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At what grade does headponting become acceptable?

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 Wooj 19 Nov 2021

Ethics in climbing matter. We all abide by them. I was just wondering as it’s been the years of headpinting, at what grade does it become acceptable ethically to climb a trad route in this style. Now I know this will vary but just wanted a general consensus. 
Take myself for example. My hardest trad climb to date is Left Wall at Brimham (E5 6a for those not familiar). I practised this on top rope first quite a few times before I lead it. 
these days I only ever onsight. I’m not as good as I was and my onsight grade is now comfortably E1. I can Boulder quite hard (7b). So I don’t think I’ll ever push the boat out onsighting anything harder than E2. But I know I can climb way harder. I have seconded some E7’s clean. So is head pointing the way forward and would it be acceptable say on an E3 or E4? I’m guessing the grade u climb at may determine what grade u seem acceptable. I have a friend who climbs VS onsight. Would it be acceptable for him to headpoint an E1? Is it all a personal thing and it doesnt really matter? I’d love to know peoples opinions. 
Thanks. 

 Lankyman 19 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

Just what is 'headponting'? Or 'headpinting' for that matter? I watched someone painting with their teeth once - 'headpainting'?

 Wooj 19 Nov 2021
In reply to Lankyman:

I apologise for the incorrect spelling lol. As you are aware I’m sure, I actually mean headpointing. My phones auto correct kicked in. 

In reply to Wooj:

Absolutely whatever you want. 

Using the term of ethics in regards to top roping is laughable "moral principles that govern a person's behavior".

This is only style.

In a situation when you keep falling on the gear because it's a little too hard, the better style would be to top rope it to reduce that wear.

Many here will tell you otherwise.

 Cobra_Head 19 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

I prefer to onsight almost anything I climb, I resort to top roping, only when there's no easy stuff for me to climb.

I don't like climbing any climbs I've done before either if I can get away with it, so headpointing doesn't appeal.

Maybe that's why I've not progressed above E1.

 PaulJepson 19 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

Any grade you want. It's total rubbish and pure elitism to suggest that headpointing an E9 is any more or less acceptable than headpointing a VS.

  

 Jon Read 19 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

IMHO, what ever grade you like as long as:

  1. you don't harm the rock in the process (see Beau Geste pebble as an example)
  2. you are honest about your ascent
  3. you can live with yourself
 Mike Stretford 19 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj: I'd say whatever you want, but avoid popular routes, rock prone to polish and fragile rock. And make sure your shoes are squeaky clean!

Post edited at 17:22
 Iamgregp 19 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

I don't see why headpointing would be acceptable at one grade and not at another, the struggle and effort is the same regardless of level.  

As long as you're not harming the natural environment, or spoiling anyone else's enjoyment of it or the crag, I don't see what business it is of anyone else's whether you headpointed, ground upped or whatever.   

Some people may grumble, but frankly that's their problem, not yours.

 gravy 19 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

The grade at which you struggle to lead something either because you can't physically do it or can't mentally do it but you think you stand a chance it you work it a bit.

"acceptable" here is entirely relative to the grades you aspire to provided you aren't pissing people off along the way (wrecking or hogging routes) and provided you're honest.

In reply to Jon Read:

> you can live with yourself

I think this probably nails it.

 DaveHK 19 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

I think headponting is a bridge too far.

 HowDawg 19 Nov 2021
In reply to Lankyman:

Headpinting is when you tan a full pint in one go and place the empty glass upon your crown.

 Wooj 19 Nov 2021

Great! Now I feel I can try on lots of routes I  otherwise wouldn’t of due to thinking maybe I had to onsight them or not at all. Thanks folks. 

In reply to Wooj:

> Ethics in climbing matter. We all abide by them. I was just wondering as it’s been the years of headpinting, at what grade does it become acceptable ethically to climb a trad route in this style. Now I know this will vary but just wanted a general consensus. 

> Take myself for example. My hardest trad climb to date is Left Wall at Brimham (E5 6a for those not familiar). I practised this on top rope first quite a few times before I lead it. 

> these days I only ever onsight. I’m not as good as I was and my onsight grade is now comfortably E1. I can Boulder quite hard (7b). So I don’t think I’ll ever push the boat out onsighting anything harder than E2. But I know I can climb way harder. I have seconded some E7’s clean. So is head pointing the way forward and would it be acceptable say on an E3 or E4? I’m guessing the grade u climb at may determine what grade u seem acceptable. I have a friend who climbs VS onsight. Would it be acceptable for him to headpoint an E1? Is it all a personal thing and it doesnt really matter? I’d love to know peoples opinions. 

> Thanks. 

If you think about it, head pointing isn't so different to seconding a route and then saying to yourself 'I could lead that...'

 Lankyman 19 Nov 2021
In reply to HowDawg:

> Headpinting is when you tan a full pint in one go and place the empty glass upon your crown.

Well, I'm glad someone else has a sense of humour

 robate 19 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

It's highly subjective.

Specifically it depends on who you are talking to and how much contempt you can tolerate at the back of their eyes, and by reflection how much self respect you want to go home with. Let's face it everyone wants to say at some point 'I've done xxx' and not to have to follow it up with 'i spent hours fannying about on a top rope first'.

Personally I can live with the disdain.

In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

> If you think about it, head pointing isn't so different to seconding a route and then saying to yourself 'I could lead that...'

Except that you have to do so.

In reply to Wooj:

If you're improving, at some point you run out of mates who climb harder, so you're not getting to second anything challenging, so you don't know what you're capable of, so you stop progressing. That's when it's time to throw a rope down something hard. Got things moving again for me. Just try not to pick something that'll be in the way or cause damage.

