/ What is it with all the abseiling?

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Richard Alderton - on 28 Jul 2013
This thought came to me yesterday, as some idiot chucked a pair of ab ropes straight onto the head of my mate as he was on the crux. No shout of 'below'; no warning.

When I started climbing in the 90s if you were abseiling, it meant one of two things. Either you were French, or you were having an epic. Nowadays, it seems everyone's at it.

- Don't fancy the underwhelming top pitch?
- Can't be arsed to walk down?
- It's started spitting?
- Climbing with a weaker partner who can't second but still want that hard lead?

Meh. Just ab off.

Nothing inherently wrong with abbing, of course (although I do think it has a slight hint of unsport about it), but please put some thought into it. It's natural to finish a route and make to ab straight back down it because that's they way you've come. But as well as trashing a route and/ or tangling with other climbers, it may not be the best line to take anyway.

This particularly affects climbers who, like me, operate in the easier grades, where 'the ab line' (if there is such a thing) coincides with a classic easy route.

And - for the love of God - please shout BELOW, *and* wait for any response before you chuck the rope.
Jon Stewart - on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Richard Alderton:

Nowadays, it seems everyone's at it.
>
> - Don't fancy the underwhelming top pitch?
> - Can't be arsed to walk down?
> - It's started spitting?
> - Climbing with a weaker partner who can't second but still want that hard lead?
>
> Meh. Just ab off.

I can't see anything wrong with any of that at all. Why on earth would I want to climb some crap top pitch and then 'walk' off (probably scramble up for a bit then slither down some scree) when I could just ab back down in a jiffy (as in, the short period of time, not the padded envelope)? Or climb in the rain?

> Nothing inherently wrong with abbing, of course (although I do think it has a slight hint of unsport about it), but please put some thought into it. It's natural to finish a route and make to ab straight back down it because that's they way you've come. But as well as trashing a route


Oh come on. Trashing the route? What absolute cobblers.

> and/ or tangling with other climbers,

All it takes is a bit of consideration, which is a more sensible thing to ask for than to go on some pointless tirade against abseiling full stop.

> it may not be the best line to take anyway.

People only ab off where there is fixed tat, climbers are tight and do not leave gear willy-nilly. No one has enough good fortune to successfully set up naturally retrievable abs all over the place, so given the presence of tat, one can safely assume it's the most convenient way off.
>
> This particularly affects climbers who, like me, operate in the easier grades, where 'the ab line' (if there is such a thing) coincides with a classic easy route.

I don't think ab lines tend to coincide with low-grade classics. They tend to just go back down whatever route is underneath them, as likely E5 as Vdiff or VS.

> And - for the love of God - please shout BELOW, *and* wait for any response before you chuck the rope.

Well yes. But I think saying that to those who chucked a rope on your head might be more constructive than lecturing the climbing community at large about abseiling.
Richard Alderton - on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:

It was more to open a debate; to hear others views. I had rather hoped that people would understand that I'm not 'going on a pointless tirade against abseiling', rather wondering out loud why more of it is happening than it used to, lamenting the days when one relished getting to the top of something, and wishing not to come into conflict with the thoughtless.
cat22 - on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Richard Alderton: One possibility is that there's now a lot of available information on the safest ways to set up an abseil: how to join the ropes, how to use a prusik, check the tat before you use it, etc. So it's now seen as something that can be done safely rather than a last resort, and can be used to avoid a dodgy/lengthy walking descent.

And abseiling doesn't mean you've not reached the top of something!
snoop6060 - on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Richard Alderton:

Scrambling down wet, loose gullys in rock shoes absolutely sucks. I'll always abb if I can, this doesn't trash routes. That's rubbish.
Trangia - on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Richard Alderton:

It's common courtesy to avoid abbing down a route with people on it.
Jon Stewart - on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Richard Alderton:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
>
> It was more to open a debate; to hear others views. I had rather hoped that people would understand that I'm not 'going on a pointless tirade against abseiling', rather wondering out loud why more of it is happening than it used to, lamenting the days when one relished getting to the top of something, and wishing not to come into conflict with the thoughtless.

I think you've made up 'the days when one relished getting to the top of something'. Maybe you just climb on different crags now, where ab descents are more convenient.

I honestly don't see why you think it would be better if I climbed some crap top pitch of something and walked off. I'd have no more 'got to the top' except in some arbitrary sense defined by the guidebook (unless the route actually finished on a summit - a rare thing).

Examples recently:

Sidewalk on Dow. Some really good climbing, a load of tat to ab off, but I carried on and did the top two pitches. They were crap, loose and filthy, although I did in that case go all the way up to the top of the mountain and walk down the footpath. I wish I'd abbed off after the good climbing and done another route.

