Fear of falling/failure came up in another thread and inspired me to try to find out something I've wondered for a while.
I have a story familiar to many; I was steadily leading at a grade I was sort of happy with for ages, and had never fallen onto trad gear and didn't want to. Then one day it happened, and it was ok, and the routes-I'd-get-on menu suddenly expanded massively. I'm still not ok with lobbing off, but a whole world opened up and the grade of the routes I was enjoying predictably shot up too.
So, UKC, how hard were you regularly climbing when you took your first lob? What is the consensus on that magical grade that you don't really get past without having taken a whipper? I know what I think it is, but lets hear your thoughts.
First fall onto gear - Goliaths Groove (HVS), only a small fall (<1m) but cam ripped and I fell onto my back onto the rocks at the bottom so I knew about it.
First proper "lob" - SS Special (E2) in Llanberis pass, defining proper lob as having enough time to turn around and see the crag flying past. Gear held and it was fine though.
Incidentally, I fell off a Vdiff whilst soloing at Stanage once, my foot slipped and I landed from maybe 8ft-10ft onto the grass on my arse. At that point I concluded it could happen anywhere and didnt solo any more.
A VS jamming crack that I tried to layback not long after I started to climb, its now graded HVS 5a.
A VS on Pavey, about 30 feet from memory. Many others since especially it seems in more recent times. Most seem to be because of loose rock, both footholds & handholds!
I literally fell off my first ever lead a VDiff...i was only about 2 moves up though and slipped off.
I cant remember what my first proper fall on to gear was on though. But i have fell off VS, HVS, E1 and E2 and if i keep trying to climb harder i might even manage to make myself fall off E3 and E4.
Doubt ill ever fall off E5.
Edit: my first proper fall on to gear could have been Queersville HVS 5a at Stanage. The description said at the break make a long move up then go right. In my head i had make a long move right then move up. After failing on the move about 5 times i gave up. On getting home i read the guidebook again and realised what id done. It turns out i had been trying to move on to the E3 5c Arete of The Nose.
I took so many falls in my early climbing career that it's hard to remember the first, but I was probably climbing in/around the E3 mark. From afar (and potentially even close up) I probably looked extremely reckless, but on the other hand it did give me a sense of confidence in what good gear actually was and how well it holds if you place it correctly.
In light of the above I don't think it was my first fall, but Comes the Dervish was probably my most memorable from in/around that time, because I really really wanted to onsight it. I think I got to the section where it moves right when I came unstuck and (if I recall correctly) took not just one, but several falls - the best/worst of which was when I inverted. Odd thing is I just kept going and eventually made it to the top in a time greater than it took the Huber brothers to climb Zodiac on El Cap (which I remember being reported in the mags around the same time).
Glad I got that stage out my system...
My first fall, as opposed to a hang on gear, was on (or rather off!) an E4 at Stanage. I'm sure I must have succeeded on many other E4s before that.
I think it is just different for individuals. I'd been climbing for what felt like ages (4-5 years) when I fell off for the first time. I'd been very steady at HVS 5a for most of that time but always felt 5b was a big step up so hadn't done an E1. I was on Om (HVS 5b) at Stoney and just ran out of energy. I remember desperately clinging on, too tired to move up or down, for what felt like an age, looking at the gear which wasn't that far away but... I fell (about 7 ft) and it was great, like falling into marshmallow. Made me feel a lot better about the prospect of falling but didn't change a thing. I continued at that grade, working the odd 5b, still solid at HVS 5a, and eventually made progress without falling very often.
My outlook has changed slowly over years and now I am ok with the prospect of a 'safe' fall (but still would sooner not most of the time. I sometimes wonder if part of the reluctance to fall is because, when I started climbing, I was told that you should retire a rope after three small falls or one big one. Even now I don't like the idea of wearing the rope out falling on it.
First proper lob onto gear was from the lip of the Sloth circa 85.
I’d led the route a few months before with no issues but on the day of the fall we’d done Sauls crack and a couple of other routes so arms were suffering somewhat. I placed a No 11 hex (still got it) at the lip, pulled round the overhang and just ran out of steam. My belayer flew through the air gracefully according to a bystander.
> So, UKC, how hard were you regularly climbing when you took your first lob? What is the consensus on that magical grade that you don't really get past without having taken a whipper?.....
