Saturday, February 18, 2012

Monkey Sells Rock Climbing (Part 1)

£10 a rock climb, get 'em while they're ripe!

This article was going to be along the lines of "Is Rock Climbing Right For Me?" But let's be honest here, when was the last time one of your friends said, "I was thinking about doing rock climbing, what do you reckon?"

... I'll tell you when. NEVER!

Admit it, the conversation usually goes more like this:

"Sorry, I can't come with you to the Pencil History Museum this weekend. I'm doing something more worthwhile - like rock climbing. You should come along!"

"Rock climbing? But I'd never have imagined you as a climber! Alas, such exciting sport is out of my grasp, my arms are simply too feeble for something like that."

"It's not in the arms, my good chump, it's in the legs and proper technique. Now pass me my lager."

"Really? Well I'll be. Perhaps I shall pencil in a visit in my diary for a taster session. See, you pencil things in diaries so that if you change you mind later, you can make amendments at a later date!"

"Or just use a biro like a normal person and stick to your plans. Now pass me the curly fries!"

I didn't actually think such a place exists...
Okay... There is definitely a misconception amongst the public about the nature of rock climbing. Classified under 'Extreme Sports', popularised by the likes of Chris Sharma, Lynn Hill and Dan Osman; bastardised by Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 2, rock climbing seems to be have an unattainable lure about it.

"You mean if I did this shit for realsies I'd be deadsies?"
... So let's look at a few myths about rock climbing to see if we can change that.

Rock Climbing is Dangerous
Not going to contest that. Rock climbing is fucking dangerous by nature.

And that's why over 50% of the sport is about the safety - your belayer, your harness, your rope, your anchor, your fall techniques... the list goes on... Your introductory climbing lesson is all about how not to kill (or injure) yourself, you'd be lucky if the instructor gives you any real tips.

Of course you can still kill yourself in this sport, but if you take your safety seriously, even the scariest of falls results in no more than shitting your pants.

And if we were to look at some statistics...

Holy shit! You're more likely to die from Table Tennis!

I'm glad they never mention HOW you die in the obituaries.
and Running!

I can only assume hippos were involved, or zombies.
Okay... I know I'm not going to convince you with facts and statistics, so how about considering the actual risks based on the sport / activity instead?

That's right! Cheerleading is actually more dangerous than rock climbing (which didn't even make it to the list. High altitude climbing / mountaineering is a different sport)!

I'm not even kidding, this shit is dangerous.
And it's obvious really - crowds need more than pom-poms and cleavage to get aroused these days. Nothing like a tiny person being thrown up in the air instead to bring on the erections. And of course doing it atop a load of protective mats, instead of the solid gym floor, would totally take away the illusion.

Meanwhile rock climbing doesn't even make it onto TV, nobody's watching our shit- so we cover our shits with every safety procaution, which brings us to the next myth...

Climbing Equipment Fails easily (as seen in films)

I'm going to outright ignore the opening of Mission Impossible 2 here (which I've heard HAS inspired people to rock climb) and talk about the other two famous 'Climbing' films:

Vertical Limit
a film about how much moutains want to kill you.
and Cliffhanger
a film about how much Stallone wants to kill you (I assume.)
The opening of both Vertical Limit and Cliffhanger sees people plummeting to their deaths because of equipment failure, so that the protangonists in both films could be conveniently burdened by the responsibilites of someone else's death due to equipment failures, until they learn to overcome that by foregoing safety and equipments altogether and just do crazy shit instead... (I assume.)

Now, I'm no expert on outdoor climbing. And much as I'd like to talk shit about shit that I don't know shit about, I'm going to show you this video instead:

That's right, bolts designed to take lead falls exploding by the momentum of a sideway swing; cams that loosen up gradually on load; and ice axes that only stick to the snow after you've swung over the cliff.

Cliffhanger does one better.

Climbers getting stuck on a tiny tower with no visible ropes or enough cams to aid the ascent; rescuer free soloing the overhang with his nuts dangling; one of the stranded climbers suddenly freaking out about the safety of the zip line after presumably free soloing a difficult route; a rescue zip line that's NOT designed to take the weight of two people*; and of course the lightest person with a full body harness (minus a permanent webbing loop it seems) dying after the metal buckle mysteriously falls apart, magically unweaving the entire thing AND passing the whole harness through a single carabiner to aid her death.

* I could be mistaken but far as I understand, all zip line are designed to take at least 2 people's weight in case one person's stranded and a second person has to make rescue... like Stallone did.

My opinion? Stallone's character sabotaged her harness to avoid dinner.

You don't need to be a scientist or a climber to suspect that Hollywood (who proudly brought exploding car to us) might not have a full grasp of basic things, such as physics, let alone something as complex as climbing gears and ropework.

Thing is, climbing equipment CAN fail. Just like everything else in your house, right now. A diligent climber will always do safety checks on ropes, harnesses and everything before any climbing session. Rest assured- human error is more typically the cause of climbing related accidents.


Rock Climbing is All About The Arms
This is the earliest and most common myth dispelled by rock climbers to muggles. Climbing is about your feet and legs, which you stand on and walk on all day. You'll hear that from about every single one of the rock climbing introduction videos on YouTube - climbing is about The Feet.

Don't let that fool you though - you WILL need arm strength to start with. That's because you'll probably suck at climbing when you start out. You WILL use your arms instead of your feet. You're not going to care about techniques and whatnot, you just want to get to the top of the fucking wall, no matter what the cost!

Seriously... Can't you do anything right?
Don't be put off by this though, as you're only making the rest of us look better, and giving us the chance to tell you to use your feet... because we rock climbers, we love feet.

Instead of a foot fetish picture from my private collection, here's picture of Buddha perving a good climber.
 At some point though, something other than your knee is going to click, and you WILL start using your feet more - probably after someone's taught you to climb properly (ask for some technique classes at your local centre). Suddenly, arm aches will be a thing of the past...

Until of course, you go up the grades. Top climbers don't have tiny arms and massive calves (those are images trademarked by cyclists). Their training routine usually focuses on their fingers and arms primarily. That's because the hardest climbing routes do end up demanding upper body strength, otherwise everything
will be too easy.

So no, and yes, arm strength is needed, but not the way you think.

And with a few common myths debunked, I'm bored and will come back another time to talk more about why you should be rock climbing right now, instead of sitting in front of a computer.

Monkey goes Foot Fetishing

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