/ There was a stat in Free Solo..........

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Minneconjou Sioux on 10 Mar 2019

….that was stated early on in the film by one of the TV presenters that said something like;

"Free Soloing is so dangerous that it is attempted by less than 1% of climbers"

Now I agree that there aren't many who would attempt to free solo at the level that Alex does but I'm pretty sure that there is more than 1% of climbers who have free soloed (used to just call it soloing in my day) something that would have killed us had we fallen.

So lets do a straw poll. Hands up who has free soled something above, say, VS and higher than, say, 20 meters?

Post edited at 04:14
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Minneconjou Sioux on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

No reason for the VS grade BTW, just a random grade I pulled out of the top of my head.

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J Whittaker - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Why limit to VS or above. How many people will have soloed something like Middlefell Buttress (D) on their way up to Gimmer. Sure its not 3000ft of Granite but if you fudge it at the top you're pretty screwed.

The stats on ascent style more solos than leads (exluding alt) logged. I bet most people don't even bother logging it as well.

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profitofdoom on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

> So lets do a straw poll. Hands up who has free soled something above, say, VS and higher than, say, 20 meters?

My hand is up (or are we supposed to click on 'Like'?)

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L Pefa on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

My limit is a 20m 4a Severe called Pulpit Arete at Loudon which i can happily solo.

PS. I'm not keen on using this "Free", before solo so i stick to the old way.
PPS. I seen a clip on youtube of him soloing El Capitan etc and it made me feel very tense in my tum tbh i mean what if a flake hold snapped off or something ? I worry for him when i watch as to me there is something harrowing about it,something not quite right.I think to have to do that you are doing it because of a problem or trauma somewhere in your life perhaps unresolved or faced i don't know.Then later i watched Uli Steck speed solo the North Face of the Eiger and its a similar feeling that it's just over the top way too much.Or maybe that is my problem and not theirs.

Post edited at 05:33
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john arran - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

1% is probably too low for UK climbers but in Continental Europe, where the vast majority of climbs are on limestone and have lower-off or abseil descents, soloing is very rare indeed.

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HeMa on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

While 1% might not be correct, the actual percentage will be quite low.

Because for 'climber', I do think they also include people that boulder, or participate in indoor climbing.

So yes, a whoppin' majority of people around the world do not practice free soloing... and unfortunately you do nooed to include the free in the beginning as e.g. in the big wall climbing realm, soloing is just that... but certainly not free ;).

Which is why I do believe the term is quite correct in the sense of this movie... after all, people have been soloing in Yosemite for ages and also numerous solo ascents of El Cap each year...

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Philip on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Not sure I'd have died, or wouldn't have done it, but yes.

But if you take out what could now be called hi-ball, and only count multipitch, to make it more comparable, I reckon the number drops. I think I've seen almost every confident leader in the uni club I was solo something HS+ on grit, but I've never heard any of them solo multipitch. Moving together with gear and ropes on Tryfan maybe.

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totriornottotri on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

I am not a great climber yet for some reason I decided to solo Grooved Arête on Tryfan. It was amazing, not scary but nice to move quickly and unhindered. I did carry a pack with a safety sling which I had to get out after going left rather than right on the crux Knight’s Move slab. It was airy but excellent. I’ve never done anything else and with wife and kids I’m not sure I’d want to! 

I remember some climbs on Idwal Slabs (even at VD) had dubious to no gear which wasn’t far off soloing!

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fifthsunset - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

> used to just call it soloing in my day

Free solo is American, solo is British. The yanks probably say free solo to distinguish from rope solo but that seems unnecessary. To my mind if someone says solo you can assume they weren't using ropes.

I enjoy a bit of onsight soloing but only up to Severe so I don't make your cut!

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Boredoftheforum on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Above 20m yes, above vs yes, both at the same time probably not. 

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AlanLittle - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Boredoftheforum:

Another vote for "not both at the same time". Soloed things below VS on Tryfan, Idwal, Lliwedd. Soloed Millwheel Wall (E1 5b)Brown's Eliminate (E2 5b) which are proper routes but not 20 metres, plus all the usual Rugosity/Rusty etc Wall things that are only marginally "routes". Led Wipe Out (E3 5b) on which I probably would have decked from the crux, but had decent gear in by the time I got above 2 metres.

Doing a bit of soloing was fairly common back then (80s) although by no means universal. I think I did more than most of the people I knew.

Another vote too for finding "free solo" an unnecessary Americanism. It's only relevant in Yosemite and a handful of other places where roped aid soloing is a fairly common practice. We can just carry on talking about "soloing".

Regarding the VS/20 metre limit: yes, clearly there's a difference between pootling around Burbage North of an evening, and Freerider or The Fish. But obviously drawing the line at any particular point is completely arbitrary.

