Trad Guy Sporto Tips
I try to embrace all forms of climbing, and I can learn something from everything. Furthermore, the more things I’m willing to climb, the more fun I can have. Jack of all trades, master of none, baby. Wintertime? Don’t whine, ice climb. Only got a few hours? Clip some bolts near the road or go bouldering. Have a full day and clear weather? Head for the mountains. Raining everywhere? Gym climbing.
Working at the harder technical forms, like bouldering and sport climbing, have paid dividends for my overall climbing (though I don’t boulder much – the ground falls don’t mesh with my battered body; and certain angles on sport routes are too weird on my shoulder; so it goes, we all must live with our limitations). Anyway, no doubt that rock climbing movement provides the fundamental base for all climbing.
But on to the point of things: we all want to look cool. Or, at least, not terribly dorky (so says the guy with zero fashion sense). And nowhere else in climbing does coolness factor-in than crag-like settings such as sport crags, the gym and bouldering areas. In my attempts to embrace these forms, I’ve learned some tips – often painstakingly.
[Lookout, it’s trad guy! Photo: Cordes collection]
[Heh – what in the Sam Hell are these clippy thingies? Photo: Cordes collection]
Before I start with the pointers, I’ll suggest that when getting your ass kicked, it’s usually best to simply remain silent. Anything else sounds like an excuse. I know, I should take my own advice. One proud time I did, about 10 years ago. I went to the climbing gym, my buddy bailed, and so I climbed with a guy I’d just met. I, probably having said cordalettes and nut tool on my harness, was belaying the guy with my ATC – until he handed me his Gri-Gri and asked if I wanted to use it. I’d heard about those newfangled thingies. “Sure,” I said, sounding confident. “Cool,” he said, “watch me on this one, it’s right at my limit.” Anyone who’s used a Gri-Gri can imagine what happens next…for those who haven’t: it’s a belay device that locks up, for safety, when slack goes out rapidly. Thus, when your leader pulls-up slack quickly to clip-in his rope, you have to know how to correctly use the device so that, well, it doesn’t lock up on him. If it locks up, he can’t pull up the rope, and he’s stuck, and it’s all your fault – you’re totally screwing over your leader. This is exactly what I did. Until, partway through, this chick in spandex came over and asked, “Want me to show you how to use that?” Ya know, sweetheart, I’ve been climbing since you were in diapers and… “Uhh, sure,” I said, looking at the floor. “Thanks.” What else can ya do.
So here’s my list of hard-learned tips on how to be cool at the crag. For whatever that’s worth, given that I’m 42 years old and with a graying mullet. By the way, the farther you walk, the less relevant this info becomes.
• Use of the word “sick,” and all of its derivations, knows no bounds. Correct spelling optional. For example: “Dude that gnarly route was sooo syck, and I’m totally gonna send the sickness on this next one. Sickgnar, sickbird!”
• Do not, at any cost, use a hydration bladder or any sort of inside-your-pack water system, no matter how much sense it may make. It’s not a matter of space – hell, all ya got in your pack is shoes, harness, and some quickdraws. If you’re kewl, you carry a jug of water in your hand as you do the approach. I’m not sure why, but I’ll try to research it and let you know.
• Guys, remove your shirt. Always. No matter how cold the temps. If you do not do this, you are not kewl. (But full-on bonus points in my book if you climb shirtless and you have a beer gut and loooove handles spilling over your harness, yeah baby!)
[During the transition, but still with some work to do… Photo: Cordes collection]
• Do the Euro Blow (get your mind out of the gutter). I don’t do this. Not cool enough yet. But it’s when, after dipping your hand in your chalk bag, you casually bring your chalked fingers (the ones not crimping the miniscule holds, of course) toward your face and blow-off the excess chalk. Then, naturally, you send said sickness.
• When belaying, have a big-assed hero-loop of slack out. Even on the first bolt. OK, check that – it’s stupid. If the person falls, they deck. Hero loop is fine for a soft catch once they’re higher up. This is where bringing the bong and the trance music to the crag is a bad idea.
• Pantomime the beta. Doesn’t matter if you haven’t sent the route.
[Tommy Caldwell pantomimes the beta. Photo: Kelly Cordes]
• Only tie your shoes when absolutely necessary. The sign of a true hardman is one kewl enuf to climb a route without bothering to tie his shoes (to their credit, women seem immune to this phenomenon, perhaps because it’s stupid to begin with).
• An even harder man uses Velcro™ shoes, not laced shoes. I like Velcro closures, too (and Velcro™ gloves…ohhh, the temptation for a sheep joke!), because I’m pathetically lazy. I mean, what the hell is wrong with me that I’ll walk several hours to a route in the middle of nowhere, but am reluctant to tie and untie my shoes? Anyway, if you have Velcro shoes, while lowering after the send (of the sickness), you must release the Velcro while being lowered. Not certain, but I’m pretty sure that this is because you size them so small, skin-tight with zero room for anything else, because you’re doing such precise sickgnar moves, that they hurt. I got laughed at when I tried it, though. My faux pas? I was wearing tube socks inside my shoes, and I was on a slab so I pinballed down while trying to un-Velcro.
[Demerits for the shirt, but points for the distinct lack of harness danglies (the things dangling are quickdraws, which don’t count as danglies). Photo: Cordes collection]
OK, I’m outta here. Making a run for the hills, unplugged, where I can master the above in solitude. See ya in a couple of months. (Whew, relief you say? You won’t be forced to read my drivel? Never! I’ve got a series of pre-written posts all lined up…)