Rock Climbing Page
Like many sports, I rock climb off and on through the years. I pick it up, do it for a few years, then get tired of it, then pick it up. I started back in 1987 in New England. I was lucky enough that Dave Plaisance started dragging me out of bed to go. I climbed for a few years, went to Arizona and climbed for a few more years. Arizona was tougher since I didn't know anyone and there really weren't any gyms. You just had to go, and hope to meet someone on the rock. Between engineering college and three jobs, I didn't climb as much as I wanted, but enough to have fun. By the mid 90's, however, gyms were popping up as meeting places. What amazed me was how many people in Phoenix, with great rock all through the city and tons of climbing outside the city, preferred just to stay in the gym. The gym was often a farther drive than real rock!
I moved to Dallas, and things changed. I climbed for a while, but was drifting out of it. There was no real rock anywhere close around, and what drove me to it was not so much the climbing (which was fun), but also the outdoors. For about a year I went, first three days a week, then two, then just early Friday nights to the local gym. I did this for a while, then got out of it altogether. A few years later I did it again, on Tuesdays with some friends, then Friday's. Simple routine: climb for a while, go get a frozen margarita to wrap my hands around at Cantina Laredo (Denise, the wife of Ariel that I worked at TI/Raytheon with, worked there), and sat and read, minding my own business. She always harassed me to hit on the women and had the bartender stealing my magazine.
I briefly got into it one last time, then quit. Dallas just sucked the climbing life out of me, when meant I had time for other sports. I took up kayaking and skydiving, for example. I know I'll move someday to a spot where it's easier to get on the rocks.
You can learn all about the advanced stuff all over the web. Here's a real quick summary on the very basics of climbing.
Well organized FAQ about climbing, see: http://www.tradgirl.com/climbing_faq/index.htm
Mechanically Aided Climbing, an excellent history: http://www.bigwalls.net/climb/mechadv/
Climbing Terms: I'm not going to repeat them. Definitions at Wikipedia.
Climbing Ratings: There are many well-done explanations found by searching on Yosemite Decimal System. I'm not going to try and repeat them. Here's one good one by Climber.org. A simple summary is that protected climbing starts with a 5, and full aid climbing with a 6. What's harder to find is the history: In North America, climbs are rated using the Yosemite Decimal System, developed by the Sierra Club Mountaineers in the 1930's. When they developed this, they thought there would be no climb harder than a 5.7 that could be climbed without aid. In 1952, the first 5.9 was climbed (Open Book at Tahquitz Rock in Southern California) by Royal Robbins and Don Wilson and suddenly, the decimal "ceiling" was in sight. The first proposal was to take over Class 6 for harder free climbing, and push aid climbing up to Class 7. This was voted down. Next someone suggested breaking 5.9 down into subdecimals--like 5.91, 5.92, etc. But then there was the prospect of climbing 5.9999's. That plan was dropped. Then someone dumped logic and math and said, "How about a five-ten?" Five-ten? That's a six! Or five-one-zero, which is going backwards. But beauty and simplicity won by popular use, and it can go on forever, ignorant of mathematical law.
One thing to note about climbing ratings: You don't rate yourself by the best climb you've ever done. You rate yourself by what you climb sustained. You must also include versatility. What can you climb on slabs, overhangs, cracks, and face-climbs? That's your rating. There's no shame--be honest it. I climbed an occasional 5.10, but with falls. I was consistent 5.9 face, and in reality a 5.8 climber if you include mastering all types of routes. Overhangs killed me...probably a 5.7 there, but I could pull it off. The only time it's commonly accepted to give multiple ratings is in leading/following. People will commonly say, "Lead 5.9, follow 5.11."
Climbing And Your Health
The rock climbing magazines keep advocating that rock climbing doesn't lead to arthritis. Of course they do--much like weightlifting magazines never give an objective, scientific review of the supplements they sell. Of course not--not only are the supplements 90% of their advertising dollar, but many of the magazines sell their own line (like Weider Nutrition and Joe Weider "Muscle and Fitness.") Years of research, however, don't support that. In fact, they say the opposite.
Time Magazine, February 8, 1999. Page 76 (The Your Health section) summarized an article from Arthritis & Rheumatism magazine (1/99). Time said: New research on hundreds of Americans shows that those with a strong hand grip face higher odds of developing arthritis in the joints at the base of the fingers, including the thumb. Why? Hefty hand muscles exert excessive force on the joints. The picture they used was a rock climber.
I requested information from the Arthritis & Rheumatism Medical Association and they
sent me the abstract, not the whole article. It's tech talk like our engineering articles,
and just as hard to read if you're not a doctor. Here's the summation:
Higher maximal grip strength was associated with an increased risk of OA (arthritis) in the PIP....blah blah blah.