Post edited at 09:02
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paul__in_sheffield - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Haven’t watched the film yet, it’s out on Amazon Prime this week so it’ll be next Saturday. Been building up to it watching Cliffhanger last weekend and Eiger Sanction last night ;-)

Above 20m and above VS, yes from me. 

This is very US centric, the clips I saw of Free Solo featured some quotes about Yosemite being the centre and pinnacle of world climbing which might be questionable. Obvs. Font and Stanage Plantation. 

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plyometrics - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

73.6% of stats are made up. 

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DerwentDiluted - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

It's one of those meaningless stats, or at least one that needs so much qualification it becomes meaningless. I think it is used to give the layperson an inkling of how extraordinary Honnold is.  In Yosemite it probably has a lot of truth, at Burbage North less so. The UK probably has a higher proportion of 'soloists' than most other countries but on average at a fairly low grade. I see I have logged over 3.5k solo ascents, and I'm sure many other active climbers within easy reach of gritstone will have similar numbers, but I don't think lapping 20ft crack is going to tempt Jimmy Chin to make a sequal...

Post edited at 08:56
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Deadeye - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Me.

Not any more though

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alpinist63 - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to john arran:

that's right, some more soloists in the trad areas like Elbsandstein, Pfalz .. on easy classics, but than again, these routes lead to 'real' summits. 

On the 'sportcrags', soloing was way more popular in the 80s and early 90s, maybe because sportclimbing hadn't yet shifted away from the more adventurous climbing.  

Today, 1% is probably ok for people doing exclusively sportclimbing , for those also operating in the Alps etc, I'd say the percentage is a bit higher. 

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Jon Stewart - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Always loved soloing. I started out climbing from scrambling, i.e. Soloing diffs in walking boots. Used to go soloing on grit several times a week, pretty much up to my lead grade (even onsight on routes with gear on the odd day, just because I felt like it). In the recent warm weather I went soloing on Pavey - did a brilliant VS which I'm unlikely to want to lead but it was awesome fun on my own. One day I might fall off and die I suppose but in my assessment it's a negligible risk and every bit worth it.

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alan moore - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Always loved soloing. I started out climbing from scrambling, i.e. Soloing diffs in walking boots. 

Thats my take on it as well; its all scrambling at heart. Add rock boots, chalk, dry rock and experience and you get better at it. Ticking Classic Rock on sunny mornings when you're the only person on the hill is hard to beat. Did Golden Slipper at 9am one October morning a few years back. That's probably as 'extreme' as I'll ever take it.

Is there anyone out there who only climbs under the shackles of the rope?

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TobyA on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to DerwentDiluted:

Yes, a cool summer evening on Stanage and you'll see dozens of people soloing - with lots of serious looking slim men in their late 20s and 30s soloing routes I think of as quite hard.

I've got more solos logged in my logbook than seconds interestingly - I have soloed a lot of small, easier grit routes since moving to the Peak, but I used to regularly solo the little easy and moderate icefalls around Helsinki when I lived there.

So yeah, probably far more Brits solo than say French or Spanish climbers, but many of them will people like me going up 25 ft grit diffs and vdiffs.

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Duncan Bourne - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

I have soloed close to my leading grade in the past (E2 I was never that hard a climber) and soloed to the top of the Glyders by linking routes starting at Idwal slabs, but some of the more dangerous stuff was on what was supposed to be a simple scramble that turned into a pile of loose choss

Post edited at 10:24
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Tom V - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Did  quite a bit of soloing on familar gritstone up to the standard of Brown's Eliminate but, discounting Devils Slide, never soloed much in the way of multi pitch routes, notable exception being Christmas Curry  which had me walking back  the cafe with legs like jelly.

(Family holiday, bored with the beach, no partners around)

Post edited at 10:52
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Jon Stewart - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

> but some of the more dangerous stuff was on what was supposed to be a simple scramble that turned into a pile of loose choss

In the last year I've taken up scrambling again as an after-work activity. I'm always highly amused by how incredibly dangerous it is compared to rock climbing. The terrible, vegetated wet rock; the remote locations; the inappropriate footwear - it's an extremely dangerous activity which should be discouraged for all but those with a death wish.

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Offwidth - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Weird. I've onsight soloed up to E2 and well into the hundreds of routes in total. I've soloed well into the thousands of pitches, including 100 up routes on Stanage in a day with an approach shoe on my left foot, and onsighted mulitpitch VD (a grade where if its a sandbag I start to need to be very careful) but I don't  think I have ever soloed a route harder than VS that is above 20m. 

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steve taylor - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Tom V:

> Did  quite a bit of soloing on familar gritstone up to the standard of Brown's Eliminate but, discounting Devils Slide, never soloed much in the way of multi pitch routes, notable exception being Christmas Curry  which had me walking back  the cafe with legs like jelly.

