Author Topic: The club opinion on free solo'ing  (Read 1564 times)

Offline MegaDave

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The club opinion on free solo'ing
« on: May 21, 2014, 11:20:06 PM »
Don't do solo'ing. End of. Disucuss.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2014, 09:28:28 AM by MegaDave »

Offline Fat Alan

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Re: The club opinion on free solo'ing
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2014, 08:10:10 AM »
hate to upset you dave but it ain't that simple. What constitutes soloing is subjective - many scrambles, approaches and boulder problems could be considered free soloing.
For example, if a crag as a bit of scrambling on the approach does that count as soloing?
What about down-climbs as descents? The one in the middle of bosi is technically hard enough to be grade 3+ or something. I consider it scrambling descent but I'm sure there are plenty of other ppl who would consider it too technical and want a rope.
Then you've got highball bouldering - are you suggesting that no-one in the club should climb the elephant without a rope? it's the same height as some gritstone routes.
Lastly, what about routes with poor protection? Something like Sunset Slab is a classic route but the gear is so low down that a fall from the crux would mean hitting the floor. How is that different to soloing?

Basically climbing difficulty and risk is subjective and personal. You can choose to influence the risk by using a rope but it's not a guarantee of safety..
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Offline Novelty Matt

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Re: The club opinion on free solo'ing
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2014, 08:11:47 AM »
I think Dave wanted to say, if people normally use a rope on it, don't solo it...
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Offline RichardN

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Re: The club opinion on free solo'ing
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2014, 08:48:07 AM »

You wrote this as an arse covering exercise (Whether or not we actually need to cover our arse is a question that remains to be seen and will become clearer after BMC safety seminar, this is just a knee jerk reaction with out full possession of facts) now there's not a whole lot you can (or probably will) do about it if people decide the want to solo. Therefore your "end of" all debate stops here attitude is probably counter productive. Like Alan says it's subjective and it's not clear cut. I personally am neither strongly for or against free soloing, I have done it (as has almost everyone) and I know it's dangerous. I mostly don't do it.

Climbing is an inherently dangerous hobby, the BMC participation statement reflects this. As a club I believe we have a responsibility to inform people of the risks associated with any given activity, and ways they can minimise them. The individual then has a responsibility to make an informed judgement about what is an acceptable level of risk for them. I wear a helmet at any crag I go to, others choose not to. I have a right to think they're stupid for doing so, they have a right to ignore me and make their own choice.


Likewise replacement of gear, again there are guidelines and people should be made aware of them. But it remains a personal decision. And in the same way if your partner has a harness which is looking really old and dodgy, you make the choice to not climb with them.


If you were to fall whilst alipining it's generally accepted the fall would be nastier and a bit more dangerous than if you were pitching it, you've made a decision trading safety for speed and ease. Is the club going to publish a list of routes it's ok to alpine?


I also know that you've written this because of an isolated incident in splosh which is atypical of the club. And most of the people involved in said incident are unlike to see this due to lack of forum use.

In short: Don't think we need to attempt to cover our arse like this. Far better to promote discussion and let ADULTS make their own decision.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2014, 08:56:21 AM by RichardN »
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Offline Fat Alan

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Re: The club opinion on free solo'ing
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2014, 08:49:50 AM »
I think Dave wanted to say, if people normally use a rope on it, don't solo it...
But that's still completely subjective - lots of people 'normally' solo/boulder on short gritstone 'routes'.
A lot of guides describe both scrambling and abseil approaches to crags - both are normal.
It's traditionally normal practice for people (not just climbers) to jump between the Adam and Eve boulders on top of Tryfan. I consider it too dangerous to do without a rope even tho it's 'normal' to do without one.
There's a reason that the BMC's participation statement is all about individual responsibility - the level of acceptable risk is a personal decision.
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Offline maybe_si

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Re: The club opinion on free solo'ing
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2014, 09:22:27 AM »
Who is safer at the crag, someone who knows what they are doing and goes out soloing? Or a bunch of beginners trying to learn to lead trad?