Stronger hands are formed by putting more stress on weak joints. The stronger the hands, the more likely. That's what you get for having fingers pulled
by ligaments instead of muscle all the way--ligaments don't grow like muscle
The general advice seems to be: Don't overdo it rock climbing and get get a girlfriend (Wayne's Interpretation), and you'll be fine. That also might explain why women score lower and they didn't measure thumbs. (Actual Grant ID: AR-20613/AR/NIAMS and N01-HC-38038/HC/NHLBI )
Some Famous Climbers: There is no way to do them all justice. I'll stick them in here as I find them/think of them. There are lots of "currently famous" climbers out there, as climbing has become more commercial and Climbing magazines trumpet these currently-famous names, slapped with advertising stickers over whatever product they're selling (nothing wrong with that). Others are more lasting and known outside the general climbing community (Sir Edmund Hillary). Some become famous because they're good, but then are really launched (and climbing magazines are dedicated to) their breast implants. Others are obscure, but had one major contribution. I like those the best. (Note: Yes, there are tendencies for climbers to die young.
He's not well known in rock climbing, but the two people who patented
devices off his work are. As
far as I can tell, going by dates and credits, he is the true inventor of
the climbing cam. Here's the
history. Vitaly Abalakov devoted his life to mountaineering
instruction, equipment design, and the promotion of international good will
for mountain climbing. Scrounging surplus aircraft materials, he made a
variety of innovative tools, including the first hauling pulley, the first
adjustable tube chock, inventive rope clamps, titanium pitons and crampons,
retrievable ice screws, and the V-thread rappel anchor (not, strictly
speaking, a mechanical device, but nonetheless an ice-climbing
His invention of the Abalakov Cam was the first application to climbing of the principle of a constant-angle curved surface The next profound equipment change was the development of crack camming devices. After an incomparable career of first ascents dating from the 1930s in the various mountain ranges of the USSR, Vitaly Abalakov devoted his life to mountaineering instruction, equipment design, and the promotion of international good will for mountain climbing. Scrounging surplus aircraft materials, he made a variety of innovative tools, including the first hauling pulley, the first adjustable tube chock, inventive rope clamps, titanium pitons and crampons, retrievable ice screws, and the V-thread rappel anchor (not, strictly speaking, a mechanical device, but nonetheless an ice-climbing breakthrough).
His invention of the Abalakov Cam was the first application to climbing of the principle of a constant-angle curved surface, with a cam shape based on the mathematical logarithmic spiral. Designed so that a load produces a rotational force, the logarithmic cam shape allowed for a single device to fit in a range of crack sizes without a change in the loading pattern, making it predictable and stable. Abalakov shared his ideas with the world, and freely distributed information on their design and construction.
In 1973 Greg Lowe filed for a patent for a sprung loaded version of the Abalakov Cam, manufactured some workable single cam units, and equipped his brother Jeff, who rapidly scooped some of the finest long routes in Zion National Park, notorious for its hard-to-protect parallel-sided cracks. These early single cam units had an elongated 30 degree camming angle, which provided limited stability, and their use never became widespread.
In 1977 Ray Jardine climbed the Phoenix, Yosemite's first 5.13, with a new secret weapon. With an engineer's understanding of the principles of force and friction, Ray designed a sprung loaded opposing multiple cam unit with a more stable 15 degree camming angle and an innovative triggering mechanism. He kept his "Friends" cloaked in secrecy before his patent in 1978, and Yosemite was rife with rumors of Jardine's devices allowing for effortless protection placement on hard free routes. Before the commercial availability of Friends, a lucky inner circle of wall rats were able to buy his initial limited production of the innovative tools in the Camp 4 parking lot, and subsequently saved vast amounts of energy expenditure on the taxing big walls.
Wolfgang Güllich: He was famous during his day, and is only referred to now in books, and occasional references in climbing magazines. Perfected a technique called dead-pointing, where you jump to the next move (a dynamic move, or dyno), and hit it at the top of the arc (aka the 'dead-point'). What made Wolfgang different was he did it with finger pockets, not large pockets or horns. He trained the tendons of his index and middle fingers until he could perform repetitive one-finger, one-armed pull-ups without injury. He placed the most difficult free climb in the world (as of 1998, anyway) called Action Directe, a 5.14d in Germany. Gullich was killed in an auto accident in 1992 at the age of 31.
Dan Osman: Died Nov 23, 1998, 35 years old. Of European and Japanese descent, he is a descendant of the samurai families of the Takeuchi clan. To become a better climber, he pioneered the art of falling. Soon he became infatuated with taking longer and longer falls on climbing rope, and developed a variety of gear and methods to make it safer. He was killed during a jump of approximately 1100 feet when the rope, with had sat thru a month of bad weather, broke about 200 feet above his harness.
Royal Robbins: Actually, very well known to climbers, but not much outside. Among his many contributions, he helped (or by himself, depending on where you look) invent the Yosemite Decimal System and invented the first dedicated climbing shoe. He lead the first wave of dedicated American climbers.
Pete Schoening: The man behind what's known as "The Belay." "Simul-climbing" is climbing with no fixed belays. More clearly, this is where two or more climbers rock, ice, or mountaineer climb simultaneously, with no fixed belay stations (rock climbers have anchors in the rock, but neither of the climbers are personally attached to the rock via the anchors.) If a person falls, the climber's partner(s) must belay from their position, unanchored, and hold the falls. This leads to tragedy when one person falls and pulls the others, in stable but unbelayed (unanchored) positions, to their deaths. In 1865 on the Matterhorn, four alpinists were lost due to the stumble of a novice. On the other hand, some of the most supreme moments come when a single climber defies the odds and saves the lives of his entire party. In 1953, Pete Schoening saved his six partners on K2, the most famous belay in history.