> (Family holiday, bored with the beach, no partners around)

I did the same solo several years ago with a friend. He seemed quite casual, but I was bricking it most of the way. It was a bit damp, which didn't help the nerves.

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pec on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

I don't think the less than 1% stat even applies to the US. Last time I was there I was amazed at how many people were soloing. Some of it was easy slabby stuff around 5.5/5.6 though big, c. 8 pitches, but also harder multi pitch (2 or 3 pitch) 5.8's, 5.9's and 5.10's. Possibly easy for those individuals but not exactly "easy".

There were way more people soloing than I've seen on any previous trip and I'd be surprised if that's not due to the "Honnold effect".

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oldie - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

It was suggested earlier but if you want an easy % it might be best to post again and ask people to click Like for Have soloed and Dislike for Haven't.
Need a precise definition, you've chosen 60m+, VS+. Possibly specify "Onsight"? I've met people who were very happy soloing say Malbogies (HVS) at Avon but had done it many times before, and who wouldn't think of soloing a Welsh VS onsight. I'm a low grade climber but used to solo a few "VS"s at Harrisons (below 20m of course) that I knew by heart, and have soloed many routes up to VD. I think Alex Honnold had climbed all the pitches before his solo (I'm not trying to detract from the achievement).
FWIW long ago I soloed two VSs, both onsight and both above 20m.
For me the plus side of soloing was that I could go somewhere at short notice when I hadn't got a partner, didn't have to take loads of gear, and also could repeat routes that I'd enjoyed with the knowledge that I was unlikely to fall. 

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Pekkie - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Tom V:

> Did  quite a bit of soloing on familar gritstone up to the standard of Brown's Eliminate but, discounting Devils Slide, never soloed much in the way of multi pitch routes, notable exception being Christmas Curry  which had me walking back  the cafe with legs like jelly.

Wasn't it Christmas Curry that Jimmy Jewel fell off (it might have been Poor Man's Peutery)?

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profitofdoom on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Pekkie:

It was Poor Man's Peuterey - RIP Jimmy

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ena sharples - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to fifthsunset:

I guess the original posters cut was anything which would kill you if you fell off?

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profitofdoom on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to pec:

> Some of it was easy slabby stuff around 5.5/5.6 though big, c. 8 pitches, but also harder multi pitch (2 or 3 pitch) 5.8's, 5.9's and 5.10's. Possibly easy for those individuals but not exactly "easy".

I was amazed by Al Rouse's nerve soloing The Boldest (E4 5c)Great Wall (E4 6a), and Vector (E2 5c)

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stevieb - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Maybe they have a broad definition of climbers? I’m sure by some definitions, 80%+ of climbers have never or almost never climbed outdoors. 

Personally, like a few others on here, I’ve soloed above VS (far too close to my limit) and above 20m, but not at the same time. 

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johncook - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

When I was younger and fitter we used to go on Stanage and have 'Yosemite' days. The idea being to pick a grade and solo 3000ft at that grade or harder. Had to repeat routes but was still good endurance training! So does 3000ft of stanage soloing equate to the Nose solo. At least Honnold didn't have to get down to the bottom before he could start his next pitch! That was the tiring part.

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Tom V - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to profitofdoom:

There was definitely a fad for it in that era. Eric Jones sloing November is the one that sticks in my mind, as well as Cliff Phillips taking a big one off Black Spring then getting back to the car unaided etc etc

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Pursued by a bear - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Boredoftheforum:

> Above 20m yes, above vs yes, both at the same time probably not. 

That's pretty much me too.  Soloed quite a few things between 5a and 5c at Pexhill back in the day, for example; soloed lots of easier routes longer than 20 metres as well, but harder and longer than 20 metres?  Probably not.

T. 

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JamButty - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Most of my solo's in my yoof  were on grit,  up to E1,  but I did do the odd longer ones,  going against my general rule that I wouldn't solo things that would likely kill me.

Central Groove at Dewerstone,  and an exciting one on Christmas Curry when it started wazzing it down at the tree below the last pitch. HS and S,  so I suppose I don't hit the criteria!

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AlanLittle - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to profitofdoom:

Not to mention The Beatnik. First E5?

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AlanLittle - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Tom V:

Same here. Soloed grit E1-ish & up to Severe multipitch at tines when I was doing a lot of that sort of thing, and felt comfortable & confident.

Other times found myself on Severes realising I was making a mistake & really shouldn‘t have been there.

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pec on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Tom V:

> There was definitely a fad for it in that era. Eric Jones sloing November is the one that sticks in my mind, .

