life as well.
Whatever gets you up!
Personally, I found that the quickest way to success as a lion-tamer was just to run straight into the cat-house and shove a chair at them.
As far as mountaineering is concerned, I would like you to list me the specific dangers one can get familiarised to on any specific route. A mountain is a fairly fluid medium and getting familiar with its dangers is a game i'd rather not play.
>It is not in any way established that being prepared for someone to smack you helps when 20 feet above a marginal runner.
No but Mr Snake, you are caricaturing. I'm not talking English boxing there. The ability to keep control of your extremities in a very stressfull situation (being 20 ft above marginal gear or when a bloke 2 stones heavier than you is about to smack you in the gob) is rather helpfull.
In fact the underlying mental aspects of a lot of martial arts is IMLE fairly close to yoga's which if I'm not mistaken, is quite trendy for climbing bums these days.
I suppose. That's probably why we end up with peanut bags with the warning "may contain nuts".
> As far as mountaineering is concerned, I would like you to list me the specific dangers one can get familiarised to on any specific route.
I echo your sentiments.
Whilst not in the same league, my own first route almost as long ago, was leading a more modest affair in Northumbrland with rudimentary equipment. It's just what people did then.
I only learned of the black arts of Top Roping and Aid climbing once I had met some 'proper' climbers, and then met some better climbers who used skills and strength learned on a TR to eliminate aid, and become even better.
A long apprenticeship progressing through the lower grades, has similarly resulted in no serious mishaps, but a few near scrapes which tend to heighten ones awareness to the dangers.
I'm quite happy to be thought of as an Older Climber -- and wish to retain that status for many more years.
Climbing is an inherently dangerous sport, and there is often a fine line between risk and recklessness. Experience is knowing the difference, as we well know.
Strange but when I look up danger in MS Word Thesaurus it says "risk" and when I look up risk it says "danger"
What about "peril"?
>Do people get taught to ride horses surrounded by crash mats with a safety rope?
They are normally taught in an enclosed area, on a horse known to be placid and suitable for beginners. They don't get sent jumping over fences on the first lesson so they know what it feels like to fall off.
"The warriors way". Tee hee hee.
My future wife and her sister did exactly this to me. I did fall off.
I think you can pick just about any analogy and shoehorn it to fit climbing; but if some people find that helpful, then it's OK I suppose. Personally I find the "warrior" analogy pretentious, silly and off-putting, although I agree that mental training is important. I also agree with the sentiment that if you intend to lead at all, then it's a good idea to get into leading early on; and I also agree with the people who said that a background in scrambling is advantageous.
You could have a warning system like they do for films but for climbs
e.g. VS - contains moves that may be unsuitable for more inexperienced leaders and moments of mild peril.
Well said, agree. Too much pseudo H&S stuff around these days stopping people getting to grips with fings!
Just looked through above posts and don't see where. I replied to Arnaud who was replying to you - maybe that's what you mean, as your name obviously appeared on my post as well. That's a standard occurrence. If it helps, I'll delete your name in future to avoid this confusion.
Exactly. Too many people try to extrapolate from their own preference into a generalised philosophy.
"on a horse known to be placid and suitable for beginners"
Replace 'horse' with 'route' with the known risk that placid versions of both sometimes behave badly. No one with my philosophy goes out to get a beginner to take a major leadfall on an E1 first day out. I still think if a beginner is really keen to climb, getting them to face the realities of climbing early on really helps (sometimes in the negative sense as people change their mind, deciding danger is not for them).
You could use safety ropes learning to ride a horse: they do it with learning circus tricks (akin to headpointing harder routes?)
"Personally I find the "warrior" analogy pretentious, silly and off-putting,"
I can understand that and feel much the same way but maybe we are focussing on poor labelling more than whats behind why some of it works.
Firstly this man says... "Too many climbers get into the sport thinking that climbing is safe." but during the preceeding article states that climbers are so in fear of the consequences of a fall that they focus incorrectly on eliminating (rather than mitigating) this risk. That's a direct contradiction - you can't think climbing at it's core is safe and at the same time try feverishly to eliminate the consequences of a fall. His logic is flawed.
Secondly his use of language is poor since he uses the same term for a unsecured fall and a 'catch' where the rope stops the fall. Perhaps ground-fall and fall or caught-fall and fall would clarify his point, but I doubt it? (At any rate I'm not goint to fall into the same trap). He also doesn't differentiate between the eliminating the consequences of a fall and eliminating a fall altogether, which is important for his premise. This man cannot express himself clearly.
