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Thoughtful Thursday#5: Top-Roping is Insane

Posted Thursday, October 17, 2019

Thoughtful TH#5: Top-roping is absolutely insane!

I say this to my SPI students, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as I mean “TR-ing done incorrectly”...but so much of it is. Here are the reasons why:

  1. ITS FREE SOLOING. Look at the person in P1 (Not featured in this Blog Post, but observable on the IG or FB on this same date). They are at cliff's edge. Unconnected to a rope. They may not feel like they free-soloed the pitch, since they simply walked around...and then went and stood on the edge.

  2. TIME FOR TROUBLE. In multi-pitch, done right, anchors exist less than an hour.TR anchors may be in place all day. An edge that wouldn't cause much damage in an hour could be core shot by day's end. A piece that wouldn't wiggle far in an hour, could walk out of a crack in a few.

  3. ZERO EYES. In multi-pitch, there's always 2 or more eyes—watching the anchor. When you're TR-ing there are zero eyes looking at the anchor. If carabiners are loaded weird (See P2, from last weekend), if gates open, if the anchor isn't actually equalized there are zero eyes to see it and zero hands to fix it.

  4. DIRT DISTANCE. TR-ing is so comforting--always close to the ground. Multi-pitch is intimidating--so high up there! This is a case of the disease masquerading as the cure. Dirt does hurt.

  5. COMPLACENCY. “It's just troping”--TR-ing is chill and easy. So simple a dog could do it—walk to the edge, clip draws, and start the amusement park ride. Multi-pitch is serious, demanding skill and attention. This kind of dichotomy in attitudes adds the final touch of cream to the crazy single-pitch sundae.

I'll save it for another TTH post to cover how utterly wacko it is that otherwise engaged parents send kids off to camp or to collegiate outdoor programs and just assume that those kiddos are in good hands, with nary an inquiry into the training and certifications of those staff and/or student leaders. Meanwhile, let's all treat TR with the respect it deserves: Get appropriate training as you bring your gym skills into the outdoor context, arrive with a sober and alert mind, remember where you are, and send.


TTH is a counterweight to (but not a criticism of) the oh-so-popular climbing TechTuesday posts. See my Sept 5th post for background.