Only about 6 or 7 years ago I climbed Main Wall in the Pass one midweek day. We thought we had the crag to ourselves but on the descent we heard the scree rattling above us and looked up to see Eric running down towards us. He'd just nipped out from the cafe to solo main wall because it was a nice afternoon. So still soloing stuff most of us wouldn't well into his 70's.

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paul__in_sheffield - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

I was just looking up Jerry Moffatt’s solo up and down of the seven extremes around Cenotaph Corner in an afternoon when I found that soon after he on sight soloed Linden on Curbar,  the first E6 on sight in the UK. Phew!

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Oceanrower - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

I believe that Crispin Waddy (Hi Crispin (waves)) not only soloed the Old Man Of Hoy but downclimbed it afterwards.

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Seymore Butt - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Can you include DW Soloing in the poll, its quite popular with a few climbers, not me may I add though?. Probably not death defying, but could hurt pretty badly if you get the landing wrong.

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Minneconjou Sioux on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

FWIW I do meet the criteria I set (Who'd have thunk it ) but it was just arbitrary. I figured 10 metres wasn't likely high enough to kill ya (but clearly could).

I loved soloing (don't do it now - had a couple of friends either killed or injured). I actually found it easier because, once committed, the only way is up and you don't need to hang about placing gear. The freedom and focus was very cathartic.

As Alex said, the risk is quite low (because you climb within your grade) but the consequences are very high. I can remember Catherine Destiville (spelling?) getting a rope stuck half way up a climb so she simply untied it and carried on. When asked why she took that risk she simple shrugged and said "I knew I could do the climb".

That said, most solo deaths happen at low grades.

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planetmarshall on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

The Cioch Nose in Applecross is probably about the closest I've come. At the time my hardest onsight was about HVS so probably roughly equivalent to soloing VS today.

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PaulJepson - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

I don't understand why they felt the need to quantify it with some statistic that they obviously pulled out of their arse. Did they survey 100 climbers and ask them if they'd even solo'd? Or did they just make it up...

I should think that anyone who had done much in the mountains could say that they've solo'd things. I'm not a very good or experienced climber but I've definitely climbed bits of Mod/Dif/Vdif/II without a rope. I've definitely been on easy ground without a rope where a mistake could cost me my life. Does that make me a solo-ist? I wouldn't say so but you could argue that by some definition it does.

But on the other hand there are a ton of people who climb exclusively indoors, or exclusively sport, or exclusively boulder. I very much doubt that they would 'solo' anything. 

Either way it's virtually impossible (at the very least incredibly impracticable) to know the true statistic, which is why it's weird that they chose to highlight one.

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Shani - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Oceanrower:

> I believe that Crispin Waddy (Hi Crispin (waves)) not only soloed the Old Man Of Hoy but downclimbed it afterwards.

Not heard that before. Impressive if true because it's big, friable and 'out there'.

Didn't John Arran of this parish (Hi John (waves)), solo Sirplum? Similar in exposure and with friable rock.

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what the hex on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to planetmarshall:

As a total punter (and a danger to myself) I have never intentionally solo'd anything but have ended up practically soloing a couple of routes by accident due to incompetence. Namely, the 2nd pitch of Black and Tans (S 4a) when my placements came loose and slid down the rope to the belayer and the 2nd pitch of Dives/Better Things (VS 4b) when I was too gripped to place any gear!

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Andy Gamisou - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

I've seen the film (fab btw) and thought the 1% free soloing stat a bit nebulous too.  When me and my missus started out climbing in Northumberland we were encouraged almost from the outset to include soloing into our repertoire, and probably soloed a couple of dozen routes up to around severe in our first year or two.  Most people we climbed with were of the same mindset, so not viewed as unusual or 'extreme '. Certainly done a few at VS (but not above (unless Tacitation or Wilfred Pickles has been upgraded)).  Have done a few severes in the buff (and have the photos as proof - so don't piss me off, else I'll upload them).

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Gordon Stainforth - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Lots of short, hardish things (up to and including one or two VSs, and 5Bs on southern sandstone), but never anything longer than 20 metres that was harder than V Diff (and very few of those). I suspect the 1% stat is very roughly correct.

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jakkm77 - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to AlanLittle:

Honnold states in an interview somewhere that the movie was supposed to just be called "Solo", but then they found out that there was a Star Wars movie coming out around the same time with the same title (or rather "Solo: A Star Wars Story").  This was the reason the had to switch the title to "Free Solo".

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oldie - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to what the hex:

> As a total punter (and a danger to myself) I have never intentionally solo'd anything but have ended up practically soloing a couple of routes by accident due to incompetence. Namely, the 2nd pitch of Black and Tans (S 4a) when my placements came loose and slid down the rope to the belayer and the 2nd pitch of Dives/Better Things (VS 4b) when I was too gripped to place any gear! <

Not sure that counts as soloing, as you have reasonable protection near belay which gets progressively worse until next stance....as climbers did before the plethora of modern protection. Makes one appreciate their achievements though.