No-one sane ever embraces the consequences of a ground-fall... the consequences of such a fall are injury and death, only a suicide would embrace this. You can only embrace a fall because you have eliminated* the consequences (decking out) already. In short it is no longer a fall, but a caught-fall.
To follow his example of trad leading, when you do this the gear you place and the rope you clip is there to eliminate* the consequences of a ground-fall. (*It does not do this, it eliminates nothing it only mitigates, simply because gear anchors etc. are fallible (no matter how well placed) human error or rock/gear failure CAN still occur).
Yet the author suggests that holding on excessively can produce greater risk than accepting the fall since eventually you will fall and you will have not learnt the skills to fall safely. What about your first novice falls? And what of simple probability? Surely a climber who falls once a year with reasonably placed gear encounters a similar risk to one with better (but still fallible) placements who falls 200 times a year. The first will almost certainly experience a fall no matter how hard they try to avoid one. The 2nd will almost certainly experience some level of gear failure.
Perhaps he means that ill-informed actions which lead to a false belief that you have mitigated the effects of a ground-fall to that of a caught-fall are dangerous, but duh? Negligence/stupidity is always dangerous... AND someone with a false sense of security is more likely to 'embrace' a fall and kill themselves.
What a garbled ill-thought and poorly expressed article. You could rephrase his artice as... When climbing mitigate/minimise your risks effectively and then do not fear them disproportionately.
Hardly ground-breaking is it? Now if he offered some practical techiques to assist in this objective he could justify over 100words. Sadly what he's written doesn't.
<Keep the articles coming though>
Dear The Crow
Give the guy a break, he is a Yank.
While that explains a lot, and although our US cousins are having a hard time at the moment, I'm not going to hold back.
That article was toss!
> While that explains a lot, and although our US cousins are having a hard time at the moment, I'm not going to hold back.
> That article was toss!
Dear The Crow
You are more tolerant than me, I gave reading it.
Agreed. What he's saying, in a very muddled and long-winded way, is that climbing confidently is safer than climbing tremulously. Wow! Really? Cheers!
That's way better than my, rather pompous sounding, closing statement. :o$
Do you provide an editorial service?
Like many American 'how to climb articles' it sort of states the bloody obvious. Of course us Brits are good at laughing at that and then doing the same bloody stupid things we always did anyway. Look around you and see how many climbers fret about something they should breeze; say they want one thing, do something to acheive the opposite. Seems to me very much the minority of UK climbers get on with it and couldnt do with some help in this direction.
But lets face it, if you can't lead a diff your first time out you should find something else to do.
Dear The Mole
That is an elitist statement.
Great article - I've just started climbing and did a course in June (when that poor lad died on Eve, Borrowdale).
Since the course I've lead upto HVDiff and loved it - I'd rather lead than 2nd but I've joined a club too and am climbing upto HVS. I'd recommend leading to anyone and really agree with the points rasied in the article.
I think that the article (and his book which I skimmed at a climbing gym) assumes too much about what people climb for. We are not all out there on some extreme mental / physical trip.
Basically leading and following are two different sports. You can enjoy one or both. TR and seconding is like the gym on real rock. That's one type of experience: the flow of moving and exercising. Leading is like a mini-version of mountaneering, that is, exploration and risk: that's another type of experience
I would agree with leading from day one. You may as well get used to it a.s.a.p. because you're sorely limiting yourself if you don't.
Wow, what a variety of posts. And...you may be right.
Just a few comments:
1. The car insurance study I quoted from the LA Times was not fiction. It was fact and it tells us that when we diminish our receptivity to the consequences we become careless and less safe.
2. "Warrior"... There is no need to be turned off by a word. Using Warrior is simply to tie lessons learned by Soldiers/Warriors to our activity. In other words, we can learn valuable lessons from soldiers who must focus attention well in order to survive. Why are such lessons not worthy to learn from?
3. The core point is: what happens to our attention. I don't think anyone would argue that if our attention is distracted then we'd be less effective and therefore less safe. Surely I'm not wrong on this point. Everything in the article supports this core point. There are no contradictions, only mis-interpretations.
Anyway, nice discussion, and I know, I'm the best writer. Be easy on the Yank...
I may have missed the criticism of that. I've read also several time studies quoted saying that the number of accident increased in most countries when wearing a safety belt was made compulsory. I can easily believe insurance had the same effect. Hence the spike in the middle of the stirring wheel school of thought.
With a name like that you can't be that bad, even for a yank.
Right I need to go and hug a tree now.