I was just getting into HVS. Then I thought I know, I'll lead Leg Slip (E1 5b) - it was then HVS. I took a massive lob. My second then led it and I found it hard to second. It's now E1
Just don't fall off at Blackchurch, that's my wisdom folks
I think it was Birch Tree Wall Eliminate (E4 6a) E4 at Black rocks. I’d fallen off other stuff before, but this was the first time it was during a big move rather than running out of steam/ misreading a move. The first ascentionist was holding my ropes at the time and he had ‘mentioned’ the difference in our relative height but I didn’t pay attention......
I read the move from the undercut correctly but came up a bit short. I got it next time. I got a ’try your best for an onsight but if it doesn’t come off, it’s all part of getting better’ from the people I learned to climb with, so no big deal.
I'm struggling to remember my first "proper" fall. I had certainly climbed up to E2 before I fell off, although I'd probably rested on gear a few times on other routes.
I was a wall bred climber and at the time the old experienced climbers at my wall were old school trad heads. I actually can't remember ever seeing anyone falling on lead at the wall until I did it myself. I was probably about 15 at the time. I knew so little that I didn't really understand that ropes were designed to absorb the shock of the fall; I expected to be snapped in two if I went any kind of distance. Then, one day, the inevitable happened and I came off on an overhang. I remember being quite shocked that it was fine.
First slump (and second, and third) was on Chequers Crack (HVS 5c) which had looked like a nice inviting first HVS lead (ha!)
First really memorable one was a couple of years later though, some scruffy crackline on Malham left wing on the third day of a long weekend in which I'd lead my first E3. Tired arms, greasy conditions and over-commitment resulted in a thirty footer with my feet brushing the turf at the end of it. That was an important lesson.
My first proper fall was on Cenotaph Corner back in the days before there was reliable gear. I fell from about 50 feet onto a situ sling a few feet below me. The sling broke and I ended up in hospital. This was also before the days of E1, E2 etc. it was simply Extreme. I had climbed several Extremes in the peak mainly at Millstone Edge and a couple at Stanage and fooled myself that I was an Extreme climber. I wasn't. I was climbing Extreme at Millstone because I was familiar with the character and style of the rock but did not have the experience to translate that to other rock types. There wasn't that much on Limestone back in those days and what did exist was mostly on aid.
I had been climbing for years before my first proper trad fall. Slowly working through the grades, not really pushing myself at all.
Fell off a VS jamming crack, was going well but slipped off rounded holds at the top of the crack, good gear no drama. Like you something 'clicked' and whilst my grade didn't jump up all of a sudden, weirdly my confidence grew hugely and I have enjoyed the process of climbing harder (for me) routes since.
My first real fall was on The Plum at Tremadoc way back in the 1960s so no harnesses just waist ties, second was using a waist belay. This was when it was done in 3 or 4 short pitches and I fell off the easy bit at the top of the wide crack-my hands just slipped off-it was a hot day and chalk hadn't been invented, Luckily I had a bomber runner around a chockstone but I flipped upside down and spun round to a great cheer from the carpark. My second was almost pulled up to the runner but was most upset that he'd dropped his rollup. Frightened me to death so we abbed off and went for a cup of tea. Did it later with little fuss.
Most embarrassing fall was a 2 foot groundfall at Stanage off Crack and Corner. I'd been extolling the virtues of Stanage to my climbing partner who was fairly new to the game. I thought that this was a good introduction to Stanage. I stepped on the first rather polished hold without cleaning my boots(sorry folks) and then slipped cracking my knee on said hold giving me a dead leg I had to be helped down the slope back to the car which my mate drove home. My knee came up like a balloon. Lesson learned - clean your boots before you set off.
First fall was pretty early in my climbing career, third or fourth time outside, on a VS at Gardom's. I just inexplicitly slipped on an easy move. Second was The Toy.
Edit: Actually, I'm wrong. Second was not The Toy, it was Curving Crack at Bamford, or, rather, not actually Curving Crack at Bamford. I did the thing where I look at the topo and not read the description and went straight up the arete instead of going around the corner, until there was nowhere to go. Silly!