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Minneconjou Sioux on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Lots of short, hardish things (up to and including one or two VSs, and 5Bs on southern sandstone), but never anything longer than 20 metres that was harder than V Diff (and very few of those). I suspect the 1% stat is very roughly correct.


Remember, Gordon, That I made up the rule, not them. I doubt they have any kind of definition of what constitutes a free solo.

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Trangia on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to J Whittaker:

> Why limit to VS or above. How many people will have soloed something like Middlefell Buttress (D) on their way up to Gimmer. Sure its not 3000ft of Granite but if you fudge it at the top you're pretty screwed.

> The stats on ascent style more solos than leads (exluding alt) logged. I bet most people don't even bother logging it as well.

Plus 1.You can tick me for this very climb for the reason you give.

Also the North Face of Pen y Fan on frozen turf in mid winter whatever grade that is? We had started it roped but by the time we were well and truly committed  (about half way up) we opted to unrope and continue solo because it was so unstable and dangerous, belays were impossible to construct, we realised it had been a stupid decision to attempt it, if one had fallen off he would have pulled the other two off, and it was easier to go on than to try and reverse it.

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john arran - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Shani:

> Didn't John Arran of this parish (Hi John (waves)), solo Sirplum? Similar in exposure and with friable rock.

Hi (waves back)

I did that once for a photo-shoot for some magazine or other. Turned out there were plenty of solid jugs and it didn't feel dangerous at all, just exposed I suppose. There are lots of harder, looser or altogether more out-there solos that have stuck in the mind far more than that one.

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Michael Hood - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Just about fit your criteria especially with "latest" grades but it's all a bit nebulous. Does a 21m HVS count if all the hard bit is below 10m, etc.

E.g. Goliath's Groove (ok hard bit above 10m but definitely below 20m). Or how about High Neb Edge.

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Minneconjou Sioux on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Michael Hood:

> Just about fit your criteria especially with "latest" grades but it's all a bit nebulous. Does a 21m HVS count if all the hard bit is below 10m, etc.

> E.g. Goliath's Groove (ok hard bit above 10m but definitely below 20m). Or how about High Neb Edge.


Honestly, I really don't care. I guess that's part of my original point, what counts as a "free solo"? You could argue that every boulder problem is a free solo (not very convincingly I'll admit) so I think it has, at least, to be a recognised route that might ordinarily be climbed with ropes and gear.

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mbh - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

When Mrs mbh and I first went to Sennen together, way back, she soloed her way out (a long time ago, but probably up Griptight Gully). I was impressed and wanted her to be Mrs mbh, upon which she and I later came to an agreement. 

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Baron Weasel - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

I solo'd coral sea at trowbarrow when I was a teenager. Was a stupid thing to do as it's very polished!

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petegunn on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

What would qualify in winter? Grade V and above?

Ive done Green Gully IV on the Ben and Penguin Gully III on Beinn Dearg both onsight but not sure if they would be hard enough!?

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Sean Kelly - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

When does bouldering become a Solo ascent, and nobody has mentioned soloing on snow and ice, which is my personal preference. Soloing big routes is the most serious form of soloing as the consequences of any fall are terminal whatever the grade climbed, as evidenced by Jimmy Jewel et al.

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petegunn on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Baron Weasel:

I soloed Coral Sea a few years ago, I have led it a few times previously so should have known better!

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badmarmot - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Yep on both,

I used to enjoy soloing when younger, a lot on the grit but also on higher stuff, I remember having a little moment on Hawk's Nest Arête (I think) on Glider Fach, and some enjoyable route's in the Dolomites, and soloing some of the long sports routes in Ailefroide, I remember getting some funning looks at the top of one of the routes, I was sat on my own waiting for friends who were rope climbing to share their rope for the ab off. 

Not so much these days.

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Minneconjou Sioux on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Sean Kelly:

>  nobody has mentioned soloing on snow and ice, which is my personal preference.

I always feel that soling winter routes is a lot more dangerous because you are generally climbing on an unstable medium. It's true that rock holds can break but its muck more likely that the ice or snow will give way unexpectedly.

