Our first question comes from Shane Seaton of the Great State of Oklahoma. Here is Shane's email (edited for space).
This weekend I was climbing at Lost Dome with Randy Banning. We wanted to put up a toprope on Made in the Shade 5.12RX so Randy could work his project...I am a fairly conservative climber (Read: scared) and Randy is a boulderer who's never placed a nut in his life. Luckily, Crackalolo 5.10b has three bolts at the top so to him it was like climbing a highball with a rope between his legs. He did place one nut 15 ft up and then ran it out another 15 to the first bolt...I was watching him and suddenly got hit in the hands by something. His stopper wasn't so stopped. We laughed about it and it scared the crap out me and I started second guessing my decision to lead it on those stoppers. Well, Randy talked me into it and after placing three of them in the 15 ft of crack I headed into the comfort of the bolts. It was great. The adrenaline. The gear. I had a taste of the trad life and wanted more. Then I got on Made in the Shade and sent it clean, TR of course. I wouldn't have thought that was possible. I had been on it once before and it wasn't too bad, but wow it felt good to do those moves.
So, here is life's big question. What is my next step in climbing? Of course the next step after the TR should be the lead, but as I said, my head game is a little off and I have no desire to lead crazy RX runouts or place sketchy gear. I am not opposed to getting a head game and leading some runouts (no RX) and learning to place good gear. The rush I got that day reminded me of the first time I climbed. I wasn't freaked out just adrenalized. So how do I get that rush and feel safe? Is this oxymoronic? Especially here in OK where our ethical hardass first ascentionists were scarce on bolts.
Please help me P&C
okay, peace out,
shane seaton aka okieclimber
Shaney Shane, I remember teaching you how to place gear at Upper Mt. Scott some 4 or 5 years ago. The route, Arm Bar 5.6. The gear, every last nut, cam, and hex I had. You climbed a ways and placed a #2 BD cam, it came out, but you pushed on and lead the thing with confidence. Oh my, it does my heart good to get your letter. So psyched that threw down on Crack-a-lolo, Sick! What's more, the TR burn on Made in the Shade gave you a good glimpse of what these harder routes are about, and you did it clean! All in all, sounds like a steller day, a real confidence booster, a psyche regeneration if you will, and I will.
So, here's the bizzynus. You basically want what we all want, climbing hard and not dying. Pretty worth goals if you ask me. Saddling up to scary gear, sport, or bouldering problems is something that shouldn't be taken lightly. However, some of the cleanest most aesthetic lines out there can be runout. So here's my advice, besides the obvious "go out and climb a lot" line, when you are out there get used to placing gear on routes that you are comfortable with, something within your ability, but not too challenging. This way you know you can sit there and place bomber gear and feel good about moving on. Calculate your fall potential and if the gear below is good and the next section looks easy for you, run that shit out! Feel the exposure, embrace it. This is a good way to get comfortable placing gear in hard sections and running out easier sections with confidence. Hope this helps, happy climbing! When you're ready come out and do Jules Verne with me in Eldo, that will test these newly found skills.
I'm probably the last person you want to take advice from about climbing hard runout shit. If you've hung around me and P&C crew for more than a couple days, you've doubtlessly heard of the infamous Arnie Whimper. While guys like Cassidy hill can grunt, scream, and will their way past hard and scary sections, I'm more or less reduced to a shrivelled manchild curled up in the fetal position emitting moans whines and whimpers. Basically, I'm a wimp. My balls are shrivelled up to the size of two peas in a desert sand storm.
Nonetheless, I would like to think myself a keen observer of humanity, so what I can offer you is my observations of how those guys you tote their giant brass balls to the crag in a wheelbarrow do it. To wit, I offer you: The Lessons of Dean Potter
- The Primal State. As it turns out, scary trad is a mind game that requires you to feel cosmically connected to beastly animals, the inanimate rock and most importantly the earlier, less intelligent ancestor of modern man. My best interpretation of the Primal State is that runout trad is, in reality, such stupid idea, that it requires you to transcend past your well developed sense of self preservation to a state of existing not dissimilar to cromagnan man who didn't live past 23.
- Caves. As it turns out, the best way to enter The Primal State is to spend a lot of time living in caves. This not only lets you dissociate yourself from the effeminating effects of modern luxury and feel more deeply connected to the caveman, it also gives you such a feeling of worthlessness that the only way to justify your pitiful, filth besot existence is to risk life and limb for the fleeting honor, glory and commendation of a scary send.
- The Moment. To climb scary trad, you have to somehow Be in The Moment. After years of contemplation, I think I've finally figured this one out. The Moment is a perfectly infinitesimal unit of time. There is not past not future, nor what has been nor what will be. The wonderful thing about The Moment is that, once entered, you are no longer aware of the shitty gear beneath you that probably couldn't hold a mouse and is just waiting to deposit your corpse on the talus field below, nor can you think about the slopers greased with death's own oil awaiting you above. How do you get there? No idea. I think it has something to do with yoga mats, Warrior One, and chanting mudras, darhmas, and namastes to yourself. I don't really know. But if you ever figure it out, let me know.