I think Kelly's Overhang (HVS 5b), after about 2½ years climbing, in 1970. I ended up about five feet above the deck and was quite shaken. Didn't have another go. The only other one I can remember was a very small one of about four feet off the first very hard move on the Ochre Slab of Vector, in 1983. For some reason that didn't put me off at all. I just had a long rest, staring at the slab, memorising every single possible foothold, and then it went fine. I think there might have been some other small falls, but I really can't remember. On Bachelor's Left-hand (HVS 5b) in the 1990s, I think I had a small fall, but that was more of a 'grab-the-runner' job. Went OK on second attempt.
Once past the beginner stage, a lot of my early climbing up through the grades was at Avon, which isn't the best place to practice falling off! Avon repays a careful approach and that carried over into most of my early climbing anyway. My first significant fall was on Slender Loris. I hadn't been out for ages, but agreed to follow it, but my mate struggled with the hard move low down. Swapped over and got through that move and the pumpy groove that followed, but fell as I was about to clip the peg just below the top. Predictably, the cam in the (very) sloping break ripped and two small wires broke their placements as well, so I ended up lower than the stance - something like sixty feet. Needless to say, this didn't encourage me to change my style!
I took my first leader fall off Spreadeagle (VS 5a) circa 1982 when I'd been climbing about a year and a half.
I mostly sport climb these day; am redpointing in the low 7's somewhat regularly & quite recently fell off a 6a.
> Then one day it happened, and it was ok, and the routes-I'd-get-on menu suddenly expanded massively.
For me the breakthrough in sport climbing was the first time I deliberately set foot on a route I didn't think I had any chance of onsighting.
Like many others I can't really remember - I suspect I had some "technical" falls - grabbing gear, slumping onto a runner, that sort of thing. The first "proper" fall I remember was off Stonefall Crack Direct (HVS 5a), at Dumby. I was climbing confidently upwards away from my gear, and nearly getting into the chimney bit at the top where there is more gear and my Kamet Joshua Tree boots (which had a little hole in the toe by that point) came off a little edge and down I went. My biggest gear was a Friend #3 and that was my top gear as the crack widens after that. One of my rope got behind my leg and flipped me into a lying flat position. That hurt my back but perhaps saved me from worse because I remember I finished hanging in a lying position not far above some ledge at the bottom of the route! It was one of those falls where you just retreat to the pub afterwards.
> a lot of my early climbing up through the grades was at Avon, which isn't the best place to practice falling off!
Same here: my first VS, HVS and E1 were all there. Good place to develop an overly strong "leader must not fall" attitude.
My first fall was on a route unclimbed at the time in Lester Mill quarry. I forget what it's called but it's now given E2, I think; I was just breaking into leading VS at the time, the route next to it was VS, it didn't look too much different so off I went and off I came. Rather shook me up.
Otherwise, never fallen on what was my limit (E1) before MS restricted me. Took a good lob off the very end of the second pitch of Spectre (HVS 5a) once though; which was nice.
> I literally fell off my first ever lead a VDiff
> I cant remember what my first proper fall on to gear was on though. But i have fell off VS, HVS, E1 and E2
I've never seen you fall off a VS
> First fall onto gear - Goliaths Groove (HVS), only a small fall (<1m) but cam ripped and I fell onto my back onto the rocks at the bottom so I knew about it.
Similar for me. I tried the "hero's method", bridging not using the crack and it's alright for a bit, but as you get about 15ft up, nearly in reach of where the crack narrows the angles change slightly that was that. I was on crutches for a bit, but nothing broken. Up til that point (I'd been climbing less than a year) I just wobbled up stuff, putting shit gear in and only when it was easy enough to do so, rather than where it was needed. Falling off and hitting the ground at that stage was a useful lesson.
> First proper "lob"
I think there must have been a few falls (definitely lots of slumping onto gear) but one of the only memorable ones was from the top of The Big Greeny (E3 5c) - classic! Inverted, ended up near the ground, light belayer somewhere around the same level. Didn't go back for more.
That was years ago. Last few years I've been so terrified of falling I haven't tried anything challenging. Or when I have, I haven't gone for it, and just ended up grinding to a halt rather than falling off. If I ever get back into doing trad at my limit, it's the thing I'd need to tackle, but I'm not sure that's going to happen.