 George Ormerod 19 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

I head pointed a WI5. And embarrassingly fell of taking my only lead ice fall and amazingly doing my self no harm. 😃 Probably not the answer you we’re looking for. 

In reply to Wooj:

First off, you can do what you like so enjoy yourself.

second, if you’re bouldering 7b you should be on sighting harder than E2 if you want to. I wasn’t climbing near the tech difficulty of font 7b back in the day but still managing those higher E numbers onsight.  Keep working those routes, it’ll come.

 Marek 19 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

Historically, I think headpointing arose on hard trad routes when on-sight falling off was both expected AND there was a lack of decent protection to make those falls acceptably safe. So I suppose a somewhat purist approach would stick to that criteria. But then of course the issue of 'damage to rock' and 'worn out placements' rears its ugly head, so you have to strike a balance. Top-rope practice will tend to encourage too many futile attempts and hence more polish whereas the 'lead with falls' approach can damage placement, but probably minimise polish. You have to make your own judgement as to which might be more 'ethical' on any given route.

Oh, and did I mention grade? I don't think so! The rock doesn't care.

Post edited at 20:48
 French Erick 19 Nov 2021
In reply to Marek:

In fact I would even say - nobody SHOULD care!

In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

> If you think about it, head pointing isn't so different to seconding a route and then saying to yourself 'I could lead that...'

You could always second a route and then get your mate to lower you back down again and reclimb it.

Perhaps your mate could set up an anchor and lower himself down to the ground too so he can be a bit more relaxed.. 

Whilst the ropes their, your mate could always have a go. 

If your mate doesn't actually lead the climb and instead just sets up the anchor at the top then it's his dirty habits, not yours.

In reply to Wooj:

General rule: In old money, 'anything over E5'. But any sport route is fair game (bolt clipping is a pointless affectation from trad. You might as well not damage the rock with bolts and TR it if it's single pitch).

Any bold route is in scope, but be mindful that repeated attempts damage the rock. Any route you practice until it's 'wired' in effect is reduced to your onsight level, if not below.

Do I break these rules? Yep.

Post edited at 23:54
 DaveHK 20 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

>  my onsight grade is now comfortably E1. I can Boulder quite hard (7b). So I don’t think I’ll ever push the boat out onsighting anything harder than E2. But I know I can climb way harder. I have seconded some E7’s clean. 

​​​​​​That's a huge disparity. What's limiting your trad climbing lead grade so much? 

 mattrm 20 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

"It's a personal thing and it doesn't really matter?"

You've hit the nail on the head there buddy.  Do what keeps you happy.  If you're a VS climber and want to headpoint an E1, then crack on. 

 Wooj 20 Nov 2021
In reply to DaveHK:

my climbing circle of friends when i used to lead routes changed when I got married and had kids. I then moved into bouldering as it was easy to sneak out for an hour or two. I couldn’t do days cragging with young family. So my bouldering developed and now when I do go out and do routes I’m always doing it with mates who don’t usually climb routes so I keep within my abilities so I don’t fall. I’m not confident enough in their belaying for me to be falling on a hard route. I just don’t climb with people who try hard trad. It has a mental affect on you. I end up doing what they do which is play at trad and Boulder mainly. 
Also I tend to enjoy trad just for the pure moves as in flowing nice climbing that I’m in control of. My endurance is poor too. I don’t want to be fighting to put a bit of gear in while pumped with a big fall potential al the time sheeting my pants. I’d much prefer to have it dialed and cruise it. So ultimately I guess it’s a mental thing. 

 DaveHK 20 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

Fair enough, that's all understandable. Maybe headpointing will help but it sounds like there are other things you could do too.

In reply to Wooj:

This is a really personal thing, and only you make your own rules. As someone else said, the rock doesn't care. And its no-one else's business.

However, you said you can boulder 7B (or did you mean 7b?) Either way, thats good and sounds like you will easily onsight above E2 once you get your head on it. Its probably just experience/mileage (head game) thats holding you back.

Personally, I rope solo as a form of headpointing and training, always on routes well above my onsight, and it has brought my grade on loads. I'm now onsighting things I never thought I would, so also have blown the onsight on some cracking routes.

I can currently onsight sport at 7b, but don't onsight trad above E4. I have a young family, and thats my choice.

Do whatever suits you, but make sure you save the good 3 star ones for when you improve, because you probably will. I now generally try to top rope all the obscure hard dangerous ones that no sane person would ever lead.

 peppermill 20 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

Firstly, Left Wall at Brimham Rocks.

Bloody nice work, I've always got the impression it's an exclusive club that have ticked this one off, whatever the style. I used to look up at this in absolute awe as a kid messing about on the bouldering below.

Back to your question: as long as you're honest about the style and aren't causing any damage then who cares? And if someone is the type to lie about it, it doesn't really matter either it's just a bit sad.

I got a bit of grief once for top roping a brilliant but, to my mind at the time, fairly dangerous route (I think it was Silver Lining at Froggat, I forget, I was about 19). 

I think this was the point in my life realised that although everyone is entitled to their opinion, I'm perfectly entitled to file said opinion in a folder marked B1n ;p

 The Grist 20 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

I think it depends on the area to a degree. I have never really headpointed specifically except an e5 on grit that I randomly tried on a top rope and worked the moves then decided to lead. I then fell off it about 4 times before I finally did it. I would never have got on it without the top rope first.

