Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The ethics of failing.


Climbing is a pretty simple activity. Go to a crag, pick a route you like, read the grade and information from the guidebook, have a good look at it, get on it and try to climb it. If you're good enough to do the route you'll get up it and succeed, if you're not good enough you won't and you'll fail on it by falling off or resting or whatever. If it's a new route or an unrepeated route then there won't be the same / any information about it so you might need to inspect it further rather than climbing it normally, the same if it's a cutting edge of difficulty that hasn't been climbed normally (an extremely obvious distinction that needs no further comment, it applies throughout this post). But usually you'll turn up, climb from bottom to top and than you've done the route - and done the level of challenge the grade entails. Except:

First E5!!!! WOOOOOO ( Lead RP )
First E5 fail.

Worked on rope then went for the lead. Very happy first e5.
First E5 fail.

Probably could have onsighted this, but wouldn't have :) First E4!
First E4 fail.

First E4. Went okay after I found my sequence on the rockover. ( Lead RP )
First E4 fail.

first e4 stoaked!, although made a hash of placing cams low down in the crack and came off,
First E4 fail.

My First E2! Got it second go.
First E2 fail.

After Working, what a way to claim First E2!
First E2 fail.

First E2- took a tumble on the crux, got back on the horse and got it 2nd try.
First E2 fail.

seconded up it before then lead. first E2 without bolts!
 First E2 fail.

Ummmmm..... In an ideal world UKC would replace "Lead RP", "Lead dog", "Lead dnf" and of course "TR" with "Fail".

What is so difficult to grasp that if you're doing a route at the grade given for an onsight, you've do the route as an onsight?? I presume that if someone is running a 100m sprint, they know that the time recorded is from starting at the starting line and running to the finish line, and to do that time you don't start part way along or ride a bicycle?? It's just the same and just as simple in climbing, to do that grade you do it in the context given. Sure the grade is given to the route not the ascent, but equally bloody obviously it's given for doing the route in a particular style - not worked, not with a ladder against it, not bolting on holds, not aiding it or anything else.

Anyway, there's nothing wrong whatsoever with trying and failing. It's part of the process. God knows I've failed on more routes than most people have succeeded on. It annoys me when I do it but it's nothing to be ashamed of - if I've failed on a route I haven't done it, sobeit.

Of course.....there's a world of difference between trying and failing, and not even bothering to try at all, by choosing to top-rope first. Failure to do a route is one thing, failure to even try to do it is something else. To acknowledge a challenge, to see it and be inspired by it, and somehow deliberately choose to not engage with that challenge is....very strange behaviour. Why bother to go near it at all?? If you can't even try to do it, then simply don't - there are so many more other routes to actually try.

In the context of all this common bloody sense, it was quite perturbing to see people failing to top-rope dog a mega-classic Lake District E5 trade route at a clean, dry, roadside crag the other day. It's the incomprehensibility of it that gets me. At first I assumed they'd be on a much less ascended E7 next to it (given that's getting towards the realms of "rarely climbed normally"), but no....mega-classic trade route at a very normal leading standard. Sometimes I think I'd like to know the reasoning behind this "Oh I can't do this route, so I will not do it by hanging on a top-rope", but it's such an alien concept I'd have better luck trying to understand telepathy with a squid or a patch of moss. What about "Oh I can't do this route so I'll get more skillful from doing some of the other few thousand routes in the area and get fit slogging up hills and get strong at the Bowderstone and then actually try it"?? Pass the moss-squid, it might be able to grasp that concept.

Of course "people can do what they like as long as they don't damage the rock". Sure WHATEVER. Yawn, snore, etc. What a drab response that misses the point of the climbing experience: the experience is about pleasure, about excitement, about tackling challenges....about quality. And the quality of the routes is about the experience of climbing up them, not the non-experience of not-climbing them by top-roping/working. Top-roping doesn't just eradicate the challenge and the grade, it eradicates the quality and the star rating. Sure people can choose to not-climb something, they might claim to "enjoy" that, but it doesn't make it any less weird - people choose to have sex with animals too and claim to enjoy it... And yes that is an entirely fair and accurate comparison. Cheers!


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