Reflections On Styles

Article Index

Previewing
Previewing ascents also takes at least two forms. In one version, the party rappels the route to be done, and examines or even tries out hard sections. Sometimes this is done in conjunction with the cleaning out of cracks or removal of lichen. In another version, the new route is first top-roped, so that all the moves are rehearsed. In cither case, the challenges of the first ascent or first free ascent are entirely different to those of subsequent ascents done without previewing. Again, in fairness, route descriptions should include mention of previewing, so that climbers are alerted to probable difficulties.

Doctoring
Doctoring may involve fixing chock-stones, chopping holds or making other physical alterations to the rock. Doctoring first ascents causes little danger to subsequent ascent parties but much alarm to climbers who had attempted the route before it was done with doctoring. For these climbers, as well as others who might wonder why the climb was not done earlier by seemingly capable climbers, it is important that the route-description should include reference to any doctoring. Here, it is in fairness to earlier aspirants that climbers should reveal the style of their ascent.

Sieging
Sieging used to refer mainly to the fixing of ropes on long aid-climbs to allow easy access to high-points. But now there are a variety of free-climbing styles which might be called sieging because they involve various ways of husbanding resources by skipping over the climbing of certain route sections.

Yo-yoing is one such siege tactic, in which the leader climbs until he or she is exhausted, then falls off, rests, hand-walks the rope to the high-point and proceeds to climb again. In one version, the leader remains the same. In another, the belayer and leader swap positions. This strategy, when used as a way of saving strength during the placement of several protection bolts on a hard, crackless lead, probably need not be revealed in route-descriptions. But when done repeatedly where nut protection is being placed, particularly when the lead is switched, it is only fair that subsequent ascent parties be alerted to the tactic. Information to the effect that "the Xth pitch was yo-yoed on the first ascent" should suffice in the route-description.

Another siege tactic sometimes employed on longer free-routes is for one or more team members to jumar large portions of the climb, so as to save strength for their leads. A commonly accepted version is for each climber in a two-man team to climb only half of a new, hard, first free-ascent. In extreme cases, the 'gang-bang' brigade jumar pitches which they might not be able to climb even at full strength under best conditions. Here, the specialist pops off on to the rock and free-climbs a pitch which others of the team jumar. In such cases, any one member of a team may climb only a small fraction of the route. Again, the technique must be revealed, so that other climbers can understand what has taken place.