My first real fall was on Sloth when I was keenly pushing into the HVS grade. Sloth was at my limit at the time and although the lower wall was bone dry the mist had descended on the upper headwall. Thinking I was hardcore I just put a sling around the cheese block below the roof and gunned it. Upon getting to the lip I realised how wet the headwall was trying to claw at the gopping holds the pump became too much and I ended up taking the ride. I landed below the pedestal perfectly fine. The biggest fall I ever took and what should’ve been a wake up call to place more gear. Alas I just returned a little later a little stronger and on a dry day and did it in very similar style.
Oh god, the second pitch of Spectre. My guide at the time (Rockfax Pokketz I think) had a *very* wrong tech grade and length on that pitch, 10m 4a or something along those lines, so when I got to the 5a bit I judged that not to be the way and followed a line of least resistance. Ended up on a very quickly irreversible diagonal girdle leftwards, past no gear for what must have been 20m, past crap holds, monos, grass, and fear. Thankfully did not fall, emerged half way along the slab between Nea and Spectre.
On Sin (VS 4c) after about a year's climbing; it was my first time attempting a VS lead. Got past the crux, then a foot slipped and I fell I suppose about 6 feet onto my shiny new hex, which thankfully held. I can still remember my surprise at the enjoyable feeling of being airborne.
I also had a spell of visiting Shorncliffe and having a fall caused by loose rock on every visit. On one, I grasped to top of the crag, turned my brother and said 'blimey, that was quite run out above that tiny wire' just as the whole top of the crag exploded. I remember the look of horror on Steve's face and the subsequent white-faced solemnity as he survey the size of the block that landed about three inches to his left! Another was on a route described as 'climb the apparently detached, but actually solid, lumps' - on this I turned to my second and said ' this is fun, they don't look solid, but...' just as two of them exploded. Luckily, I landed on him.
In answer to the original query, I'm not sure that I fell off anything until I got to E4.
Ignoring ignominious gear grabs and other untidy retreats, I think The Tippler or Sirplum, both into space thankfully
Baskerville on East Raven in Langdale. I'd been introduced to climbing as a student and wanted to do a VS, after serving a short apprenticeship on Lakeland VD and S. Caught safely by Paul, who got rope burns from the body belay and who went on to become an MIC and lecturer in Outdoor Education. The 'success' of the fall did absolutely nothing for my climbing progress and VS remained a fearsome grade for me for another five years or more.
Living near the Peak District and getting better at not falling off was far more productive!
I had my first proper big fall off Crossing the Line (E3 5c) at Eastby. I'd been climbing about four years at the time and I think it was my first attempt at onsighting E3. It's a bold slab, but the guidebook says a very low cam should hold in the event of a fall. I was a pretty bold climber back in the day. Some judgemental souls said reckless. Unusually for me I decided as an insurance policy to put a big sling round a boulder on the ledge part way up the crag where the route starts. I got completely stuck, spread-eagled on the slab, knowing whichever point of contact I moved next I was off. Eventually I submitted to my fate and took the plummet. Said plummet took rather longer than expected - not quite as far as the ground but pretty damn close. I started mouthing off at my mate belaying but stopped when he pointed at the cam dangling on the rope. I decided I wasn't ready for bold E3 but given the lack of emotional response my slight neurodiversity confers was able promptly to shuffle over and do The Padder (E1 5b), without even bothering to untie. Still need to go back and do Crossing The Line though. I can easily find it in the guidebook, as the page still bears the bloodstains!
When I had my first trad fall I had just started leading hvs. I took a ground fall on a vdiff.
My first trad fall was off The Left Unconquerable (E1 5b), safely onto the nest of cams, the placing of which probably contributed to falling off shortly afterwards...
Unfortunately these days, leading VS on limestone means that any falls are likely to be unprotected onto the last grotty ledge, so I'm still as nervous of falling as ever!
Fell off a VS after only a few days climbing. Thankfully it was steep and the gear held. I could always see that a wedge-shaped nut is going to get pulled down into a crack which narrows as it goes down and therefore hold a fall, so never had any trouble trusting my gear and good to get a fall out the way early.
Pretty sure there is no 'magical grade' where most people start falling off on. For one thing, you only get better by attempting gradually harder routes, so although you may plateau eventually at, say, E2, it's likely you'll fall off when attempting some HVS at a time when you weren't as good.
