This week's debacharous salute goes not to a single person, but to a single action. We've all done it, some more than others. It can be exhilarating, frustrating, mundane, and frightening. I've seen it done with grace and style, however, I've also seen it completed in the most unsightly fashion. You may know it as falling, taking a digger, or whipping.
I could tell you some lame story from my own vault of whipping history, but I choose to give you a brief story of whiptastic proportions.
The crag: Rock of Ages. The climbers: Arnold Braker/Maury Birdwell.
The boys objective for a fine July day was to inspect a route called The Wasp (5.13a Traditional). To make a long story short, I will tell you that the lad's warm-up for the day set the tone that would crescendo into digger history, at least for one of them. Let's just say that this warm-up involved a Factor 1.8 fall where climber ended up 15 below belayer. Yikes!
Feeling strong? the boys decided to test their traditional prowess on an even harder route! For the sake of saving time, I will let our Whippy Wednesday hero explain in his own words.
I led through to bottom section with little trouble, and took a while to figure out the crux - which entailed multiple 25 foot falls onto a green alien cam. No biggee. I lowered off, and after a good rest got through the crux. As I’d anticipated, there was a great rest after the crux; unfortunately, the bomber gear placements I’d thought would accompany this stance were missing. I managed to blindly shove a .5 camalot into a hole at my feet. Then a few more strenuous moves and I placed a black alien (the smallest they make) and took a quick hang. As I was pulling it off my rack I dropped my extra green alien, with the sickening feeling I would be needing it soon. I was right, as about ten feet later the only placement I could find was a perfect green alien slot - I forced a yellow alien partways in, knowing it was in no way sound.
At this point my only viable was to push on and get to the anchors (or the fixed pin five feet below them). I made it to the pin, barely, which was in the middle of another crux. As my left hand popped off I thought to myself, “Well, I was wondering if the last cam was any good.” It was not. Here’s a summary of my thought process:
Falling, rope starts to come taught on yellow alien, it pops out.
“Oh well, I was expecting that.”
Falling more, rope begins to tighten on black alien, it pops.
“Well crap, I thought that was good.”
Rope comes to on the .5 camalot, and it also pulls out.
Nonetheless, that little green guy I’d been lobbing on before held fast, arresting me about 20 feet from the ground, mostly unharmed: I scraped up my arm a bit, got some rope burn, and tweaked my ankle. Feeling good now and ready to get back up there.
Mister Birdwell has since recovered from his 60+ foot lead fall on the now infamous green alien and is close to sending.
On another note, I just got word that Cassidy Hill DID send the Wasp today! Congrats Cass and Cheers to all who have and will Whip!