Solo climbing

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Solo climbing, or soloing, is a style of climbing in which the climber climbs alone, without the assistance of a belayer (or "second"). By its very nature, it presents a higher degree of risk to the climber, and in some cases, is considered extremely high risk (e.g. freebasing or big wall free soloing). Note that the use of the term "solo climbing" is generally separate from the action of bouldering, which is itself a form of solo climbing, but with less serious consequences in the case of a fall. [1]


Minimal protection

The following types of "solo climbing" have minimal or no form of climbing protection, and the climber exposes themselves to potentially fatal risks: [2]

Free soloing is the most dramatic solo technique, and in 2017 became an Oscar-winning documentary film, Free Solo that featured Alex Honnold free soloing the 915-metre (3,002 ft) 35-pitch rock climbing route Freerider in Yosemite, the world's first-ever free solo of a 5.13a  (7c+) big wall route in history. [3] [4]
  • Deep-water soloing (DWS), is a subtype of free solo climbing performed on rock faces overhanging water where in the case of a fall, the climber lands in the water. [2] Extreme deep-water solo routes can involve falls of over 20–40 metres (66–131 ft), and thus a risk of serious injury. [2] Noted DWS climbers include Chris Sharma who created the world's world's first-ever 9a+  (5.15a) DWS route, at Es Pontas in 2007. [5]
  • FreeBASEing, is a subtype of free solo climbing performed on long multi-pitch big wall routes with a BASE jumping parachute as the sole means of protection, where a falling climber opens their parachute to arrest their fall. [2] FreeBASEing was pioneered by Dean Potter who made a freeBASE ascent of Deep Blue Sea (5.12+) on the north face of the Eiger in 2008. [6] [7]
  • Highball bouldering, is where the boulder exceeds 7–10 metres (23–33 ft) in height, and therefore any fall, even where bouldering mats are used, presents a risk of serious injury. [2] Where highball bouldering ends and free soloing begins is a source of debate amongst climbers. [8] Notable highball boulders include Nalle Hukkataival's Livin' Large V16  (8C+) in Rocklands, South Africa. [9] , and Ron Fawcett's Careless Torque 8A  (V11) in Stanage Edge, England. [10]
  • Buildering, is a subtype of free solo climbing where the climber ascends a public building (or mechanical structure with crane climbing), which is usually performed without any protection. [2] Notable building climbers include Alain Robert (who also made world's first-ever free solo of an 8b  (5.13d) rock climbing route), who has free soloed several major buildings including the Eiffel Tower and the Burj Khalifa. [11]

Full protection

The following types of "solo climbing" have a form of climbing protection, involving mechanical self-arrest or progress capture, that significantly reduce the risk of serious or fatal injury to the climber: [2]

In 1992, French climber Catherine Destivelle used such a self-locking device to rope-solo the first part of the traditional climbing route El Matador 5.10d  (6b+), on the Devils Tower in Wyoming (she free soloed the second part), and was captured in the climbing film, Ballade à Devil's Tower. [14] In 1992, Destivelle used the rope solo technique to create Voie Destivelle (VI 5.11b A5) on the west face of the Petit Dru, and was captured in the climbing film, 11 Days on the Dru. [15] In 2016, Pete Whittaker rope-soloed the 915-metre (3,002 ft) 35-pitch route Freerider in Yosemite in a single day. [13]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bouldering</span> Form of rock climbing

Bouldering is a form of free climbing that is performed on small rock formations or artificial rock walls without the use of ropes or harnesses. While bouldering can be done without any equipment, most climbers use climbing shoes to help secure footholds, chalk to keep their hands dry and to provide a firmer grip, and bouldering mats to prevent injuries from falls. Unlike free solo climbing, which is also performed without ropes, bouldering problems are usually less than six metres (20 ft) tall. Traverses, which are a form of boulder problem, require the climber to climb horizontally from one end to another. Artificial climbing walls allow boulderers to climb indoors in areas without natural boulders. In addition, bouldering competitions take place in both indoor and outdoor settings.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Climbing</span> Activity to ascend a steep object