My first (rock-climbing) fall was off the very top of the last pitch Thin Wall Special in at Bosigran. It was fully dark, and I couldn't see the finishing hold!
My second was off Iago on Heron Crag also in 1971, when I don't think it had had a second ascent. I climbed the overhanging second (crux) pitch, at the top of which there was a point of aid (a piece of old guttering hammered into a crack) to rest on. I draped a sling over the rather inadequate small spike this presented - and very stupidly didn't clip into the sling before trying to get my foot up into it, which I couldn't do without pulling the sling off the spike. Eventually I flew off backwards in a horizontal position, just clipping a heel on the edge of the ledge on which Roger Baxter-Jones, my second, was belayed. (That chipped my heel bone). My only piece of gear, about six feet from the stance, flicked off and I fell a full 70 feet straight onto Rogers' waist (a fall factor 2) and came to halt a couple of feet off the ground (having fallen down the whole first pitch). In those days I was still using a Troll waist belt with no leg loops, and the edge of the belt chopped my Norwegian sweater and grazed my stomach. As I was lying in the grass, Martin Boysen turned up to do the same climb. He spent a least an hour very elegantly climbing up and down to just beneath my sling, which amazingly hadn't fallen off and was still swinging in the breeze - but he didn't manage to get up, which made me feel slightly less bad about my fall.
So my first ride was on Embankment 3 (E1 5b) at millstone in my first year of trad climbing, I'd been going great all week, headpointed San Melas (E3 5c), onsighted The Sloth (HVS 5a) and Flying Buttress Direct (E1 5b) and did three pocket slab at the roaches. I'd seconded embankment 3 without too much trouble a few months previous in March. What I didn't realise was a thing due to my inexperience was conditions and day on day fatigue.
So when I tried to do it again on a massively hot day, I got to the peg and it had no tat to clip like there was for my friend when I'd seconded it. I also didn't have/couldn't find the right size gear to protect the moves ahead as I'd either used it lower down when I was lacing the route or wasn't fit enough to hold on for long enough to find a suitable alternative. At this point I decided to cut my losses and sit on a shit cam I'd placed as I suspected it wouldn't take a whip so didn't want to push on. It spat out and I took the ride to the next piece of gear.
In addition to this I feel like doing loads of sport climbing this winter readjusted my fear of falling and getting on routes. As I used to be scared above a bolt on sport. I thought to myself if I'm scared climbing hard above the safety of a bolt how can push on above bomber gear on trad? However I never had chance to carry that momentum into trad season
Loads of good answers there, thanks all. Now to flip it around for question 2:
Raise your hand if you're operating at or above E4 and you've never taken a ride 😆
> My second was off Iago on Heron Crag also in 1971, when I don't think it had had a second ascent.
Just to put the record straight, my brother Jack with Dave Barton and Tony 'wing commander Nick' Nicholls (of Troll wall fame) did Iago in the late 60's. Nick elected to lead the second pitch, blew it and took the same fall as you did, down the first pitch and straight onto the belay. This added to the then growing reputation of how Nick gained the 'wing commander' nickname. Jack and Dave thought this was hilarious (Nick didn't he was fuming) cos Nick tore his new climbing trousers so bad he had to throw them away after. He wasn't hurt though, only his pride.
Dave then dispatched the second pitch with ease, without the recourse to the use of the aid sling.
Thanks for the very interesting historical note. I thought that Tony Nicholls had done the first ascent and didn't know that he had taken the same fall as me. So hats off to Dave Barton for leading that pitch, having just witnessed the serious fall!
Seem to remember mine being off Adultress on Trial Wall. I was an HVS leader at the time but had seconded harder so gave it a blast. Got to pumped at the break after the overhang and dropped off. Solid gear below made it ok. Did it next go....
I fell off on a severe when that was my max grade. I had only been climbing a few months and was hung over.
Your theory doesn't apply to everyone. Certainly in my case I have to build confidence on trad by climbing more and being successful, falling certainly doesn't help. I'm sure everyone reacts differently to these things - as they also do in sport climbing, where some people seem to benefit from fall practice and others don't.
> whilst my grade didn't jump up all of a sudden
Unlike your belayer!