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keith-ratcliffe on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Just to add my 'two pennorth' to the thread.
I think the term free solo is a US phrase that grew out of big wall climbing. It differentiates a totally unroped solo ascent (e.g. Alex) from a roped solo ascent of a route. An recent example of the latter is Pete Whittaker's one day effort on Freerider.
Ever since I started climbing I was attracted to the simplicity and freedom of soloing, albeit at a level that I felt comfortable with. For me it really is a liberating process and gets back to what climbing is all about - movement on rock. I have done lots on grit (less multi pitch) though some longer climbs that could lead to death or very severe injury but always within what I considered to be my limits. The most risky of these projects was the 100 routes in a day on grit. Inspired by Big Rons 100 extremes, I did it at a top level of VDiff but still nearly came to grief from fatigue & flying ants on my last crag - Birchens Edge. One of my life's great pleasures is a sunny evening on Windgather - 20 routes on a good session. (PS I now live in Stirling so this latter pleasure requires a 250 mile drive to accomplish.

Post edited at 20:16
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Minneconjou Sioux on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

Often, when I'm back in the UK I'll head over to Dovestones and climb on the short little routes that sit up to the left off the path to the top rez. I do this just to feel the freedom of movement on rock.

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Michael Hood - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

Ditto for Windgather, lovely place to get back into movement on real rock.

And great for soloing because it all slopes in the correct direction.

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Mark Stevenson - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Good thread!

Not sure either about the 1% figure, but the general consensus does seem pretty consistent - people who regularly solo harder multi-pitch routes are really rather rare. On that basis it's probably a decent enough guess.

Out of all the climbers I know personally, only one immediately springs to mind who'll regularly solo bigger stuff at HVS/E1 on sea cliffs and mountain crags. The routes are not ridiculously hard, but definitely a good jump harder than I'd feel happy doing just as a warm up.

I probably fall into that slightly larger group of very occasionally having soloed stuff at VS standard and 20m+ but literally only twice in 23 years and perhaps another thrice at HS standard. Botterill's Slab (VS 4c) last Summer was the last time and over decade since I'd first soloed VS multi-pitch. Given how bloody committing it felt, I'll happily wait another decade before doing something similar again!

Interestingly I've probably done more in Winter at grade IV - Tower Ridge (IV 3)Green Gully (IV 3)Deep-Cut Chimney (Winter) (IV 4) and Crowberry Gully (Winter) (IV 4) but it just doesn't feel as committing. On easier Winter routes, especially on Scottish snow-ice, the consequences of falling often don't bare thinking about even when roped up. That said, the jump to grade V feels sufficiently large I don't think I'll be trying the classic  Zero Gully (V 4) and Point Five Gully (V 5) combination any time soon.

Post edited at 21:38
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FactorXXX - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

> So lets do a straw poll. Hands up who has free soled something above, say, VS and higher than, say, 20 meters?

Hands up from me.
When I was climbing E2/E3, I did a bit of a road trip to try and solo some of the classic Welsh Sea Cliff VS/HVS's in one long weekend.
My list soloed was:
A Dream of White Horses at Gogarth.
Blue Sky, Bludgeon and Galactic Coordinator in Pembroke.
Isis, Osiris and South West Diedre on Gower.
Exposure Explosion and Pinocchio at Ogmore.
I'd climbed them all before and felt that I had enough spare to warrant soloing them.
In contrast, there are plenty of routes way easier that I would never solo.  

 

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andrew ogilvie - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Deadeye:

Plus one. 

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Tom V - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Robs Rocks

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shantaram - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Used to do a lot of soloing. Loved the freedom and fast movement of it. When I was a super psyched climber and I couldn't find someone to climb with I took the opportunity to solo classic multi pitches of VS and below. I always thought that soloing was just part of climbing. Who's been to Arapiles and soloed Tiptoe Ridge on a full moon night? 

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The New NickB - on 11 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Like others, ive soloed things harder than VS and I’ve soloed things over 20m, but not at the same time.

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Gordon Stainforth - on 11 Mar 2019
In reply to FactorXXX:

That's an amazing list. The idea of falling off those Ogmore routes, soloing, doesn't bear thinking about, with that appalling landing on something like an upscaled vegetable dicer made of very sharp-edged limestone.

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fifthsunset - on 11 Mar 2019
In reply to FactorXXX:

Holy hell, you soloed the final pitch of Dream? Well done. 

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alan moore - on 11 Mar 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

That was my first thought; the giant, gnarled bed-of-nails reef beneath Ogmore!

Kudos to Factor.

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Dave Garnett - on 11 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

> So lets do a straw poll. Hands up who has free soled something above, say, VS and higher than, say, 20 meters?

Yep, though not recently.

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Andy Moles - on 11 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

> who has free soled something above, say, VS and higher than, say, 20 meters?

I went through a phase of soloing long VS+ routes like Spartan Slab, Grand Diedre and Gob, but I've mostly backed away from things that committing.

Even though I had some very special experiences doing it, I decided that the consequence of error, however carefully mitigated, could not really be justified by the rewards.