Grand Prix on Raven Threshwaite. Abbed off, but other climbers had started the route. They knew we were going to ab back down (they knew the crag and had done the route before) but they set off anyway. I waited while the climber did the crux, my partner holding the rope at the bottom to make sure I was out of the way and not going anywhere (he could see what was going on, I couldn't) and not swinging around or flapping ropes ropes about. A bit of consideration, that's all that's needed. I guess I could have scrambled about on top of the crag looking for a way off, but the chance of dislodging loose stuff would have added far greater danger than abbing down.

There is simply nothing wrong with it, if you don't do it on someone's head.
GridNorth - on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Richard Alderton: Modern shoes don't help. I regularly walked off in EB's but wouldn't consider it even with my "comfy" shoes these days. Apart from the discomfort there is also the matter of unnecessary wear on expensive sticky rubber.
Rick Graham on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Sidewalk on Dow. Some really good climbing, a load of tat to ab off, but I carried on and did the top two pitches. They were crap, loose and filthy, although I did in that case go all the way up to the top of the mountain and walk down the footpath. I wish I'd abbed off after the good climbing and done another route.
>
I agree with other comments you have made but with Sidewalk, here is another problem.

Ab off and the upper pitches will become crap and filthy. They used to be loose (a bit) and clean.

Rick ( who last time on Sidewalk traversed over to finish up Samba after P2)
Pagan - on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Rick Graham:

Agreed; they may not be as good as the bottom pitches but they're part of the route and (IMO) not that easy; abbing off from halfway up means you haven't done the route. Sounds like someone needs to go up and cut the tat...

No problem with abbing off the top of shorter routes on crags like Raven Threshthwaite provided that it's done considerately - we were on Gable last weekend and everyone was abbing down; bit of give and take from all parties and there were no issues at all.

If someone does chuck a rope on your head you could always place an upward pulling runner, wait for them to be on their way then pull their rope tight and tie them off...
Jon Stewart - on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Pagan:
> (In reply to Rick Graham)
>
> Agreed; they may not be as good as the bottom pitches but they're part of the route and (IMO) not that easy; abbing off from halfway up means you haven't done the route. Sounds like someone needs to go up and cut the tat...

I don't know why you want to inflict that rubbish loose climbing on anyone. That top pitch isn't easy, but it isn't good either. Finishing up Samba sounds like a plan however. Isengard would combine nicely with Eliminate A, so there's no need to miss out on that.
Rick Graham on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:
> (In reply to Pagan)
> [...]
>
> I don't know why you want to inflict that rubbish loose climbing on anyone. That top pitch isn't easy, but it isn't good either. Finishing up Samba sounds like a plan however. Isengard would combine nicely with Eliminate A, so there's no need to miss out on that.

It is part of the route and used to feel like it.

Sidewalk, Elim A, and Isengard/ Samba all stand up as logical routes in their own right.

If you want a HVS just do Isengard and ab off the top of the main pitch of Balrog or Abraxas.

Ab point positions will determine the limit of clean climbing on a mountain crag.
Al Evans on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:
> (In reply to Pagan)
> [...]
>
> I don't know why you want to inflict that rubbish loose climbing on anyone. That top pitch isn't easy, but it isn't good either. Finishing up Samba sounds like a plan however. Isengard would combine nicely with Eliminate A, so there's no need to miss out on that.

Because it's climbing not abseiling that's the sport, and finishing a line is what it's all about.
Richard Alderton - on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Al Evans:
> Because it's climbing not abseiling that's the sport, and finishing a line is what it's all about.

Thank you Al. I was beginning to think it was just me!
Jon Stewart - on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Al Evans:

So would it be wrong to finish up Samba, for an absolutely cracking way up the crag, because that's not the original line?
Postmanpat on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Al Evans:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
> [...]
>
> Because it's climbing not abseiling that's the sport, and finishing a line is what it's all about.

+1.

Suspect it's largely a generational thing. Having said that I missed out on the top of Black Spring a few years back because one of your old mates "couldn't be bothered, it's rubbish"

Pagan - on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:

No, but you wouldn't have done Sidewalk. It depends how bothered you are about doing the route I guess.
Jon Stewart - on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Postmanpat:

I can see where folks are coming from with respect to Sidewalk, which is a big mountain route that climbs the crag (I just wish I'd spent the time doing something better than the top pitches).

But what about routes like The Strand and SS Special? Why on earth would anyone want to carry on up those routes? Seems like an exercise in pointless time-wasting to me.
Al Evans on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Postmanpat: At least Gogarth preserves the practice of actually finishing a route, as does Lundy and a lot of other sea cliffs.
Al Evans on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Al Evans: Sorry after your reply I realise that all the routes at Gogarth are not sacred, The Strand wall is one where you could get away with it, but I still don't think you should claim the route if you haven't done it properly.
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Jon Stewart - on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Pagan:

In fact, I haven't got a topo to hand, wouldn't this Sidewalk/Samba combo actually miss out the best bit of Sidewalk (p3 in the guide I think, after the HVS-corner type thing).