When I started climbing I’ve always just tried to climb everything I can despite the grade so I’ve just mainly fallen off every time I’ve been climbing since 2007. Don’t think I’ve fallen of anything below VS and occasionally I get up stuff.
Had never fallen off on trad until 2018. It was a headpointed E5 6b, top of my current trad range. Fell off the crux but knew it was safe, so didn't feel like a big deal. Never taken any proper wingers onto gear!
Hangover on haytor , my hardest lead at the time i think. Touched the jug at the top for a second till pumping out and nearly decking out ha ha
Never taken a proper lob onto gear. Have onsighted upto e6. Not sure I have ever hung on gear properly other than at belays either. Such a pussy!
I had to check my logbook for this. First slump into gear was E15b. Prior to that I had managed a grand total of 13 trad leads (including 1 at E1) without falling off.
My first dob was off Fingernail (VS 4c) in Wilton 1. I was just starting to lead VS and barn-doored off a crack near the top. Must have fallen 10 or 20 ft onto a Chouinard stopper 12.. Bombproof! I happily missed the iron spike on the way down. It was only Severe 4a in the '86 guide, so it came as a bit of a surprise...
The stopper has become a treasured bit of gear.
Memory is a bit hazy but seem to recall that my first fall was at Burbage North and a bit unexpected in that I thought I was on a VS and had been getting up VSs ok at the time so wasn’t expecting any issues. But they move turned out to be harder than expected and I took a small fall onto bomber gear. Later turned out it was an HVS.
Can’t remember my next fall. By the time I got to E4 I was regularly lobbing off but there had definitely been a fair few falls in the lower E grades as well.
I’d say it would be hard (but not impossible) to get much beyond E1 without ever falling off. As the climbing gets harder, most people can’t keep onsighting all the time while pushing the grade. The other thing which is key is that to push the grade into the Es you have to have confidence in your gear and the only way to gain that confidence is from experience of lobbing when it’s safe to do so.
It’s good to take a big but safe whipper now and then to build confidence and remind yourself that good gear does hold. Wouldn’t say i like falling off but I can rationalise the situation and commit if it’s safe to do so (if it’s not, I make sure I don’t fall off by having a fair bit in reserve when getting onto serious routes, for example at South Stack).
Goucho and sihills above are both ones who seem to have reached E6 without ever falling off! But I agree with you about confidence in gear and it's hard not to reach the conclusion (usually denied by Goucho) that they nearly always had a little in reserve, otherwise they would have fallen off.
Remember mine well... My 1st HVS attempt: suicide wall - Cratcliffe. Got slightly lost and pumped after the bower traverse. Wanted it clean so much I just kept going too pumped to place gear hoping for a rest that didn't come. Fall Came to a stop just above the dead tree. Hate pump... Do you climb faster in hope or start retreating?
Trained so hard before the second attempt I had the endurance to recover all the way up the climb.. that was a game changer for me.
Oak tree crack HS on ilkley moor. Basically I scrambled onto the tree stump sticking out of the rock and then rolled back falling to my gear well below where my feet were.
The highest gear I placed was the sketchiest looking nut ever, but I'd managed to find a bomber cam placement about 30cm below it and just left the nut in place. Somehow the nut held.
There are always exceptions. Goucho wasn’t a real person though.
Lovely story. Thanks
man good question!
First fall I ever had on trad was a full deck! From the top of some random, embarrassingly easy, around S 4a kinda grade .
8 metres up, two bits of gear ripped. last bit of kit held, and belayer (legend!) saved my life by running back quick enough so at least my body didn't hit full impact, but i span around on the rope and head smacked the floor (had helmet on thank goodness).
I was out for a bit and dont remember any of it really, except for lots of lovely kaleidoscope colours as I came too and what a wonderful view i was looking at, not knowing how id gotten to where I was. Taken to hospital and Doc said I was fine. Went back to work that evening too.
Also ground out on 'Now Or Never' at Burbage.....so I guess it's never.
BUT....the BEST fall by far was on 'The Rasp E2' at Higger. Right at the top! Ran it out due to blinding pump, was on the final little traverse to get out the top and just fell out. Huge lob down the wall to over halfway , was so fun, was almost worth dropping the onsight for! got it next run.
Some great reads here.
