Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Highballs, loweballs, walls without balls... huh?

Lately things have been getting rough out in Bishop. Routes I would need a portaledge and a string of fixed camps are being bouldered out. Its pretty nuts. Its hard to look at these routes on boulders like the Grand Peabody and really comprehend how tall they are. Mount woodson has Cool Jerk and The Crucible, but these 'moderate' (that word gets thrown around too much) routes aren't even scratching at these 40 and 50 foot monsters. Essentially they are free solo's.

Sort of.

It is inevitable that whenever this discussion rears its ugly head, the writers will say that the climbs are 'essentially a free solo.' The verbage is a bit weird, to me, because the word 'essentially' is a throw away word, like 'basically' or 'kinda.' Why aren't they called free solos (blank)?

Because they aren't. A free solo is an approach, a way of thinking. You go to a route with your chalk bag and say you're going to climb this thing by fair means, that you are making the most stylistically pure ascent (if anyone out there cares) of a route. Nothing taints it - you don't take a small spattering of gear and a few slings just in case and call it 'essentially' a free solo - you go up or you come back down (ideally, those being the only options).

It is no surprise that Jorgenson and Honnold did so well over on the gritstone. That style of highball bouldering is exactly what the Brits have been looking at. Often a crash pad can seem not much worse pro than a nail stuck in an inch deep crack, or a loose flake peppered with 14 micro nuts. The approach is to climb the hardest you can possibly move where a fall might jack you up, but preparing for that fall. The approach to these climbs is that you probably will fall on the onsight, and maybe a few times rehearsing it, so best to live a slightly longer and happier life and reduce that risk some miniscule amount, be it by a few pads and a spotter nailed to the ground or take a cord and some puny peices of metal to wiggle around.

Because of this approach, I would say that the ascents being made (and that have been made, remember, since 1959) are every bit as bold, if not more so, than traditional free solo's. Having that escape, that pad or that rope, can give a false sense of security, and more importantly means that you THINK YOU MIGHT FALL! Its an amazing thing, absolutely. Is it the same thing as soloing the Astroman? Absolutely not. Apples and oranges, or boulders and cliffs I guess.

Bottom line? I'm a wimp and I can't do pull ups.

No comments:

Post a Comment