Eric Shipton: His light-travel method revolutionized climbing. In 1952 Shipton was slated to lead the expedition that put the first men on the summit of Mount Everest the following year. After months choosing a team and exploring the crevasses and icefalls at the mountain's base, a change was made to the staging method. Shipton, by contrast, was a lone adventurer, drawn to untouched mountains--a climbers' climber whose reputation has only grown with the years. Shipton's style was born in the 1920s in Kenya's freewheeling community of expatriate Europeans. He had settled there to try life as a coffee grower, but within months his vision turned skyward, and he became the first man to ascend both peaks of Mount Kenya in 1929. Shipton also gravitated toward Bill Tilman, dry witted and so hardened he would later bike across Africa eating mostly bananas and potatoes. While climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Ruwenzori together, the men developed a streamlined style--few porters, little gear, two-men teams--and joked they could plan an entire expedition on the back of an envelope. Their appetite for adventure quickly outgrew Kenya. In 1934, they became the first outsiders to penetrate the Nanda Devi Sanctuary, an emerald valley accessible only by scaling 21,000-foot peaks. Shipton captured the British public's imagination with a poetic account of the ascent, arguing that climbing with as spare a team as possible was key to apprehending the mountains' sublimity. Then came attempts on Everest in 1935 and 1936, and a four-month mapping of the Karakoram range. Britain appointed Shipton consul general to China's Kashgar region in 1940, and during World War II, Shipton supplemented amateur spying and half-hearted governing with fast ascents up the region's major peaks. In preparing for the Everest expedition, though, Shipton achieved some of his greatest feats. In 1951, with younger climbers (including Hillary), he found a new route up Everest's steeper, southern face and was the first to traverse the treacherous Khumbu Icefall below. "There's no doubt they wouldn't have conquered Everest in 1953 without this groundwork," says Peter Hansen of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. In the 1960s, huge, military-style mountain assaults lost favor and Shipton's lightweight, individualistic climbing style became dominant. But it was his call to seek out the blank spots on the map that resounded loudest after his death in 1977. "He was a true explorer," says Steve Matous, executive director of the Access Fund, a climbing-industry nonprofit. "He told us we could all be pioneers.
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The top ten reasons climbing is better than love.
By James Jay Klavetter
10. The bond between you and your partner is more apparent.
9. Your partnership doesn't often end up making children.
8. Your partner and yourself are doing something together you BOTH enjoy.
7. Your partner usually doesn't throw things at you when there is an argument.
6. Your partner doesn't get mad at you if you forget the anniversary of your first climb together.
5. If your partner leaves you, it is relatively easy to find another.
4. You don't usually feel like jumping off a cliff if you fail at a climb.
3. On most climbs, you can protect against something REALLY bad happening.
2. Communication is easier and surer (even if windy and around corners).
And the number one reason climbing is better than love….
1. If there is a fall, broken
bones mend faster and more completely
than broken hearts.
Why climbing is better than sex, A man's perspective, by John Byrnes
Why climbing is better than sex, A woman's perspective, by Ilana Stern
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Misc / Other Climbing Info
Ice Climbing Primer: http://www.codyice.com/clinic.html
North American Alpine: There are 69 "Fourteeners" in the continental United States, 54 of them in Colorado.
Himalayan Alpine: There are fourteen "8K" (8,000 meters or 26,248 feet) mountains in the world, all clustered in the Himalayan and Karakorum ranges of Nepal, Tibet, India, Pakistan, and Kashmir.
Partial Pressure: Refers to the equilibrium state of a gas and a liquid. Ever notice in a 2-liter soda bottle, the gas makes the bottle stiff? When you let the gas out and pour out some liquid, the remaining liquid is still full of dissolved gas. Close the bottle, and the air left in the top is at a lower pressure than before. The gas escapes from the remaining soda until the pressure in the bottle is raised back to the equilibrium state (or the gas runs out). That equilibrium pressure is the partial pressure. It varies with atmospheric pressure, which is why soda bubbles more at altitude, and not at all in the bottom of a mine (try it). The partial pressure of oxygen in your wet body affects you as well. It's most noticeable in scuba divers, where every 33 feet underwater is another atmospheric pressure. There, after 150 feet, the amount of nitrogen forced into the blood is so high, it causes "Nitrogen narcosis," even though you have enough (too much!) oxygen. Climbing produces a reverse effect. As you climb, there is less air pressure around you. Your body is "pressurised," and over time you "outgas" your excess oxygen to match the current partial pressure rate. Every time you breath in, your lungs hold approximately 1 liter of air, but the air is thinner. At 8000 meters, there is 2/3 less oxygen available. Add to that your lowered ability to absorb the oxygen, and you see the problem.