My first lob was off Stennis Pillar (HVS 5a), and still a memorable one now, 15 years and gawd knows how many falls later. It was a cold, muggy January weekend, but we were young and keen so drove across to Pembroke. I'd been leading for about a year and had done the occasional E1 or E2, but was really still consolidating at HVS. I stood at Stennis Head and wondered what to have a go at, trying to match the text descriptions with the kinda-dry rock in front of me. With all our mates out of sight & sound round the corner, we could have been anywhere. Stennis Pillar (ie. the gaping cleft left of Pleasure Dome) looked savagely unlikely at HVS - I was immediately drawn to it. And once on it, the route seemed just as unlikely. At the top of the chasm, I traversed left on damp holds with the rock dropping away below. Going up seemed preposterous so I continued to traverse way left until I eyed up a steep open groove rising above. Looked hard. Still, couldn't see a better way. I placed a hex at foot level, extended it loads and set off upwards. A few moves in, it felt hard but I knew the hex some metres below me was bomber, and below that was air so it would be a safe fall if it happened. And so I continued to climb up, studiously failing to get any more gear in and only succeeding to get mortally pumped. I climbed up a bit further until I couldn't bare to increase the length of this now-inevitable fall any further. I shouted a warning to Jack and jumped off backwards into space. Not sure I'd have the kahunas for that today.
I guess a linked question would be what’s the greatest difference you’ve had between what ‘on paper’ you should cruise up and what, in reality, was a comprehensive failure… I’ve heard of several very good climbers coming unstuck in Jammed Boulder Gully (3) (though I’ve yet to go in there myself, need to remedy that as soon as lockdown is over!). For me though, this would be Monolith Crack (HS) a few years ago. It got Severe in the guide and looked a great objective for part of a link-up in big boots in Cwm Idwal on a rainy day. Ha! I don’t think I’ve ever underestimated a climb so much.
Jammed Boulder Gully is kind of fun but it’s very serious in places. Not a bad route in winter though.
Ha that sounds very erm brave I haven’t climbed lots but a simple slip leading to a fall on an easy route did give me confidence in gear ( bomber gold cam ). I think the outcome of the fall or seeing/hearing about bad falls can be off putting. As can route Or crag reputations being built up as scary! From your post the level of individual psyche can definitely push you further. It does me, I had hardly climbed but did some HVS and E1s as I was Uber keen for them.
speaking of scrambles I think it was you that took one of my friends up the dubh ridge, Skye a few years ago ? It’s on my list as soon as lockdown ends here !
Lots of cowardly little technical falls - like repeatedly slumping onto the gear in the top bit of Chequers' crack, amongst others -
But my only respectable lead lobs I can remember are:
Flying Buttress Direct - from the lip, pulled out a small cam from a perfect looking horizontal slot near the edge. Ended up near my belayer on rope stretch. Retreated, did it another day.
TPS - froze on the rockover, toppled backwards. Little sideways nut in the slot held. Got back on and did it 2nd go.
Demon Wall Almscliffe , slapping about for that final hold, obviously.
Oh, and two repeated splashdowns off of Freeborn Man. Need to try another day.
Don't think I've properly fallen on mountain rock or trad sea cliffs ever. Just pathetic slithers onto gear for "rests" or quickdraw grabs and other assorted cheating.
Anybody struggling with falling should read the 'Rock Warriors Way' by Arno Ilgner.
About when I fell properly for the first time....E2'ish Can't remember off what tho!
The 'ledge' was covered in soil and scrittle. Went almost to the bottom, twice. However, I'd cleaned enough muck off for my partner's attempt to succeed, the git! ;)
But I've always been a 'you don't fall off' type. I suppose after 20 years off I was back up to vs/hvs, but it looked a goer.
My first fall was Studio (HS 4b) at Castle Naze, a bit of a damp day and should have known better, fell low down onto a single piece which sinched down really well.
First larger fall with time to think that was a silly thing to do was Curving Crack (VS 4c) when I slipped right at the end of the traverse and my last piece was a fair way back across, slid, swung, bounced, smashed into my belayer's head, but that's the nature of the route. Patched up his wounds pulled the rope and started again, made that step around without incident.
Before that fell out of Bond Street (HVS 5a) but didn't go too far as my waist was only a couple of feet above my gear. Big hexes are brilliant at holding falls.