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Carless - on 11 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Soloed up to E3 on grit (Great Slab, etc) and soloed PMP a few days before Jimmy Jewell fell off it

RIP Jimmy

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Will Hunt - on 11 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

I think the OP has, perhaps inadvertently, struck upon quite a stringent criteria. Lots of people solo the odd tall/multipitch thing, but rarely above VS (maybe rarely above VD/S?). Lots of people solo short hard things, mostly on grit, but these are almost all shy of 20m.

I think the hardest solo I ever did was probably an onsight solo of Three Pebble Slab. I've barely soloed since I left my teens behind. I never really liked it that much - I tensed up and didn't enjoy the climbing. I find if I'm soloing the mind will start to play tricks - footholds feel slippier, you end up over-gripping everything, and movement becomes wooden.

Highballing is fairly commonplace but the mindset and approach is different to a solo, even if the experience can still be frightening.

The thought of onsight soloing an HVS on a multipitch crag is awful!

Post edited at 17:13
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AlanLittle - on 11 Mar 2019
In reply to Will Hunt:

> I think the OP has, perhaps inadvertently, struck upon quite a stringent criteria. Lots of people solo the odd tall/multipitch thing, but rarely above VS (maybe rarely above VD/S?). Lots of people solo short hard things, mostly on grit, but these are almost all shy of 20m.

Thinking a little more about this, I think - for me at least as a member the "above VS, over 20 metres, but not both at the same time" club, I think there is (was, when I was younger) a difference between "you'll be badly hurt but probably have a reasonable chance of not dying" - most grit that normal mortals regularly solo - and actual certain death.

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McHeath - on 11 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Because your thread title sounds like the first line of a limerick:

A sixty foot solo VS?

Could end as a big crimson mess.

But asking around

Our poster has found

That the answer is quite often "Yes!"

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jcw on 11 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux

Yes. When I started climbing aged 28 in the early 60s the protection was so inexistent that on many climbs you might as well solo them. And the habit stuck. i  remember a day of 1750' of onsight climbing of S to VS on the W. side of the Pass. And another when I soloed Main Wall, continued by the Gambit Climb,along Crib Govh to Cloggy, finishing with Sunset Crack when I had no one to climb with. And even in my 60th year onsight  soloed Eagle Ridge Direct (MVS). Yet I was never a bold climber and had long since lapsed into being a second. It is just the need from time to time to find a sort of freedom that soloing  can bring.,

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Dave Garnett - on 12 Mar 2019
In reply to Andy Moles:

> Even though I had some very special experiences doing it, I decided that the consequence of error, however carefully mitigated, could not really be justified by the rewards.

Yes.  I had a hold break on the second pitch of Pink Void, which I dealt with OK at the time but I decided in retrospect it was something I should probably not do too often.

These days I'm very restrained, even on short grit routes.  I can't afford a broken leg, I'm very aware of how lucky I am to be injury-free after all these years! 

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Robert Durran - on 12 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

I used to solo a lot when I was younger; it just felt the natural thing to do and meant that lack of a partner was never a reason not to go climbing. Although it always made most sense in winter (plenty of routes up to V) and in the Alps (quite a few big routes), I did do plenty of rock too, highlights probably things like repeating Centurion and Deep Space and onsighting Cemetery Gates and Herod. I did have one scary wobble when a hand slipped unexpectedly on Bullroar but I kept it together and backed off. Easier stuff in the mountains was routine. Nowadays I no longer really have the inclination or head for harder stuff but still enjoy easier and adventurous stuff when the mood takes me.

Post edited at 00:38
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Minneconjou Sioux on 12 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

So, given that the original statement gave no qualification to the criteria for a "Free Solo" it looks like we can set our own.

My OP said VS and over 20 metres but I was really just trying to establish a level of difficulty and risk that made sense and I think most people understand that. Perhaps I should have just confined it to "any climb that would normally be undertaken by a team of at least 2 people with ropes and gear".

I'm not sure how many active profiles there are on UKC so I'm not sure how well the straw poll really works but a completely subjective assessment of the replies to the thread suggest that the stat is likely wrong, perhaps by a factor of 10? Ok, so I haven't done the maths but surely someone more geeky than me might want to?

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profitofdoom on 12 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

> "Free Soloing is so dangerous that it is attempted by less than 1% of climbers"

Like others I believe 1% is too low for the UK

PS I am surprised people call a 'roped solo' a 'solo'. Surely in the UK 'solo' means doing a route without any ropes?