Whilst I dont think soloing should be actively encouraged, a blanket ban is just silly!  As Alan said, one persons scramble is another persons solo etc...
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Offline MegaDave

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Re: The club opinion on free solo'ing
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2014, 09:46:35 AM »
 I get the whole 'bouldering and high ball is soloing' thing and I agree, the difference is you'd usually have spotters and a matt in that case.

After reading all the above I get there should be no blanket ban because its subjective, but I'm still with what novelty said.

Offline blondie

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Re: The club opinion on free solo'ing
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2014, 09:49:36 AM »
What was this isolated incident in Cornwall then???

Offline blondie

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Re: The club opinion on free solo'ing
« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2014, 09:51:27 AM »
If you want to solo bigger routes that most people use ropes on that's fine, just make sure you are not climbing above other climbers so if you do fall off you don't hurt anyone else :-)

Offline Novelty Matt

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Re: The club opinion on free solo'ing
« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2014, 09:51:54 AM »
Who is safer at the crag, someone who knows what they are doing and goes out soloing? Or a bunch of beginners trying to learn to lead trad?

Whilst I dont think soloing should be actively encouraged, a blanket ban is just silly!  As Alan said, one persons scramble is another persons solo etc...
Who is safer, the fresher learning to lead, or the fresher who gets the impression soloing is cool so tries it for themselves?  Freshers can be quite impressionable... (I know I sound like an old man, but these things be true)
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Offline MattJC

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Re: The club opinion on free solo'ing
« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2014, 10:35:08 AM »
Just to impart my 2 cents...
The opinion on free soloing as a whole is a subjective one, the opinion on weather freshers should solo a route they have no knowledge of I think would be an objective one.
The likely hood is the club has no legal responsability for said fresher who wants to solo something, and thats probably as it should be. As was said above, it makes sense that the BMC promotes personal responsability and I think wholeheartedly thats correct.
However, many dangers of climbing are discussed with freshers, and I think this should be included in it. While the 'incident' at SPLOSH was isolated and atypical, it still occured. It is true these people were acting as they chose, as is their right as an adult, it does not mean they shouldn't be advised against it. The 'best practice' in many situations is debatable and subjective as has been already said, my point is if any of us saw someone they knew to be a complete fresher, and they were like 'yh, I'll climb that, sod the rope' would you not advise them it probably wasn't wise? It's not about a blanket ban, it's about education and advice. What may seem as logical or obvious to you, may not be to someone else.

Offline RichardN

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Re: The club opinion on free solo'ing
« Reply #11 on: May 22, 2014, 10:42:56 AM »
would you not advise them it probably wasn't wise? It's not about a blanket ban, it's about education and advice.


So what the club has always done before then?
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Offline MattJC

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Re: The club opinion on free solo'ing
« Reply #12 on: May 22, 2014, 10:51:39 AM »
would you not advise them it probably wasn't wise? It's not about a blanket ban, it's about education and advice.


So what the club has always done before then?
With the specific inclusion of discussion and advice regarding soloing, yes.

Offline JosiahE

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Re: The club opinion on free solo'ing
« Reply #13 on: May 23, 2014, 12:34:45 PM »
If you were to put a rule on it it could be something like climbing certain grades/have climbed for a certain amount of time before allowing to solo certain routes. I'm still not up for that though, I generally see soloing as an unnecessary risk. If there is protection then you should use it (within reason). What it needs is the club to have a wider knowledge of the inherent risks of soloing and ensuring that these risks are explained to freshers/new members before they attempt any outdoor climbing.


Like I said, I am against soloing in the respect that it is an unnecessary risk unless it is the approach,descent or is needed for the route etc. I guess it just comes down to the judgement of the climber based on their experience.


On the bigger scale, soloing is on the rise with pro climbers like Alex Honnold taking the lead, so without question freshers are going to see it as cool and exciting. It is therefore the club responsibility to educate new members on such issues.