Always terrified of taking a fall but didn't stop me getting into some tight situations, mainly soloing away from the bunch and getting on loose rock. Spent much too much time climbing at Swansea in '71 so only lasted a year at Uni. However, despite not falling, I was awarded a St John's Ambulance first aid book at the annual Dinner ("you're going to need this one day...."). Took me a long time to get back to earlier grades after leaving and having to get a job but finally got back to the HVS sort of level. Should have taken a few falls to up my grade really.
Hey midgetgem. Nice one on taking a safe (if accidental) fall and gaining confidence in your gear. I think that experiences like that all help dampen down the emotional 'noise' (like being scared of a route's reputation or having an undue fear of falling - not saying that's you!) and enable someone to better make a cool-headed decision about a situation. I agree that psyche is a huge factor - and I guess the tricky thing is being self-aware enough to be aware of your psyche level and other emotional factors in the first place so that you can make good (personal) decisions. I say that because it's all personal at the end of the day and one person's bravery is another person's foolishness, which is another person's walk in the park. For me, when the emotional noise drops away and you find yourself flowing up a route, climbing well, making a series of good micro-decisions, well it's just magic.
Talking of falling off - or rather not falling off, without a serious risk of death - if you haven't read it yet, check out Mick Ward's excellent article on 60s climbing just published on here. Truly a different era!
And yep, very probably it was me with your pal on the Dubh ridge. 4 of us did it on a gloriously sunny day, when I was living up near Inverness, 5 years ago I think. Beautiful position. Remember finding a big antler on the descent. Enjoy!
First leading fall was off Daydream (HS) in the Avon Gorge in the 60's. Just fell off pulling over into the groove, not expecting it. I was unhurt and discussing with second what to do next (only 10' off the ground) when he panickedly shouted up that my arse was on fire and sure enough there was heavy smoke coming from my back trouser pocket. I had had a box of Swan Vestas in my back pocket and must have hit the rock with my arse on the way down and in those days I used to wear, like many others, hairy tweed breeches which were in the process of self-immolation. He dropped me down and beat out the flames so no harm resulted except to the trouser. My next fall, again unexpected, was right at the top off the crack on Triermain Eliminate and that was my top grade when I fell off Daydream.
My first fall was whilst pegging Embankment Route 3 at Millstone.
There was snow on the floor and I had been on the route for about 2 hours so my mate had probably shaken himself to sleep. Quite close to the top I placed a small leaf peg, stood up and shot down. By the time I came to rest, about 10 ft from the floor, my mate was dangling opposite me, having just found the point of balance, which was quite uncomfortable on a waist belay. Don’t t know how I managed to slide down the side of 8 or 9 pegs without ruining my personal equipment.
This was in 1960 before you could get fingers into those lovely cracks. Two more falls on Stoney due to loose rock only reinforced the lifetime ingrained mantra “I must not fall”.
Ive climbed outside since last April (19) but I would say this is my first legit season (thanks covid)
I actually had my first "bad" fall yesterday, so great was it that i managed it twice and it was on a "warm up" 6b+ slab..
Second clip in on slab while being left of the 3rd bolt.
Was going well till my right foot popped with moving out right and I f*cking seemingly cartwheeled right off the wall, somehow I went upside down (guessing my leg went behind as i shot off) and narrowly missed KO'ing myself.
Few cuts and abit shook but mostly pissed off, dusted myself off, got up and went again...
Same spot, brain said hell no and I started backing out and trying to climb down lower(bad move..), next thing I know im off and at the bottom of the route.
That was game over for me, fully shook with adrenaline and well shock covered in cuts and blood.
Managed to punt the wall with my shoes as well so my big toe is bruised, my right leg is mashed up and cuts all over. Im just thankful I didnt hit my head or break anything tbh. Managed to belay my partner up to clean it than staggered back to the car.
Now In just pissed off at myself as now I probably cant climb for a week depending on how the bruises play out.
No idea how things will go with my mental game now.. might have to stick to vertical/ overhanging till i get my nerve back.
In this week's episode of In Isolation, we talk to Australian competition climber Campbell Harrison about his experiences on the circuit and how he's dealing with the pressure of being the favourite to win a ticket to Tokyo 2020 at...