I would not headpoint at a place like Pembroke or in the  mountains but I would jump on e3s or even e4s and try leading them onsight. If I fail I may learn things and try them again in the future. 

Climbing at your grade there are plenty of 
E3s and e4s you could safely try leading away from the grit. 
 

Personally I would consider headpointing on grit to be more acceptable than other areas just because the holds can be very specific and the movement very unusual. Consequences are usually high. I do not think it is about a grade. For me probably e5 upwards but I have onsighted e3 on grit. I have also failed onsighting  loads of e2s on grit by way of context. 

If headpointing an e5 is going to be fun for you and maybe enable you to lead the route then go for it. Easier grades at your ability I think you should probably at least consider trying to lead. If you fail then maybe headpoint it (providing you are not broken at the bottom of the route). 

In terms of what grade to head point? No hard and fast rule but maybe headpoint e5 if you lead e2. That would equate to headpoint e2 if you lead VS. Depends so much on area and climb though. 

 C Witter 20 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

Herford headpointed and dogged his way up Cental Buttress. Of course, he would simply have said that he'd climbed it. "Climbing ethics" is something that has arisen every  now and again at moments of change and became partly fossilised in the 1960s-1980s as a way of conceptualising the vast and sudden changes in standards and defending the "rights" of a self-appointed caste in the face of working-class incomers encroaching on their turf. They then projected these "ethics" mythologically into the past, with nonsense about "back in the day you started at the bottom", omitting the fact that in the 1800s what you actually did was pay a guide to drag you up big hills so you could brag about it to you peers once safe in the valley.

All of the heroes were top-roping punters. (Apart from maybe Menlove and Allen Austin...) That's how they got so good.

In reply to Wooj:

Personally, if it's going to really, really hurt if it goes wrong (and It's at a grade that it's likely) I may headcount. If it's safe and the only thing that may get damaged is my pride then ill go for a groundup.

 Sean Kelly 20 Nov 2021
In reply to C Witter:

> Herford headpointed and dogged his way up Cental Buttress. Of course, he would simply have said that he'd climbed it.

Well all very well this steeplejacking, but hardly good form or training for the Alps. His membership application for the AC will be blackballed!

Post edited at 11:10
 PaulTanton 20 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

I think E5 is reasonable. I’ve headpointed an E5 at Nesscliff, but still fell off on the lead. Need to go back on it.

I’ve done LW at Brimham. First time was on sight but got slightly too far left on the top section. Took a monster fall. Went back a few weeks later armed with beta from a mate and got it. Can’t claim an on sight but nor was it headpoint.

it’s up to you mate. Be honest with yourself because that’s the only person who’s gonna judge you. 
Left Wall is a great, puppy, route eh? 

 B-team 20 Nov 2021
 Lord_ash2000 20 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

Generally, I'd say it is relative to the grade you onsite comfortably, so maybe two grades above that would seem reasonable.

However, in most cases at the lower grades, there is much more room for error when climbing onsite which does make headpointing. Obviously, some of that room for error is relative to ability but even so, a typical HS route for example will have enough options for getting up it that a set sequence is not required to climb it within the technical grade boundaries. Whereas an E6 may be only climbable via a single sequence (for that climber's height) with little chance of reversal for a climber at that grade, thus headpointing would make sense for them.

It would be very brave to on-site genuinely dangerous routes at or very close to the limit of ones genuine technical ability because unless you're a route reading god you're very likely to make a mistake that will suddenly put the difficulty of the route beyond you and land you in trouble.

For those who only onsite it's likely, they are climbing several grades below what they could theoretically climb but if they wish to limit their grade via their code of ethics that is their choice.

      

In reply to timparkin:

> You could always second a route and then get your mate to lower you back down again and reclimb it.

> Perhaps your mate could set up an anchor and lower himself down to the ground too so he can be a bit more relaxed.. 

> Whilst the ropes their, your mate could always have a go. 

> If your mate doesn't actually lead the climb and instead just sets up the anchor at the top then it's his dirty habits, not yours.

I'm sure all that is true (not sure about the last bit actually) but I don't know what your point is.

In reply to Robert Durran:

> Except that you have to do so.

I'm pretty sure there are plenty of people who have started top roping climbs with a view to the headpoint but decide against it. They may not have actually headpointed the climb but they will have engaged in the process.

In reply to PaulJepson:

> Any grade you want. It's total rubbish and pure elitism to suggest that headpointing an E9 is any more or less acceptable than headpointing a VS.

I'm not saying you are necessarily wrong, but I think the vast numbers of likes you are getting is interesting. I wonder how long ago you would have got similar numbers of dislikes for such an "outrageous" statement.

 cb294 20 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

Rock damage aside (and generally not pestering others at the crag, bringing yourself, others or potential rescuers into danger, etc.) climbing ethics matter eff all.

You can choose to abide by certain, arbitrary rules of the game (climbing "ethics" is such a pompous term), but it really is totally irrelevant by which style you climb.

The true and more relevant issue is if you want to climb a route free (which I would aim to do for short sport or trad routes, while I would certainly not be bothered about pulling on a sling or stepping on a peg in the Alps or long multi pitch sports routes), at which point top rope practise becomes an efficient strategy.

At VS lead level, I would guess that generally pushing their climbing ability would be more efficient. As another poster said above, head pointing makes the more sense the fewer options / move sequences there are for climbing a route, and the more dangerous falling off becomes.

That said, if it looks as if dialing in the moves of a specific E1 on top rope was good fun, then why not?

CB

 henwardian 20 Nov 2021
In reply to ashtond6:

> Absolutely whatever you want. 

This.

