August 25, 2009 George Foster

Trad resurgence??

After that ‘Onsight’ film came about everyone was farting from the rooftops about how this was trad’s ‘Second Coming’, the rebirth of ‘proper’ climbing. For a while it seemed as if it was (as if it ever needed a ‘Second Coming’ – but that’s besides the point), however if you look a little more closely it’s still the same names doing the same things as they had been doing for a while now i.e. a few people are trying E8’s onsight but that’s been going on for years, hard projects are going down but from a purely grade-focussed point of view the vast majority aren’t breaking new ground (that wasn’t a slight at anyone by the way for what are awesome achievements)…..these ‘developments’ certainly aren’t the leaps and bounds that the UKC proletariat buzzed about (those Yanks were going to come over to the grit and tear us a new one regardless of one man and his camcorder).

I don’t want to get hung up on what some film has done to attitudes towards trad climbing either cos again it’s not really got anything to do with the point i’m trying to make except that it gives a good framework for the argument. I’m essentially bemoaning the lack of new mass talent taking to the cliffs and giving it boar on the testpieces of the past, present and future. I got to thinking of this on the drive home from Wales the other day. I managed to onsight a little E5 on the slate, which i reckon is quite close to my limit as far as that goes (could maybe pull something harder out the bag if it suits my style). Basically though, and i don’t mean this with any sense of false modesty or whatever, i’m a pretty mediocre climber, i once flashed a V5 and sketched up a Fr7a+ indoors and thats about it. There’s HUNDREDS of guys and girls out there who do that stuff in their sleep. People these days CRUSH (see below – sorry can’t remember who took the pic – hope you don’t mind). So why aren’t they doing it out on the sea cliffs or up in the mountains….or even down at their local quarry?? Before i get onto that, maybe it’s worth asking why trad? Whats the big deal with trad? SHUT UP! Trad rocks so just don’t even go there. How dare you question trad?? Give yourself a slap and keep reading……sure you can talk about the anti-faff of bouldering or the advent of indoor walls reducing ‘climbing’ to a lunge from one pink blob to another and you’re probably right.

Maybe it’s the perceived danger of trad? The thing with trad though, in my experience at least, is that the moves are rarely that hard physically and any run-out bits have mostly been on stretches of easier or steadier moves….certainly nothing to be worried about anyway. Obviously i’m not naive enough to say that ALL trad climbing is like that, obviously not everything goes swimmingly all the time and OBVIOUSLY trad at your limit can be as much mental as it is physcial. The mental game in trad is often the most limiting factor in affecting someone’s performance but i totally believe that that is purely a result of a person’s skewed perspective regarding their abilities…in other words it’s amazing what a bit of confidence will do for someone. For a while i got my confidence boosts from previous trad performances i.e. ‘i’ve just onsighted Route A so i reckon i’m good enough to go for Route B’ but soon realised that each route is different and sometimes no amount of technique could disguise my lack of strength (or vica versa) when the angles changed. Since i started to drive i’ve managed to get indoors a hell of a lot more than i used to and this has helped me MASSIVELY (the argument that indoor walls take away climbing and replace it with ‘climbing’ can be blown out of the water here). The strength you get from climbing indoors/training/whatever it is you do at a climbing wall should be your real confidence gauge. I’ve very rarely encountered moves on a trad route that is of a similar grade to a sport route (a bone of contention with some people this hybrid system of crossing trad and sport grades but bear with me) that are as sustained on the sport route as they are on trad. The moves have perhaps felt as hard or sustained due to all the other factors that come into play, which can usually be attributable to the mental aspects of trad. Leading nicely back to confidence (Pete Whittaker – hardest lead last year E3…excellent pic from HotAches of him bitch slapping an E9 new route).

If you’re indoors 4 times a week beasting up 7b’s then you are MORE than strong enough for a hell of a lot of E5s out there – onsight. Likewise if you’re giving it pasty on 7c’s indoors then you’re MORE than strong enough for a hell of a lot of E6s and E7s out there – onsight (George Ullrich – he’s weak as shit and a total pussy [hahaha] but even he can scrape his way up E9s HP and E7 onsight – Mr Gill with the pic below). Of course trad isn’t just about onsight climbing so how about turning Font8a wall strength to E10 headpoint strength? There’s a massive amount you can do with all the technical know-how and pure beast power that climbing V8/9/10 gives you. KNOWING that you’re good enough to do the moves on something is a powerful tool in your arsenal when onsighting something.

A while back there was a post on a UKC-alike site called scottishclimbs listing the Scottish or Scotland-based climbers’ who were currently onsighting E5, minus a few dodgy ones (Si O’Connor anyone??) there were under 50. What??!! There’s 50 people who turn up to Ratho regularly who could onsight E5 let alone those who go to any number of other climbing walls across the rest of Scotland. Whatever happened to the ‘how hard can it be?’ attitude?? How hard can it be?………….not nearly as hard as what you climb day in day out indoors without even batting an eyelid my friend. Take a risk. There’s people out there having a cool time who aren’t nearly as strong as you.

P.S. there’s probably a shitload of darkhorse wads out there who piss on E8 all day, everyday. If that’s the case….keep doing what you’re doing, we’re not worthy.

Comments (3)

  1. Anonymous

    Got my first E5 the other day – I’m pretty similar to you I guess – best sport onsight 7a (7a+ flash) 7b indoors and best boulder onsight V4 outdoors, V6 in.

    Most of my mates are stronger than me, but not many of them are onsighting E5. I feel just the same as you – I’m not that good a climber!

  2. dom

    Really interesting post george. You make it sounds really easy to climb harder E grades, but I think for most people it comes down to the mental aspect of the climb rather than the pysical. I think for you, your able to control the mental aspect really well. I remember doing your first leads with you, VS then straight to E3 no probs. Are the climbs your doing now still on the run-out side of things? How hard do you recon they would be if you gave them a sport grade F7a? Good effort an all!

  3. anonymous – keep on keeping on man…there’s hope for us mediocre climbers yet!

    dom – you’re a classic example, you’re a beast start acting like one, get tradding baby!! the ones i’m getting on are bold but in terms of having poor gear (though generally lots of it) rather than long run-outs between good gear. and yeah i reckon about 7a/7a+ max as a sport route. maybe the mental aspect is a stronger gauge of confidence?

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