PS my story - I soloed one 50-metre E1 (in everyday shoes. It was VS at the time) but I am now ashamed of doing that. What would the effects on my parents/ friends have been if I'd slipped and died (it was a precarious climb)? There were many other climbers around that day - I could have put a rope on and led it, and enjoyed the climb and the moves just as much if not more. I now regard my soloing of that and other climbs as very irresponsible, careless, thoughtless

PS my best friend later died soloing

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Minneconjou Sioux on 12 Mar 2019
In reply to profitofdoom:

I used to do a little solo circuit up in the Llanberis slate quarries. I'd start off with Equinox and Solstice then walk over to the California Arete, climb up this and then finish off with Seamstress. I must have done that about 4 or 5 times over the years I was in North Wales.

When I moved to Scotland I would often solo at Latheronwheel or on the sea cliffs of the north coast and did a complete one day traverse of the Cuillin ridge on my own (but left out the Inn Pin).

I then lost a friend who fell off Tower Ridge so, somewhat curiously, I decided to solo it myself. Not sure why. Then I had a friend who almost died soloing an ice route which he fell from and then I witnessed a guy fall to his death when he was at the top of an easy winter route and the cornice collapsed. His rope was in his back pack.

So now I don't do it any more.

So I hear you. And I think there is a level of responsibility that says "if we are going to talk about this we need to acknowledge the risks". 

I hope nobody thinks this thread is about how big your balls are. Soloing is an entirely personal thing and hopefully the choice to do it is neutral, made without encouragement or pressure and only when it feels right.

Post edited at 02:40
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koolkat - on 12 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

I use to solo a lot when younger never a hard climber E2 on a very good day best solo was cematary gates on site , worst solo was a vs that I fell off and broke both legs , best witness of a solo was when doing the needle at shelter stone some one soloed past us , we where roped 

Post edited at 04:16
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Mark Stevenson - on 12 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

>  Ok, so I haven't done the maths but surely someone more geeky than me might want to?

About 40 reasonably useful replies, although many were ambiguous:

100% solo on grit and/or Diffs

50% solo or have soloed big routes (S-VS)

20% have previously soloed big HVS+ routes

0% currently regularly solo big HVS+ routes

So, if they were talking about current climbers and 5.9+ routes, we have completely failed to disprove the 1% stat within the margin of error of this completely and utterly unscientific survey....

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Minneconjou Sioux on 12 Mar 2019
In reply to Mark Stevenson:

I don't think you need to be actively doing it now to qualify. Could simply be a function of opportunity, mood, circumstances etc. 

I don't do it now but that might change. So I think it counts if someone has been active at some point.

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Mark Stevenson - on 12 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Not convinced. If we were talking about grades I think we would all agree that there is a world of difference between:

% of climbers regularly and currently leading E5

% of climbers who have once in their life lead E5

In any general discussion about "% of E5 leaders" (without reams of clarifications) I think it would be assumed by most climbers that it was the first statistic that is more relevant and meaningful and not the second. I'd take a similar view here; what people do is more relevant, not what they might have done decades ago.

However the great problem with statistics is that they are not truly objective as there is very often the ability to cherry pick them to support a preconceived viewpoint....

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Minneconjou Sioux on 12 Mar 2019
In reply to Mark Stevenson:

I don't think there is a pre conceived view point. I'm not sure anyone really cares that much.

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FactorXXX - on 12 Mar 2019
In reply to Mark Stevenson:

> So, if they were talking about current climbers and 5.9+ routes, we have completely failed to disprove the 1% stat within the margin of error of this completely and utterly unscientific survey....

Not sure if UKC is perhaps totally representative of the type of people that would be likely to solo hardish routes.
 

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kingholmesy - on 12 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Hand up from me.

Hardest onsight solo = E4.

Hardest onsight solo above 20 metres high = E1.

The above 20 metres criterion is relevant and I would think many UK climbers who have soloed harder short routes won’t have soloed stuff at the upper limit of their abilities that is more than 20 metres high, because if you fluff it above that height you’re pretty f*cked.

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Kafoozalem - on 13 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Agree the 20m stipulation is highly relevant. It is quite easy to pick up higher solo grades on short unprotectable grit type routes. I consider my solo of CC Direct (HVS) at the Dewerstone as more significant than some short E3's I've done. Enjoyed Great Slab at Froggat last year - not heroic though due to pre-practice.

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Robert Durran - on 13 Mar 2019
In reply to Kafoozalem:

> Agree the 20m stipulation is highly relevant. It is quite easy to pick up higher solo grades on short unprotectable grit type routes.

This is a very good point. The grade of the solo should really only "count" if the route is adequately protected with the bulk of the grade due to its physical difficulty; plenty of protectionless E3's will be no harder to solo than plenty of well protected HVs's.

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earlsdonwhu - on 13 Mar 2019
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

I think you are taking the statistic quoted too literally. In explaining to a general audience, they just mean that a tiny percentage of climbers go soloing. However, there is such a blurred line between scrambling and climbing that it is all a bit meaningless.

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