I've headpointed loads of things and I consider that I can pick whatever style I want when looking at climbing something (even just ticking it as a toprope ascent if I feel like it). It goes without saying though that you should be honest about what style you did something in.

There is probably a debate to be had in terms of new-routing though. I've headpointed a lot of new routes and on-sighted a lot of new routes. For me the choice depends on things other than grade too, sometimes the rock quality or a particular worrying block might dissuade me from the onsight. But some people, particularly the older generation, will view new-routing by means other than ground-up as morally corrupt. It's not a view I share, I've probably mellowed with age on my view of the everything-should-be-on-sight ethic.

Speaking personally, on an established route, I'd probably either try for the on-sight or decide I didn't want to try it at all (for any number of reasons) anything up to about E5 and headpoint anything above that. But this casts no aspersions on what I think others should do.

When new-routing it totally depends on the situation but I'd be unlikely to try an on-sight anything that looked harder than E2/3.

 PaulJepson 20 Nov 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

Did the grade ever come into it though? Weren't people up in arms about the idea of headpointing anything? Wasn't dawes' ascent of Indian face criticised by some because he had pre-practiced it? Didn't fawcett put off masters edge because he had practiced it first and thought it unsportsmanlike to do anything other than solo it after?

I can understand people being fussy about the concept of headpointing alltogether but it seems a bit unbalanced to say some grades are okay and others aren't. It'd be a bit like saying you can only use cams on routes harder than E5,  otherwise it's just too safe.

 bpmclimb 20 Nov 2021
In reply to henwardian:

But some people, particularly the older generation, will view new-routing by means other than ground-up as morally corrupt. 

Alright if you have lovely, clean, relatively solid rock which isn't vegetated! I'd love to see some of those people try onsighting new routes in my neighbourhood with those ethics - they'd probably have to confine themselves to VD/Severe, and even then have a torrid time of it 

In reply to PaulJepson:

> Did the grade ever come into it though? Weren't people up in arms about the idea of headpointing anything? Wasn't dawes' ascent of Indian face criticised by some because he had pre-practiced it? Didn't fawcett put off masters edge because he had practiced it first.

You may well be right; style of first ascent has probably always been under scrutiny. But what about repeating stuff in poorer style than it had been first climbed - surely just not cricket. And as for headpointing a VS at Stanage -  wouldn't that have been open season for ridicule until fairly recently?

 C Witter 20 Nov 2021
In reply to Sean Kelly:

I'm sure things like this really were said: "These rock gymnast monkey antics are all well and good, but they're not in the spirit of serious mountaineering." The more you look at "ethics" from a historical perspective, the more you realise it's bunk. Don't damage the rock, don't damage the place, and don't lie - they're the only things we can all agree on.*

*mostly...

In reply to C Witter:

> I'm sure things like this really were said: "These rock gymnast monkey antics are all well and good, but they're not in the spirit of serious mountaineering." The more you look at "ethics" from a historical perspective, the more you realise it's bunk. 

No, the more you realise ethics evolve.

 PaulJepson 20 Nov 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

I'd imagine if you wanted to make a name for yourself then you wouldn't risk the ridicule of pre-practicing easier routes, no. Most people just want to have fun though and don't take it all too seriously.

I wouldn't ridicule someone top-roping a VS but I might if they were giving it the biggun. 

Maybe climbing is a little more pragmatic than it was 30 years ago, and hopefully for the better.

I don't think people should be trying routes they have no business on on a top rope; someone whos max grade is 4a pedalling their way up Downhill Racer is going to be bad for the route. But is there a difference between them trying a VS on a top rope and someone who's onsighted E6 trying an E8? I don't think so.

 Andy Hardy 20 Nov 2021
In reply to PaulJepson:

Agreed. Surely the answer to the OP's question is "whatever grade you can onsight, plus 1"

 Señor Últi 20 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

Where's Fiend when you need him

In reply to Wooj:

Wow, so much fence sitting on this thread.

>=E7 = ok

E6 depends. (bold / serious might best to work, some could go on a good onsight / GU.

E5 onsight/GU all the way.

That is all. 

In reply to PaulJepson:

> Is there a difference between them trying a VS on a top rope and someone who's onsighted E6 trying an E8? I don't think so.

I actually do think so, because, whereas someone top roping a VS is very likely to be able to onsight it with a little more dedication and patience, someone who can onsight E6 is far more likely to know where their limits lie and that therefore the E8 is never going to be a realistic onsight for them.

In reply to Andy Hardy:

> Agreed. Surely the answer to the OP's question is "whatever grade you can onsight, plus 1"

I would actually have thought "whatever grade you are never realistically likely to be able to onsight plus 1". 

In reply to Wooj:

There is an obvious relationship between grade and head pointing. At one extreme, say E10, 100% are headpointed. At the other end of the scale say V diff, it’s probably 0.00001% with a strong relationship in between these points. Undoubtably head pointing becomes more common in the extreme grades, but it’s acceptable at any grade, but frowned upon on popular routes. There are no “popular” E10’s but plenty of popular E2,3,4,5’s hence the greater likelihood of getting stick on the lower grades…only if you pick the wrong route.

 HeMa 21 Nov 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I actually do think so, because, whereas someone top roping a VS is very likely to be able to onsight it with a little more dedication and patience, someone who can onsight E6 is far more likely to know where their limits lie and that therefore the E8 is never going to be a realistic onsight for them.

Actually you are wrong… to onsight E8, they just need to but a lot more time and effort in. Similarly as youbsaid that someone just starting needs to put in the effort to lead VS. Sure, the time might be longer but still.