Offline Novelty Matt

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Re: The club opinion on free solo'ing
« Reply #14 on: May 23, 2014, 12:43:38 PM »
What it needs is the club to have a wider knowledge of the inherent risks of soloing and ensuring that these risks are explained to freshers/new members before they attempt any outdoor climbing.
I don't get why these risks need explaining, I think I knew from a fairly young age an akwkward fall from height = death/crippling or a fall from a certain height = death/crippling, or do people think climbing shoes make you invincible?
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Offline blondie

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Re: The club opinion on free solo'ing
« Reply #15 on: May 23, 2014, 12:53:43 PM »
What is the BMC's opinion on this, they will advise clubs on this sort of thing to ensure that the club committee are not leaving themselves open to be sued in the event of an accident within the club.

Offline JosiahE

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Re: The club opinion on free solo'ing
« Reply #16 on: May 23, 2014, 01:04:11 PM »
What it needs is the club to have a wider knowledge of the inherent risks of soloing and ensuring that these risks are explained to freshers/new members before they attempt any outdoor climbing.
I don't get why these risks need explaining, I think I knew from a fairly young age an akwkward fall from height = death/crippling or a fall from a certain height = death/crippling, or do people think climbing shoes make you invincible?


I for one, didn't really know the risks that much when I started climbing. A lot of freshers throw themselves at any climb thinking they'll be fine since they are part of the club (I was generally terrified when seb started leading! haha). It's unlikely I would ever attempt any of the climbs I've done independently of the club. I just think its easy to fall into a false sense of security when you have club members who seem to know what they are doing and safety gear all around you. I think it is very important to still emphasise the risks involved.

Offline Mr. Crabb

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Re: The club opinion on free solo'ing
« Reply #17 on: May 23, 2014, 04:37:34 PM »

Here is my 2 cents as trips officer next year:


It is my name that goes on the risk assessment that is submitted to the union, therefore if anyone seriously hurts themselves on a club trip then that falls under union jurisdiction and if soloing is not on the risk assessment (which it won't be due to the fact that I don't think the club should be encouraging soloing in new climbers) then I will be responsible and the financial risk and the risk of going to jail for lack of care is not something that I want to risk in running club trips. However, I feel that the inherent risks in soloing must be explained to new climbers by the club so that they understand the dangers involved. Whether this risk is explained through a briefing at the camp site before we go climbing or before we go on the trip in Guildford is still undecided by myself and will be decided on nearer the time depending on numbers.

What is the BMC's opinion on this, they will advise clubs on this sort of thing to ensure that the club committee are not leaving themselves open to be sued in the event of an accident within the club.


With regards to the BMC, this is brought up at the safety seminar each year (which we didn't attend in 2013 but will this year) and although it does not directly related to soloing much emphasis is made on risk assessments and legal issues in this case. The example they use at the seminar is the time when UWE mountaineering club went up Snowdon and one of their members got killed and another seriously injured due to a bad assessment of the conditions involved. Hopefully this would hopefully NEVER happen in the club but because of this the people leading that trip ended up being arrested (correct me if I'm wrong) and this is a risk I am not willing to take.


With regards to the definition of soloing in respect to downclimbs, that would be down to the person responsible for that group to decide. This would take into account the ability of the group, the weather conditions and the local rock conditions (i.e. is it wet).


Simply put,  if you are on a club trip run by myself and are named in my risk assessment (i.e. going on a minibus/staying in the same hall (or campsite)) then soloing is prohibited unless you have a very good reason for doing so, and if you do then you will be subject to a referral to the sports disciplinary committee or be asked to not come on a club trip again. If you are in a car (i.e. not with us) then you can do what you like as you to the law are other climbers at the crag on the same day regardless of your affiliation to the club. Yes, this punishment can be seen as excessive, however I feel it is suitable for irresponsibility of soloing and is a good indicator of the seriousness of the activity and how it is viewed within the club.


The job of trips officer is to provide climbing trips not end up as a scapegoat when someone is foolish and goes soloing and hurts themselves.
« Last Edit: October 31, 2014, 11:13:05 AM by Mr. Crabb »
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Offline Ali*

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Re: The club opinion on free solo'ing
« Reply #18 on: May 23, 2014, 05:44:05 PM »
So this is interesting and possibly worth a read once it's printed.

 https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1217624141/me-myself-and-i-the-dark-art-of-big-wall-soloing
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