Don’t Tell Me What To Do!

By Tracy Wilson

I was five feet from the chains on route that only a few months earlier had been very intimidating for me to climb. But this was my smoothest send yet. I felt at ease, and moves that once were hard flowed with little effort. Then something happened. I didn’t fall or give up, I stuttered. In that moment of hesitation, I heard my belayer (and loving husband) yell up from the ground, “Aren’t you proud that I’m not giving you beta?”

If you’ve ever climbed with me before, you know that one of my biggest pet peeves is people yelling beta while I’m climbing. On the ground, you can tell me whatever you want, but when I get on route, I really do like to figure things out on my own. (A rarity in these parts, especially at the place that rhymes with “stifle.”) And if I want a little help, don’t worry, I’ll ask for it!

BJ, my primary climbing partner, knows that I’m not a fan of the spray. His analytical brain struggles with this, and it’s incredibly hard for him to navigate my opposition for beta, as he has one of those photographic memories that can recite the exact moves that he watched a random stranger do on his warm up two months ago. Plus, he has a genuine desire to see me succeed, so any hesitation on my part and he wants to unveil the deep secrets of the route to me.

My resistance to beta isn’t because I’m agro, don’t want to mess up my on-sight or don’t appreciate a little advice. Quite simply, other peoples’ beta generally just doesn’t work for me. I am short, and climb fairly statically. I also rarely remember beta, unless a route is really challenging for me. I will most likely climb a route that I’ve done before, even one I’ve done many times before, completely different each time.

But here’s the catch: I am a people pleaser. I want to make the people giving me beta feel included and show them that their suggestions are valued, so I will do whatever unnatural, crappy move for me to bring their beta to fruition.

So when BJ was feeling so elated that he hadn’t given me beta and yelled, “Aren’t you proud that I’m not giving you beta,” my mind translated that as, “BJ isn’t giving me beta, but if he was giving me beta he would tell me to go to the chalked hold out right. BJ and Lynn always go to the ticked hold up and right. Oh, no…how do I get my hand to the chalked hold out right, my hands are left and so are my feet. BJ would get to the chalked hold….shoot! I’m pumped! TAKE!”

Damn, and just like that, my perfect send was over. In a split second I went from completely focused to flustrated (a word my mother coined which combines both flustered and frustrated). As loud as I could I yelled a hefty, ”Take”. And as I sat in my harness, staring at the bolt in front of me, I started to understand that my frustration in that moment was simple. As a people pleaser, I was a slave to whatever beta was being yelled up at me, no matter how much it was wrong for my style of climbing. I didn’t un-send the route that day because I was weak or unfocused, I didn’t send the route because I’m a people pleaser.

How about you? Do you like getting beta, or would you prefer to figure it out yourself? Let us know in the comments!

Tracy Wilson is trying to reform her habits this season, but has a long way to go. If you happen to yell beta to her, don’t be surprised if does a figure four to try and reach the hold that is “right there”.

14 Responses to Don’t Tell Me What To Do!

  1. So now when I belay I can only say things like “Way to go!” or “Stick with it!” Sooooo boring….

    BJ Sbarra April 24, 2012 at 10:27 am
    • You can get fancy, and say things like “commit” or “stay with it!”

      Tracy Wilson April 24, 2012 at 11:09 am
  2. I’m with you, Tracy! I’d prefer not to get beta unless I ask for it. Half the fun of bouldering, which is my favorite climbing discipline, and all climbing, really, is looking at a route and trying to figure out the puzzle. If someone tells you how all the pieces fit together, it takes away from the whole experience. I’ll ask for help if I can’t figure something out, or watch someone else do the problem, but you’re right, others’ beta won’t always work for you. Great post!

    Katie April 24, 2012 at 11:35 am
    • Katie,

      The puzzle aspect is key for me as well. I also feel like one of my gifts as a climber is that I climb intuitively. So sometimes even when I focus on beta for a route, I end up executing moves differently than I had planned on the ground.

      Thanks for reading the post and supporting SplitterChoss!

      Tracy Wilson April 24, 2012 at 2:59 pm
  3. I feel like I’ve tried to be helpful (in the gym) before and have “told you what to do” … and you were very kind about listening to me.

    Now I realize that beneath your grinning facade was actually your seething rage!

    I’M SORRY!!!!

    AB April 24, 2012 at 11:36 am
  4. Also, if I may present the other side:

    Do you know how completely painful it is to watch someone pawing around for the obvious hold that they just can’t see? Do you realize how utterly gut-wrenching it is to have to stand around with your mouth shut while you watch a climber head left onto some sucker holds when you know the sequence goes right? It’s worse than a scene in a horror movie when the young virgin goes to open the door to greet her axe murderer.

    Basically, the people who scream at movie characters in horror flicks are the same people who shout beta

    AB April 24, 2012 at 11:41 am
    • Yes, I do. 😉

      BJ Sbarra April 24, 2012 at 11:47 am
  5. AB- No need for apologies. I know that you just wanted me to succeed:)

    I can only imagine how analytical brains (that actually do remember beta) feel when they see someone heading for the wrong holds, but someone like me is never going to remember the sucker holds unless I get foiled by them. To quote Confucius, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand,” is how climbing and life really is for me.

    I’m going to ask the next sprayer I encounter if they scream at characters in horror flicks. I bet they’ll be a lot of people who say, “yes!”

    Tracy Wilson April 24, 2012 at 1:49 pm
  6. Tracy, I’m right there with you. I want to figure it out on my own, and if I can’t, I’ll ask for help.

    There’s another aspect to look at, also. As a female, I think I’m pretty sensitive to the implication that I *need* help, or that I won’t be able to figure it out on my own. Most of the time beta is meant to be helpful, with nothing else wrapped up in it, but there’s a long-standing societal stereotype of the strong, smart guy helping the less capable girl. So, my gut reaction is “let me figure it out myself, damnit!”

    With that aside, I’m also quite independent and I enjoy the problem-solving aspect of climbing. I agree that unsolicited beta takes that part away, and then it’s just not as fun.

    Thanks for posting.

    Elizabeth April 24, 2012 at 2:02 pm
  7. I’m fine with people giving me beta, unless it’s my wife. Not sure why. She says the same thing about me. Or that 16-year-old that was climbing in Vibram five fingers. That was kinda annoying too.

    Greg April 24, 2012 at 11:19 pm
  8. I started smiling at the end of the first paragraph and was laughing out loud by the end of the article. I could have written this; I feel the exact same way and have a boyfriend/partner who loves to give beta. If I’m close enough to the ground, I can simply give him “the look” and he quickly says “sorry” and stops. And it’s not that I’m missing an obvious hold; he just likes giving me beta. Sometimes it’s ok – like if I’m am at rest and I’ve tried things that haven’t worked. But when I’m moving or at a crux, the extra noise messes up my concentration – even if it’s great beta, I need to figure it out myself. Nice to know I’m not the only one!! And that he’s not either!

    Cherie May 7, 2012 at 3:40 pm
    • I feel exactly like the other Greg. Lately though, when someone has offered beta when I probably could have figured it out…I just went with it. Maybe, I’m becoming more understanding with my old age.

      Greg May 30, 2012 at 4:28 pm
  9. Pingback: Episode 12: Girl, you’ll be a woman soon. | The Enormocast

  10. I like beta after I’ve fallen and am hanging. Not while I am trying to climb. I find it very distracting.

    don mcgrath December 28, 2014 at 9:08 am
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