So either headpointing is allowed, or not. The not applies for all grades. And as we know, it is allowed for the top end routes, then it is also allowed for all grades.

 HeMa 21 Nov 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I would actually have thought "whatever grade you are never realistically likely to be able to onsight plus 1". 

Indeed. Or more to the point, what I can’t realistically OS +1 or more.

 PaulJepson 21 Nov 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

People are very different. Some people are old, some are very short with t-rex arms, some have disabilities,  some have a crippling fear of height, etc.

It wouldn't be fair to draw a line anywhere based on expectations on what someone 'should' be able to climb. 

People have different goals about what they want from climbing as well. I've known of people climbing a good few grades harder and much better than me who would only toprope or second. Personally I don't really enjoy redpointing but loads of people do. 

Ondra said in a recent video that he believes everyone can climb 8a if they dedicate themselves. What does that take us to, E8? I don't think general human potential should dictate what is ethical in climbing. If you don't damage the rock more than you would trying it ground-up then who cares.

 B-team 21 Nov 2021
In reply to Alasdair Fulton:

> Wow, so much fence sitting on this thread.

Not from me. I said E8. I suspect people thought I was trolling, but I was serious - more or less. 

Advances in standards have often involved compromises or adaptations in what we call either ethics or style. But that has always been accompanied by an aspiration to improve on style/ethics. Advances in best style have always followed hard on the heels of advances in standards. Indeed, they have often been extremely close. And there is always a moving leading edge in both. So, we climb in a historical context and what is "acceptable" should always be a moving target - not least as we see massive advances in equipment and training facilities and knowledge and a huge exponential increase in access to information. 

So what are some historical contexts? E5 is often seen as one of the most important benchmarks (and perhaps an acceptable level at which to start head pointing). The grade was certainly established by the very early 1970s - 50 years ago. A climber of the 1970s looking back 50 years is contemplating routes established in 1920. E8 was established in 1986 (and had been climbed OS or GU by around 1990) - 35 years ago. If we look back 35 years to 1986, the climber of 1986 looks back 35 years to 1951. I'm just building some historical perspective on how old these grades are. 

This is very elitist, I know. But let's face it, except for a tiny handful of the very best, all of us know there are thousands and thousands of routes that will always be beyond us. And thousands and thousands of routes that aren't and that we've yet to do. 

Of course, people are free to do whatever they want. We are not governed by a rule book. But I think that makes climbing's aspiration to always try and do better even more important. 

In reply to B-team:

Mild pedantry, but E8 was established in 1983 (Requiem).

Will try to type up an actual reply later. 

 B-team 21 Nov 2021
In reply to Alasdair Fulton:

Fair point. I'd forgotten Requiem. 

 PaulTanton 21 Nov 2021
In reply to PaulTanton:

FFS! Pumpy. 

In reply to Señor Últi:

> Where's Fiend when you need him

Most likely banned and frothing at the mouth in apoplexy at some of the apologists on here.

 bpmclimb 21 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

 at what grade does it become acceptable ethically to climb a trad route in this style. Now I know this will vary but just wanted a general consensus. 

As far as I'm concerned headpointing is just a description of a process, and nothing to do with grade. Elite climbers may be headpointing at E8 minimum (and I'll follow their efforts with interest), but that doesn't mean it's wrong for me to practice an E4, say (which I have done on occasion) If someone came along and said what I was doing wasn't acceptable to them, they wouldn't get a very polite reply!

 Johnhi 21 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj

Head point anything the f*cking want.

In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

I was just comparing seconding, lowering and repeating while seconding, seconding with the leader on the ground & top roping. 

I was pointing out that seconding is similar to top-roping. If you have a tame climber (or the budget to always hire guides) then would you consider this effectively the same as top-roping?

In reply to bpmclimb:

E grades are for the onsight up to at least E6. Practicing until learnt is in essence, red pointing. 

 mrjonathanr 21 Nov 2021
In reply to timparkin:

any, or none.

In reply to Philb1950:

> E grades are for the onsight up to at least E6. Practicing until learnt is in essence, red pointing. 

Not really the same though. I recall someone doing an E9 at Black Rocks saying that, even after numerous practice attempts, there was still a move that was only 50/50 when he went for it.

In reply to Wooj:

Headpoint a VDiff if you want, the main thing about any account is honesty, so if you headpointed it and said that's what you did -- then fair play. Assuming of course that it wasn't likely to damage the route (like a route that depends on a critical pebble that you might dislodge)

 Fredt 21 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

> Ethics in climbing matter.

No they don't

> We all abide by them.

No we don't.

In reply to Fredt:

> No they don't

Incorrect

> No we don't.

Correct.

In reply to CantClimbTom:

> Assuming of course that it wasn't likely to damage the route (like a route that depends on a critical pebble that you might dislodge)

But it is ok to damage a route when onsighting? It is interesting that you appear to make this distinction.

And does this apply to E8's as well as V.Diffs? Or is that another distinction?

Post edited at 19:51
In reply to Wooj:

Headpointing in theory is equally acceptable at any grade.

But is it worthwhile (i.e. is it useful)? And this can be split into 2 halves, is it an efficient way of climbing a harder route, and is it a satisfying way of climbing a harder route?

Efficient - certainly at the leading grades of the time, it may be the only way of climbing a harder route so for those routes it would be efficient. Similarly you may have all the physical attributes to do the route but you need to improve the mental aspects; here too, headpointing is likely to be efficient.

