Climbing Ironies

Climbing seems to be full of things that don’t make sense. A few of the more perplexing paradoxes in our sport:

Steep climbs have lots of bolts, but slabs have very few.

The steeper a cliff gets, the safer the falls. So why do steep routes generally have bolts fairly close together, while slabs, which are not fun to fall on (and may even be dangerous), generally don’t offer much in the way of protection? Even when they ARE bolted, the bolts are usually few and far between. So when it’s dangerous, we run it out, and when it’s safe, we grid bolt. With that kind of logic we should be in politics!

“Sporty” means runout, but “sport climbing” is casual.

The description in the the guidebook read “this route gets a little sporty moving from the crack onto the face.” A new comer might think that was a good thing, as sport climbing general means routes that are safely protected by bolts, but “sporty” really means it’s going to be exciting! I’m guessing this comes from a time when climbing was still considered more of a “game,” and something that was “sporting” was in good style? I don’t know, any input on this one?

We put chalk on our hands because they are sweaty, but too much chalk makes us need more of it.

Have you ever brushed the holds on a really popular route you were working on? It’s amazing how much texture is hiding under those layers of chalk! At least slippery holds make us stronger, which is nice.

A group of people we don’t know is a crowd, a big group of friends is a party.

We rolled into Creek Pasture late one night, and were a bit taken aback by how many people were camping there. Now, if we knew all those people, we be like, “Oh cool, Johnny and Chris made it.” But instead our gut reaction is, man, why are there so many people here? I guess I have a lot of friends to make so everyone can be in the “in” crowd.

9+ is harder than 10b.

Much like Newton’s Third Law, I don’t understand how or why, but I do know that it’s true. And while maybe not as often, sometimes 10+ is waaaay harder than 11a.

Many people at the crag are generally nice, many climbers on the Internet are generally mean.

Actually, this makes sense to me. If we are outside, we are happy. If we are inside, stuck in front of a glowing screen, we are mean. Seems pretty simple to me. Outside = good, glowing screen = bad.

Any other big ones out there you can think of?

6 Responses to Climbing Ironies

  1. -Roofs have the cleanest, safest falls but are generally the most intimidating.

    Oh and this one- this one is huge:
    I think I may present this socio-pyschological phenomenon to MIT or Harvard or something. I call it ‘short term ability memory’ wherein you can go and get shut down for an entire afternoon/weekend with absolutely no hope of sending a project that is completely out of your range and the second you get back to camp you immediately ‘realize’ that it isn’t actually that difficult and that you are surely capable of sending. Rinse repeat. It also applies to watching pros climb on the worlds hardest rigs and thinking to yourself ‘those holds look pretty positive…’

    Gnarkansas May 2, 2013 at 8:46 am
  2. NIce post, BJ. I like this. Technically, these observations are more ironic than they are “paradoxes,” but semantics aside, I like your thoughts.

    How about; the older and more experienced you get, the less likely you are to do risky things.

    The more bucks you get from your sponsors to be famous climbers and travel the world, the more you just want to stay home and go to Rifle.

    The more you climb on one project, the weaker you get

    AB May 3, 2013 at 10:07 am
    • Good point, title updated! And those are great!

      BJ Sbarra May 6, 2013 at 9:20 am
  3. Don’t know whether this is paradox or irony but the fact is that “classic” routes often are the least pleasant to climb owing to crowds, polish, etc.

    peter beal May 9, 2013 at 11:19 am
    • I wonder at what point do classic routes lose their “classic” status because they have been loved to death? Incredible Hand Crack really isn’t all that incredible anymore, I’m sure there are many others we could come up with. I can only imagine what some of the Rifle “warm ups” were like before a gazillion ascents turned them to glass.

      BJ Sbarra May 9, 2013 at 11:25 am
      • Those “warm ups” were probably what Hogwarts and the Distllery are today, fresh, sporty and no polish!

        Lynn May 19, 2013 at 7:40 am
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