> Anyway, nice discussion, and I know, I'm the best writer. Be easy on the Yank...
Which Yank? Mick or you?
Arno, lucky he was not called Florence.
Oh come off it. You (or the publisher) called the book "The Rock Warrior's Way: Mental Training for Climbers". You could have just called it "Mental Training for Climbers". The "Rock Warrior" piece is an advertising slogan, there to attract a certain kind of insecure wannabe-macho young man. "Hey, I'm not just a call centre monkey/software developer/whatever who goes climbing at the weekend. I'm a Rock Warrior! Behold my mighty biceps!".
For all I know, your book may be full of wisdom and insight. I'm never going to get past the title, because it's ludicrous, because it encourages false consciousness, and because I dislike any military metaphor applied to climbing e.g. "conquering a peak".
I was referring to me being a "yank".
> I was referring to me being a "yank".
I gave up on Mick's article, so there is no chance I will read your book. Are you a top roper like Mick?
Hi Stefan or Mr. Lloyd,
I can understand your feelings about the macho thing. But that is not what "warrior" means from where I'm coming from. There are many books written that deal with awareness and attention that have been categorized as "warrior" literature. Some authors, and I know you are going to cringe, are Castaneda, Millman, Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Ruiz, Mares, Spencer, Tart (just to name a few). Some, like Castaneda, use outlandish stories to get their points across, but underneath there is an enormous amount of information about developing awareness and focusing attention, if one is open to it.
How can this be such of a turnoff for someone? Usually we resist what we aren't familiar with, whether it is a particular author or taking a climbing fall.
I respect your view and don't want to insinuate that everyone should adopt my view. In fact, I tell my students not to blindly adopt what I teach them because, again, awareness is what is important; not blindly following someone else.
Anyway, perhaps this helps?
I'm not sure what you mean by "mick's article". This article "Feeling Safe is Dangerous" is one I wrote.
I'm also not sure why you say you won't read my book. But, no need to share your reason if you don't want to. I'm just not sure about your comment or why you are asking if I'm a toproper like Mick.
I do apologise, Mick is always posting stuff on this site, I assummed wrongly that he wrote the article.
I don't read mountaineering related books, no offence, when I am too old to get into the hills, I may catch up on the essential mountaineering books. Why, I don't read these types of books, well, I believe I enjoy action first hand.
I was fortunate in when I started climbing, we just went out and did it, I have yet to be instructed in the black art of top roping.
PS I have climbed with a few Yanks, one was Jim Donini.
Wake up Norrie. It was Arno's article. Although you may disagree perhaps with what he said show at least some respect and moderation. Arno kindly submitted his article to UKC as do many others. We don't have a massive budget and we rely on people like Arno to write and share their views and stimulate debate - which Arno's article definately has.
If everyone gave guest writers the type of reception that you insist on sometimes I'm afraid the article pool may dry up.
By all means disagree, but please less do it in an agreeable manner. If you want a slagging match take it to the Chat forum.
Here have a cookie.
> That's better.
> Here have a cookie.
I would not expect an apology from someone of your stature. I at least apologised to arno, before you jumped in feet first.
PS Please donate your spare cookies to those poor souls from New Orleans.
No worries. Yes, just getting out there and doing it is best. What I've found from many of my students is that they begin with that motivation and within a few years have developed so many expectations about how the climbing experience should be that they no longer enjoy it. That's one area the warrior's way can help--to get back in touch with why you climb.
Yes, good ole Jim...
I apologise Norrie.
but don't call it me a top roper again it's akin to calling me a republican....
> Yes, good ole Jim...
Jim, like all the Yanks I climbed with were great company.
Hi Arno, I seem toi be one of the few here who have actually read your book! For what its worth, I found it very well written , very thought provoking and applicable in all aspects of life. Many thanks and do'nt listen to those who criticise what they can't be bothered to read.
I read your book too and thought it interesting, well written and usefull. I'd recommend it to anyone who is looking for another way to help get the mental side of climbing together.
Hi Arno, you've probably been getting a bit of heavy-handed treatment on here from some independent-minded people who already have their game-plan established, and who weren't really in the target-group of your article (myself included!). It's a little belligerent, this site, though I'm sure you're man enough to take it.
I think the 'warrior ethic' is actually a useful metaphor in climbing philosophy, and one which some above may have mistaken as necessarily having to do with machismo and conquest. I like to think of it as rather more to do with something like Castaneda's concept of the 'warrior,' as opposed to regimented soldiery. There is a big distinction.
Power to your elbows and your keyboard!
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