For lower grades there are many other ways to improve; get stronger, get fitter, improve your technique, improve your headspace, etc. So it may be that one (or a combination) of these is more efficient. If you can't do some of the moves even after significant practice, then headpointing isn't going to get you there.

Satisfying - this will (obviously) depend on your personal values - how much you value onsight or ground-up or flashed compared with pre-practiced. Although the value "gap" varies with people, IMO very few people value pre-practiced as much as onsight or ground-up or flashed. Maybe the question then becomes, am I likely to be able to lead this route by one of the other methods of improvement (mentioned above); if yes, will I feel as satisfied shortcutting this by headpointing? - again the answer to that is subjective. If the other methods of improvement won't get you up the route, then headpointing will feel much more acceptable.

I believe that the reason headpointing is seen as less acceptable on lower grades is simply because those other methods of improvement are more available. Of course they are also available at higher grades, but the effort required to improve by a similar amount (to a lower grade improvement) is much greater.

In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

That was in a ground fall situation and that would be obvious. Back in the day before sport climbing and lots of people were on sighting E5 it was considered a non event and cheating if a protectable route was top roped. A trad. climb is more than the technical moves, being a whole experience and the ability to control the scare factor. Non like ticks just illustrate to me the mainly current risk averse structure of climbing. 

In reply to Wooj:

It’s interesting that most, of not all of the posts focus on the adjectival grade. My experience is pretty well black and white and is associated with the tech grade. 6a will (mostly) go ok, 6b (mostly) won’t and delineates the head point boundary nicely. French grade for trad would work even better for me. 

In reply to Philb1950:

I'm not convinced it shows that climbers are more risk averse.

Is it any more less 'risk averse' to never go for an E6 because you don't feel you are ready for the onsite than to top rope it and go for it knowing that any mistake is perilous?

 PaulJepson 22 Nov 2021
In reply to Philb1950:

The attitude to climbing and safety has changed a lot in the past few decades in that it's now a recreational activity for the many, not just the hard men. Things evolve in climbing and the attrition rate has been on a steady decline since the advent of climbing.

If people choose a cautious approach to climbing and it doesn't hurt anyone then I don't see a problem. It's not like it's going to cause the envelope to stagnate; this year we've had multiple FAs and repeats of >E9s. 

In the 60s, routes were climbed with points of aid and gradually the style was improved on as they were free-climbed. I don't really see how pre-practice is any worse than this; we still celebrate the ground-up or on-sight of a route. 

Is it more impressive and worthy of praise to on-sight an E8 than to headpoint one? Absolutely. Should it matter to anyone though? Not really. 

Post edited at 11:00
In reply to PaulJepson:

> In the 60s, routes were climbed with points of aid and gradually the style was improved on as they were free-climbed. I don't really see how pre-practice is any worse than this; we still celebrate the ground-up or on-sight of a route. 

This seems an odd parallel to draw in the context of this discussion. Yes, both aid points and headpointing have been used at the top end to push standards while leaving room for the style to be improved on with the aspiration for people to remove aid points and to onsight. But while headpointing seems to be filtering down the grades until we seem to be getting to the point where a punter can work a V.Diff without ridicule, this has very definitely not happened with aid points - use aid on a V. Diff and you have "failed", set out intending to use aid on a V.Diff and you are a joker. Why the difference? How come "failure" to onsight a punter route is being made a respectable "style of ascent" under the banner of headpointing, while frigging it is not?

Post edited at 13:21
 Hardonicus 22 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

E5 and below you have to call it toproping and face up to the shame you're feeling inside.

Post edited at 13:22
In reply to Hardonicus:

> E5 and below you have to call it toproping and face up to the shame you're feeling inside.

preplace the gear on London Wall, call it f7a+, redpoint it, and all shame is gone

 Al Randall 22 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

I think headpointing becomes "acceptable" when it is not possible to improve by climbing easier routes. So if you aspire to climb an E2 it is better IMO to climb more E1's until such time that you are capable of climbing an E2 so headpointing an E2 in that context seems like cheating.

But I'm an old fart and for me personally the essence and point of climbing is and always has been the on sight led cleanly. Everything else is to one degree or another cheating. I'm not judging or condemning this is simply my personal feeling about it. Cheating is perhaps too strong a word for what I am trying to describe.

Al

 Iamgregp 22 Nov 2021
In reply to The Thread:

Like I've said before, climbing is a contrived game with a set of rules that change all the time.  Some climbers would prefer us to play the game by the same rules they did ("We never used to headpoint things in the 70's, or below E5").

This isn't a question of ethics, it's just a question of whether people will accept people headpointing easier routes as still being valid under the rules of this contrived game as they see it. 

Given that it's an imaginary set of rules around a leisure activity, which we play in places that none of us own, and receive no financial gain from doing something one way or another.  I don't see what it matters if people want to play different rules (often disguised as "ethics").

Like I said upthread, don't harm the environment, don't spoil anything for other people, don't lie then you can do what you like.  If people are unhappy about what you're doing outside of that, that's part of their own game, not mine.

 HeMa 22 Nov 2021
In reply to Al Randall:

> I think headpointing becomes "acceptable" when it is not possible to improve by climbing easier routes.

And here lies the fallacy. You can always get better, simply by climbing more. Even at the top end.  The issue is always about marginal gains... at which point it becomes acceptable to "skip" the training period.

For a beginner going from zero to VS might actually take a few years. But with dedication from and E6 onsighter, getting to OS E7's it's about the same (albeit more dedicated approach is needed). How come the latter is OK, but the first is frowned upon.

