I was climbing at High Wire crag yesterday, an area typically known for its easier routes, all day sun, and sometimes gumby epics. I was witness to the latter. My leisure Saturday morning warm up turned into a near anxiety attack as I watched this fool nearly kill himself. First off, I should have been leery from the get go when I saw that two climbers of this party of three had soloed up to the first bolt of a long 125ft 10b so one of them could set up a hanging belay off this one bolt. Not an ideal situation. As goon climber numero uno heads off into 10b land his belayer, hanging there like an idiot from this iridescent red cord, is starring right at me. Maybe it was my newly purchased vintage yellow track jacket or hair blowing in the breeze, but whatever it was he was more concentrated on me than on his climber, who by this time was yelling at the top of his lungs, "TAKE!" I actually had to motion to hanging belay boy that his climber wanted him to take the slack in the line. He came to after much waving and yelling and proceeded with his belaying duty. My mind wondered from the gumby scene to the plan set out for the day, to the girl I am too scared to ask out, and to the looming taxman axe that is about to chop me in half. I was snapped out of this daydream montage by crew member Eli, "Adam, look at this shit!" As a glanced back over to noobland on the 10b, I saw that goon climber #1 had gotten off route and runout. Not just a little runout, like 10 or 15 feet, no no, goon climber had abandoned his 10b proj and decided to step it up to the 11d route that was to the right. So here is goon #1 slightly overhung, hanging off a sloper rail at least 30+ feet above his last quickdraw, or clippy thing as he would probably refer to it, feet skating every now and again, and totally gripped. Now, to get the full picture you need to realize that hanging belay boy really doesn't know what is going on because he is out of view. And while we are screaming at goon climber to make a move, downclimb, do something, belay boy thinks his superstar, camelback toting, hardman up there is actually rockclimbing well. Not so much.
From the nature of this new link up that goon has fashioned he is going to take a big pendulum swing smack dab into a blunt arete 60 feet below. All you really need to envision is that goon is seriously FUCKED! If this guy doesn't die from severe head trauma, he is going to be in the hospital for a very very long time. Somehow, to our surprise, this kid manges to hang off this sloper and clip a draw to a high bolt on the 11d. We thought, oh good, this dude is going to make the clip, maybe hang and lower. Oh no, goon is too pumped to make the clip. After trying to pull up rope no less than 4 times he decides to grab the draw and granny clip. Bad idea! Goon is not strong enough at this point to even hang on the draw, things are looking grim, real grim. I have never felt so anxious watching someone climb, but I couldn't take my eyes off this dude, I would have bet $500 that a rescue was imminent. Somehow the Gods of rockclimbing and everything good and pure showed mercy to goon and he miraculously was able to take his hand off the draw, match on the sloper again, and somehow reverse these moves to a small ledge 20ft below. Sigh. I was relived and angry, WTF was this kid thinking? Oh, and by the way, there was a belayer switch after goon rested on the ledge for 20 minutes, and yes, they only had a 60m rope. Not far enough folks. Goon finally finished his 10b and had to be lowered to another route, clip in to a bolt, blah blah, just more epic than I really want to write about now. Let's just say the rescue involved gulley solos, daisy chains, and that damn iridescent red cord.
I talked to goon climber #1 for a while after he was safely on the ground, he knew that I knew that he was gumby, that the whole crag knew he was a gumby. Despite the fact that he was wearing a slightly worn pair of Women's Miuras (En Vouge for men now), petzl harness, and some rockclimbing t-shirt, he knew he couldn't hide his gumbiness. This is what clinched it, he asked me, "So, do you have the new Castlewood Creek Canyon guidebook here?" My response, "No dude, I don't, but I have the new Clear Creek Canyon guidebook." It helps to know what part of the state you are climbing in sometimes.
So, the moral of the story is know your shit before you launch into or onto a rock climb, no matter what level of difficulty it is. You WILL be a gumby for some time, you WILL get made fun of, you WILL wear a red helmet (also part of the story I forgot to mention), and you WILL get better, but it just takes time. Maybe one day you can even be as cool as Andrew, Arnold and myself. Safety starts with you and me.