Climbing is the activity of using one's hands, feet, or other parts of the body to ascend a steep topographical object that can range from the world's tallest mountains to small boulders. Climbing is done for locomotion, for sporting recreation, for competition, and is also done in trades that rely on ascension; such as rescue and military operations. Climbing is done indoors and outdoors, on natural surfaces, and on artificial surfaces.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Traditional climbing</span> Type of rock climbing

Traditional climbing is a type of free climbing in rock climbing where the lead climber places the protection equipment while ascending the climbing route; when the lead climber has completed the route, the second climber then removes the protection equipment as they climb the route. Traditional climbing differs from sport climbing where the protection equipment is already pre-drilled into the rock in the form of bolts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Glossary of climbing terms</span> List of definitions of terms and concepts related to rock climbing and mountaineering

This glossary of climbing terms is a list of definitions of terms and jargon related to rock climbing and mountaineering. The specific terms used can vary considerably between different English-speaking countries; many of the phrases described here are particular to the United States and the United Kingdom.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">First ascent</span> Mountaineering and climbing term

In mountaineering and climbing, a first ascent, is the first successful documented climb to the top of a mountain or the top of a particular climbing route. Early 20th-century mountaineers and climbers were focused on reaching the tops of iconic mountains and climbing routes by whatever means possible, often using considerable amounts of aid climbing, or with large expedition style support teams that laid "siege" to the climb.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">El Capitan</span> Vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park

El Capitan is a vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park, on the north side of Yosemite Valley, near its western end. The granite monolith is about 3,000 feet (914 m) from base to summit along its tallest face and is a popular objective for rock climbers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aid climbing</span> Style of climbing

Aid climbing is a style of climbing in which standing on or pulling oneself up via devices attached to fixed or placed protection is used to make upward progress.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lead climbing</span> Technique of rock climbing

Lead climbing is a technique in rock climbing where the lead climber ascends the climbing route clipping their rope to climbing protection as they progress, while their second remains at the base of the route belaying the rope to protect the lead climber in the event that they fall. The term is used to distinguish between the two roles, and the greater effort and increased risk, of the role of the lead climber.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rock climbing</span> Sport in which participants climb natural rock formations

Rock climbing is a sport in which participants climb up, across, or down natural rock formations. The goal is to reach the summit of a formation or the endpoint of a usually pre-defined route without falling. Rock climbing is a physically and mentally demanding sport, one that often tests a climber's strength, endurance, agility and balance along with mental control. Knowledge of proper climbing techniques and the use of specialized climbing equipment is crucial for the safe completion of routes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Free solo climbing</span> Form of climbing without protection

Free solo climbing, or free soloing, is a form of technical rock climbing where the climbers climb alone without ropes, or other protective equipment, only using their climbing shoes and their climbing chalk. Free soloing is the most dangerous form of climbing, and unlike bouldering, free soloists climb above safe heights, where a fall can be fatal. Though many climbers have free soloed climbing grades they are very comfortable on, only a tiny group free solo regularly, and at grades closer to the limit of their abilities.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Deep-water soloing</span> Free solo rock-climbing over water

Deep-water soloing (DWS), also known as psicobloc, is a form of solo rock climbing that relies solely upon the presence of water at the base of a climb to protect against injury from falls from the generally high-difficulty routes. While typically practiced on sea cliffs at high tide, it can also be done on climbs above reservoirs, rivers, and even swimming pools. Often a dinghy or other small boat is kept on scene to pick up the fallen climber, as a fall from a taller route can still pose the risk of being knocked unconscious on impact with the water, which could lead to drowning. Pioneers include Miquel Riera, Tim Emmett, Klem Loskot, and Chris Sharma.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rope solo climbing</span> Type of solo climbing with protection