Is it because you (and I and others) needed to go through the arduous path of groveling up slimy Diffs or VDiffs until they felt ready to tackle their first S or VS. To be honest, where I live majority of the climbing is S minimum... and they aren't of that good quality. VS's start to also have some actual good climbing and HVS-E1 is where the crap/quality balance start to be in your favor. So here, it is not that uncommon to see people "headpointing" or toproping easier routes. And later lead them (so in essence headpointing). And pretty soon they will also start OS routes they can. No does everyone do it, no... Do I do it, yeah if I want to tick something harder and with highly limited time (and actually routes close by). Which is why I mostly boulder these days. 

 wbo2 22 Nov 2021
In reply to Philb1950: but headpointing is really only a term applicable to unprotrctable , or badly protected routes.  At what grade do you consider that to be acceptable? 

 HeMa 22 Nov 2021
In reply to wbo2:

> but headpointing is really only a term applicable to unprotrctable , or badly protected routes. 

Not really, it is more in common used to describe Redpointing ethics or sportclimbing when done on a trad route. 

The risk of injury is often a sound case for the headpointing approach. But it is also done on safe, but hard routes... hard enough that they deem they have a high probability of failing. So they want the "easy" tick, thus practice it using any non destructive method available prior to the actual successful redpoint or actually the headpoint.

In fact, I would say that for trad routes, headpointing is actually "better" in the sense that you are less likely to break key protection feature. Where is this is actually more probable on a failed on sight attempt, or on a ground up attempt (e.g. Parthian Shot). The only case where headpointing (toprope practice until wired, either a fixed rope or with a belayer) should be frowned upon, is when the whole route is friable and every ascent makes it possible for the route to actually break (e.g. pebbles on Appointment with Fear and such).

But let's face it, currently (or in the past), not much focus has been put on the actual rock per se. But ones egoistic boosting has been the prime focus. This is still showing, in the sense that we rate higher a failed OS attempt breaking the route for all future generations instead of valuing the actual route. Let's remember that historically chipping and aid were fare game... now loss so chipping is almost generally not approved, and aid is only for the high mountains and new routes... waiting to be free climbed/freed.


Instead of stating always that what we think NOW is the only right thing, we should actually question which is the best in the long run... Remember, chipping was absolutely OK not so long ago.

In reply to paul__in_sheffield:

> preplace the gear on London Wall, call it f7a+, redpoint it, and all shame is gone

Maybe not the laughter though.

In reply to HeMa:

> In fact, I would say that for trad routes, headpointing is actually "better" in the sense that you are less likely to break key protection feature. Where is this is actually more probable on a failed on sight attempt, or on a ground up attempt (e.g. Parthian Shot). The only case where headpointing (toprope practice until wired, either a fixed rope or with a belayer) should be frowned upon, is when the whole route is friable and every ascent makes it possible for the route to actually break (e.g. pebbles on Appointment with Fear and such).

> But let's face it, currently (or in the past), not much focus has been put on the actual rock per se. But ones egoistic boosting has been the prime focus. This is still showing, in the sense that we rate higher a failed OS attempt breaking the route for all future generations instead of valuing the actual route.

This is the point i was making above with regard to sport routes. We drill & bolt the rock to make it safe. But bolts are just a hangover from trad - it is the non-alcoholic beer of climbing. Many venues could be saved from the damage of bolting and TR'd - which actually satisfies the objective of safety much better.

The climber who onsight TRs Hubble is better than the one who leads it on bolts after 20 sessions practice, but we'd only recognise the latters ascent!

 Mike Stretford 22 Nov 2021
In reply to Shani:

> This is the point i was making above with regard to sport routes. We drill & bolt the rock to make it safe. But bolts are just a hangover from trad - it is the non-alcoholic beer of climbing. Many venues could be saved from the damage of bolting and TR'd - which actually satisfies the objective of safety much better.

> The climber who onsight TRs Hubble is better than the one who leads it on bolts after 20 sessions practice, but we'd only recognise the latters ascent.

Nah... most sport climbing is on crags where 'chucking a top rope' on it isn't an option. So a lower off is needed, and some way to get there safely....

 jkarran 22 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

> So is head pointing the way forward and would it be acceptable say on an E3 or E4?... I’d love to know peoples opinions. 

If you want to headpoint E3, do it, if you don't, don't. Nobody else cares and even if they do, tell em to feck off and mind their own business.

jk

 Al Randall 22 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

To those who do headpoint, do you not feel that you are taking away one of the challenges and skills required to lead on sight? i.e. quickly and calmly work out the moves whilst in a position of stress. Does it not feel a bit robotic after several attempts?

In reply to Al Randall:

> To those who do headpoint, do you not feel that you are taking away one of the challenges and skills required to lead on sight? i.e. quickly and calmly work out the moves whilst in a position of stress. Does it not feel a bit robotic after several attempts?

The other side of that coin; the thrill of pushing through the fear and topping out (or even taking a fall and the gear holding).

In reply to Robert Durran:

> Maybe not the laughter though.

Well that’s certainly possible. Equally possible is that outside the online echo chamber of boomers (including me), nobody gives a rat’s ass and just gets on with having a good time whatever.

In reply to wbo2:

With modern footwear, E7. Previously with non sticky rubber E5. Wearing old  EB,s I once top roped a new E5 slab route on Curbar before leading it. One top roped ascent to check it out above an appalling landing, then go. I can still remember the feeling four decades on, but I can’t remember the names of the routes I did in Kalymnos a month ago, although some of them were very good fun with amenable holiday grades.

 wbo2 22 Nov 2021
In reply to Philb1950: actually I should have been clearer about the grade I meant... at what English tech grade would you think onsight dangerous moves becomes untenable- English 6B? I think that has a bit more meaning in this context than the grade.