But no, I am not bothered about "doing the route", if I could get more better climbing done by combining pitches, abbing off, etc to get the most out of the crag. For example, on Central Pillar, obviously the best way is to start up The Cumbrian rather than Bridges Route. I'm not going to Central Pillar the original way for some neurotic "ticking the route" reason.
Rick Graham on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Combine with Red Edge for the best combo IMHO.

All the other pitches on Cumbrian etc are guidebook authors tinkering with pitch combinations. It makes the first ascent lists quite complicated and sometimes they confuse themselves over a few editions.
Al Evans on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart: It would be sad for UK climbing if your values become widespread :-(
Jon Stewart - on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Richard Alderton:

And what about abbing into a route instead of using a servicable but unpleasant scramble? Permissible or bad?
Jon Stewart - on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Al Evans:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart) It would be sad for UK climbing if your values become widespread :-(

If it makes you feel better, I did the top pitch of White Ghyll Eliminate :)
Jon Stewart - on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Rick Graham:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
>
> Combine with Red Edge for the best combo IMHO.

And what do you think of this Al? Well out of order is it?
Richard Alderton - on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:
> And what about abbing into a route instead of using a servicable but unpleasant scramble? Permissible or bad?

Thankfully, I'm not in the business of handing out climbing (or indeed abseiling) permits, so you should continue to do as you wish.

I don't know why you think I'm trying to ban abseiling. I'm not.

Like I said above, I'm trying to understand why it's happening more, and to discover if other people think it's concerning. Turns out some do, some don't.
Al Evans on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart: Well if you do True Moments/Freebird combination I don't think you can claim both routes individually. My main point is that the heritage of UK free climbing (trad) is to start at the bottom of a line and follow it to the top.
I remember when I was very young if we did Main Wall on Cyrn Las, or The Grooves, we would sprint to the top of Snowdon if we were feeling in a very 'pure' state.
Al Evans on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:
> (In reply to Al Evans)
> [...]
>
> If it makes you feel better, I did the top pitch of White Ghyll Eliminate :)

Why not, it's a good VS slab pitch.
Jon Stewart - on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Al Evans:

I would roll my eyes at the accusation that I haven't done The Strand. But I would say "I've done Atlantis/True Moments/Freebird combination" rather than saying I'd done all the routes, as I have no idea where the individual routes actually go. I think it's perfectly natural that as routes get more and more well known, they develop into combinations and rubbishy bits get forgotten about (the tops of The Strand and SS Special). I don't see any problem with it at all, and if other climbers follow my values I think we will have lots of climbers with abundant enthusiasm for UK trad who seek out the best pitches within their ability.

I could understand your dismay if I just wanted "fast food" convenience cragging at the roadside. But I love a big stomp up a hill to a little-climbed crag to climb the superb routes on offer. I just don't want to stomp up there and then climb a load of crap after all the good climbing has petered out.

Oh and I once did only the top pitch of NW Passage, as we were short of time - it was one of the best pitches of the trip too. But on another occasion I did go back to do the excellent first pitch. I don't think that the experience we have at the crag needs to be prescribed - all the info on established routes is in the book, and we can all take from that what we want. It makes no odds which pitches I choose not to bother with, and if the climbing is really good, it will get done. If it's rubbish and can be avoided, it inevitably will be.
Jon Stewart - on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Richard Alderton:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
> [...]

> Like I said above, I'm trying to understand why it's happening more, and to discover if other people think it's concerning. Turns out some do, some don't.

I'm not really convinced that there has been a change since the 90's (maybe there has) but it's presumably different on routes like The Strand to when the routes were new.

I guess it's just about a subtle change in climbing. Now with sport climbing and bouldering being popular disciplines enjoyed by trad climbers too, there is slightly more emphasis on 'the moves' rather than 'the adventure'. Personally, for me it is about 'the pitch' - the moves, the position, the difficulty, the boldness, whatever it is that the pitch has to offer. As such, I will abseil to my heart's content in order to climb as many of these great pitches as I can.
Al Evans on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart: I am more encouraged by your most recent posts, it dosn't really matter how you get your fun from climbing providing you don't impinge on other people who are perhaps getting it in a more traditional style.
Rick Graham on 28 Jul 2013
In reply to Al Evans:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart) I am more encouraged by your most recent posts, it dosn't really matter how you get your fun from climbing providing you don't impinge on other people who are perhaps getting it in a more traditional style.

All amazingly amicable.

Where are the usual f***twits to stir things up?

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