Rope-solo climbing or rope-soloing is a form of solo climbing, but unlike with free solo climbing, which is also performed alone and with no climbing protection whatsoever, the rope-solo climber uses a complex self-belay device and rope system to protect themselves in the event of a fall.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of rock climbing</span> Key chronological milestones

In the history of rock climbing, the three main sub-disciplines—bouldering, single-pitch climbing, and big wall climbing—can trace their origins to late 19th-century Europe. Bouldering started in Fontainebleau, and was advanced by Pierre Allain in the 1930s, and John Gill in the 1950s. Big wall climbing started in the Dolomites, and was spread across the Alps in the 1930s by climbers such as Emilio Comici and Riccardo Cassin, and in the 1950s by Walter Bonatti, before reaching Yosemite where it was led in the 1950s to 1970s by climbers such as Royal Robbins. Single-pitch climbing started pre-1900 in both the Lake District and in Saxony, and by the 1970s had spread widely with climbers such as Ron Fawcett (Britain), Bernd Arnold (Germany), Patrick Berhault (France), Ron Kauk and John Bachar (USA).

<i>Hard Grit</i> 1998 British film

Hard Grit is a 1998 British rock climbing film directed by Richard Heap and produced by Slackjaw Film, featuring traditional climbing, free soloing, and bouldering on gritstone routes in the Peak District in the North of England. It is considered an important film in the genre and regarded as a historic and iconic film. The film starts with a dramatic fall by French climber Jean–Minh Trinh-Thieu on Gaia at Black Rocks. Hard Grit won ten international film festival awards.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Steph Davis</span> American rock climber (born 1973)

Stephanie "Steph" Davis is an American rock climber, BASE jumper, and wingsuit flyer. She is one of the world's leading climbers, having completed some of the hardest routes in the world. She has free soloed up to 5.11a (6b+), and was the first woman to summit all the peaks of the Fitzroy Range in Patagonia, the second woman to free climb El Capitan in a day, the first woman to free climb the Salathė Wall on El Capitan, the first woman to free solo The Diamond on Longs Peak in Colorado, and the first woman to summit Torre Egger. Davis was married to fellow climbers and BASE jumpers Dean Potter and Mario Richard, and currently to sky-diving instructor, flyer, and jumper Ian Mitchard. Davis is also a blogger who writes about her interests in climbing, BASE jumping, yoga, and veganism.

<i>Royal Arches Route</i>

The Royal Arches Route is a technical climbing route in California's Yosemite Valley on the Royal Arches wall. The route is recognized in the historic climbing text Fifty Classic Climbs of North America. The route was first climbed Oct. 1936 by Ken Adam, Morgan Harris, K. Kenneth Davis. The route is moderate in difficulty and is frequently climbed. The first 4 pitches are along a west facing dihedral. At Pitch 5, the route turns north and ascends the main face along crack systems. Pitch 10 can be free climbed at 5.10b however, most climbers use a fixed rope to pendulum to a long ledge. At the end of Pitch 15, begins the bolted rappel route. It is 18 rappels to the Valley floor. Some climbers prefer to continue to "The Jungle" at the end of Pitch 16. Beyond The Jungle is a 5.4 slab and 4th Class scrambling to the Valley Rim. The descent is usually accomplished by traversing northeast to Washington Column and descending the exposed North Dome Gully.

In the sport of bouldering, problems are assigned technical grades according to several established systems, which are often distinct from those used in roped climbing. Bouldering grade systems vary widely in use and include the Hueco "V" grades, Fontainebleau technical grades, route colors, Peak District grades, and British technical grades. Historically, the three-level "B" system and even the Yosemite Decimal System were also used.

Ron Fawcett is a British rock climber and rock climbing author who is credited with pushing the technical standards of British rock climbing in traditional, sport, bouldering and free soloing disciplines, in the decade from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, and of pioneering the career of being a full-time professional rock climber. At the end of the 1970s to the early 1980s, Fawcett was widely considered the best and most notable rock climber in Britain.

Nina Williams is an American professional rock climber based in Boulder, Colorado, best known for her highball bouldering.


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