 Don't Slip Now?  Good route

 Michael Gordon 22 Nov 2021
In reply to Al Randall:

> To those who do headpoint, do you not feel that you are taking away one of the challenges and skills required to lead on sight? i.e. quickly and calmly work out the moves whilst in a position of stress.

Generally there's more skill involved on onsighting a particular route than headpointing it. But if you only headpoint stuff which you wouldn't have managed ground-up, then you aren't really avoiding the challenge since the alternative is not doing the route.

"Does it not feel a bit robotic after several attempts?"

The final lead should be well executed since you know the moves, gear etc. It can sometimes feel a bit like that, yes.

Post edited at 20:16
 GrahamD 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Wooj:

Anyone can pre - practice a VS.  Just don't expect anyone to take any claims of being a "VS climber" with anything other than amusement. 

In reply to GrahamD:

> Anyone can pre - practice a VS.  Just don't expect anyone to take any claims of being a "VS climber" with anything other than amusement. 

Obviously the same goes for any other grade (or at least it obviously should).

 cb294 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Al Randall:

Different ways of enjoying climbing, I guess. Figuring out moves at the absolute top end of  my technical ability can be great fun, and I sometimes even work sports routes on top rope for that purpose.

Leading sports or trad routes at a slighty lower level is different.

CB

 jkarran 11:51 Tue
In reply to Al Randall:

> To those who do headpoint, do you not feel that you are taking away one of the challenges and skills required to lead on sight? i.e. quickly and calmly work out the moves whilst in a position of stress.

Surely that's the very point of it.

> Does it not feel a bit robotic after several attempts?

My experience is mostly on bolts but no, it's very satisfying while you're making progress and once you're tantalisingly close you're really invested in it, each go feels a big deal.

jk

In reply to jkarran:

> Surely that's the very point of it.

> > Does it not feel a bit robotic after several attempts?

> My experience is mostly on bolts but no, it's very satisfying while you're making progress and once you're tantalisingly close you're really invested in it, each go feels a big deal.

> jk

Same for me bouldering, always looking for stuff that won’t go now, but could with some work. I really enjoy that.

 HeMa 13:14 Tue
In reply to Al Randall:

> To those who do headpoint, do you not feel that you are taking away one of the challenges and skills required to lead on sight? Does it not feel a bit robotic after several attempts?

Yes for the former, after all as we currently rate things, clean OS is about as good as it can get, be it actually a bolted line, a trad line or boulder (ok, technically can be arqued that for boulders it's always flash).

As for the latter, I guess it could. But at least for me, the practice rounds haven't been that extensive. Quite often it is a play or two on fixed roped to clean it and check out the moves gear/clips. Then it is time to lead and it'll often go on the first headpoint/redpoint. But I'm not much into properly working routes (or even boulders) and very rarely put considerable effort into them (multiple working sessions etc.). Realistically speaking, if the route is clean I might actually have a change of OS it. But due to time constraints, I don't have the time to keep it the needed fitness/stamina or amount of suitable routes around within reasonable distance. Other are in a better position than me, and I can certainly value their approach.

Out of interest, I had to check out the fabled London Wall (E5 6a) and it has about 200 public ascents. Of those ascents 23% are either Lead O/S or Lead G/U. Naturally some older entries don't have anything on the style... but still a lot (~3/4 or even 4/5) that are using UKC Logbooks, have climbed London Wall using other methods than OS or G/U....

 JIMBO 17:45 Tue
In reply to Wooj:

I still can't work out if I can use chalk, guide books, cams, anything other than pebbles and hemp rope, sticky rubber, word of mouth rumour of crucial gear, abseil inspection, video beta, bouldering mats, crack gloves, brush sticks, knee bar pads, tape, and if any climbs on other rock types other than grit actually count as worthy!

Personally, as a I have less free time now and broken legs which won't take much falling or decking out, I'd rather climb a route in a 'lesser' style  rather than not climb a great route at all.

 HeMa 19:14 Tue
In reply to JIMBO:

> I still can't work out if I can use chalk, guide books, cams, anything other than pebbles and hemp rope, sticky…

if you wanna be on the safe side, only solo routes naked in the dark, preferably with a blindfold.

 gazhbo 22:49 Tue
In reply to Al Randall:

> To those who do headpoint, do you not feel that you are taking away one of the challenges and skills required to lead on sight? i.e. quickly and calmly work out the moves whilst in a position of stress.

Maybe, but I get so unreasonably stressed by not knowing what's coming up in terms of gear/holds that, even on "safe" routes, I can't get up stuff that's well within my ability and, after a while, it just isn't any fun.

It's fine when you're able to get out all the time, but now that I can can only get out rarely, it is much better experience for me (and certainly my belayer) for me to have a look at some gear and maybe practice some moves before having a go, than to spend 2 hours shitting my pants strung out on a ledge, all for the sake of climbing in "better" style or having a harder challenge.

I'd hardly call it headpointing, although I have done a bit of that as well.

Does it not feel a bit robotic after several attempts?

Sometimes, but if the route's hard/necky then you've still got to get to the top of it.  

In reply to gazhbo:

Maybe you need to O/S more routes within your grade so to build on your mental side of climbing, How many time's have climbers got the leg shake and soon as you place that runner you calm down, it's that that needs to be controlled .

We all climb routes for different reasons and should continue to do that but for me O/Siting is so more mentally satisfying . 

As Al Randall say's .

Keith s


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