Friday, August 12, 2005

I Don't Climb Alone

Hal Murray sent me a pointer to this trip report of a solo on a hair-raising climb on Sykes' Sickle. It reminded me of Desperate Days in Blue John Canyon, which I watched in early July. (You should realize that we never watch TV. My dad had recommended that I watch the program, and it was probably the first time in 10 years that we watched broadcast TV. Maybe the third time in 20 years.)

After watching Desperate Days, I wrote a note to my dad thanking him for the recommendation and commenting

  1. If you're going alone, tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back.
  2. leave a note visible in your car saying where you're going and when you'll be back.
  3. Don't go dangerous places alone. (Slot canyons are dangerous when you're alone.)
  4. Take more food and water than you think you'll need.
  5. Carry a whistle. (Probably wouldn't have done him any good, but you can whistle a lot longer than you can shout, and they can be heard much further. He could easily have whistled every hour if he'd had a whistle.)
  6. If a rock falls and pins your arm, cut your arm off. He should have done it much sooner. I hope I'd be able to do it if it had been me. I wouldn't have been there alone, but (as in the movie "Touching the Void") sometimes something bad happens and you end up alone.
The solo climber mentioned above didn't break these rules: he had a friend watching from the ground. What he did is still too scary for my. I don't think I would climb anything above about 5.6 solo, and if there's exposure (serious risk of falling a long way if you make a mistake), which there was here, I'd be even more conservative than that. 5.6 is about the level that someone in reasonable shape can climb with just a few pointers. 5.9 (the rating of Sykes' Sickle) is hard enough that PD's nephew, Dan, only reached it at then end of a summer of climbing indoors every week. And he was excited about having done it, too.

Anyway, the Sykes' Sickle climber wondered where the line is between safe enough and crazy when climbing solo. I think he's way on the crazy side of the line. I continue to think that technical climbing is not a solo sport.

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