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Do you solo?

We occasionally see videos and photos here on climbit of people climbing with no ropes, be it a highball boulder, or a 2000ft granite face. I wonder what people's thoughts are on this. Do you think any kind of ropeless climbing is totally crazy or are there times when it is ok?

In my experience, climbing always has an element of risk to it for example when scrambling on an approach or when below the second bolt on a lead there are times when a fall could mean serious injury. Climbing often means assessing and taking calculated risks. However, seeing videos and photos of people soloing both inspires me and makes me nervous because you rarely see the context in which a climber has calculated the risk being taken. How many times did Alex Honnold climb Half Dome before soloing it I wonder.

Have you done routes, highball boulders or taken sketchy descents with no ropes? How do you assess the risk when doing these things?

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level 1

My limit for climbing ropeless is somewhere around 4th class. Other people might put that limit at 3rd class or 5.6 or 5.12. Almost everyone solos at some difficulty level.

level 1

I've soloed with some frequency. I've even onsighted routes this way. The decision to solo is accompanied by a sense of confidence and comfort. You shouldn't feel scared, per se. If you decide to do this make sure your motivation comes from within.

To me, risk assessment is at the heart of rock climbing. Knowing yourself and your abilities is a key factor.

Anyone that suggests you solo something is a damn fool... unless their name is John Long. I had a friend suggest one to me once. She's known me since we were children. If I'd fallen she wouldn't have been able to live with herself.

level 2

Also, climbers that take on themselves to promote soloing have a responsibility to the people they're advertising to. The sense of responsibility that's needed seems to be rare.

BTW, I tend to not upvote posts that glorify soloing.

level 1

Where I climb most (Garden of The Gods, Colorado Springs) I see people solo routes pretty regularly. I've talked to these guys and they say that they've done the route they're soloing dozens and dozens of times while on a rope. They also say that the route they're doing is well below their level. They've memorized every single move on the pitch and are just getting some laps in to practice.

That said, I don't free solo. I've considered it on one 5.6 that I'm very familiar with but decided against it. I think it's a personal decision that involves exactly what you mentioned - calculated risk.

level 1

I believe Alex Honnold had free climbed Half Dome at least twice before his solo.

I have done a bit of highball, nothing as crazy as that stuff in Bishop though. A lot of the classic testpieces in Sydney are known for "putting the bold back into bouldering" as the guidebook says.

I have a bit of a mental line in my head at about 10m, between "if you fell you'd probably break both legs and maybe your back" and "if you fell you'd be a red splatter on the ground". I went beyond that line once, lost it pretty quickly, and realised I didn't want to go past it again where I am in my progression and what climbing is for me at the moment.

There is a conscious go/no-go decision, weighed up against the situation. Am I feeling tired? Will I hit all the moves? Am I starting to get elvis-leg? Is the rock dry or still spoodgy and brittle? Do I just not want to do it today, or maybe ever? I often back off, downclimb, and jump.

The mental aspect of climbing is more challenging, and more rewarding, than the physical side. Some people want to push that. Stupid and unsafe, maybe, but I think judging freesoloers is very hypocritical. Ultimately it's not like this is a rational activity anyway, and I don't give a fuck. I think I'd be in a darker place personally if I didn't climb.

level 1

I think the people saying "SOLOING IS STUPIDLY DANGEROUS!!! YOURE A CRAZY FOOL IF YOU SOLO!!!!" need to get a bit of perspective. If you climb for long enough you will find yourself in dangerous situations, no matter how careful you are.

Yes there is a lot of danger inherent in soloing, but i think that is more than compensated for by the added focus you put in to not falling off. Without having done a fair bit of soloing yourself i think its hard to understand the huge mental focus you maintain while soloing. Every foot placement is incredibly precise, every hand hold judged for solidity, you judge how pumped you are almost constantly. While you might do these things while leading a route you have a margin for error, if a foot pops you'll get caught by the gear so you don worry too much about whether that foots going to stay put. When you solo there's no second chance, if that foot pops you're dead so you concentrate damm hard on keeping that foot in the same place, and if you're not 'feeling it' you down climb and do something else.

Of course there are things you can't control, like loose rock, or a rain storm half way through the route. That's where experience in judging these things comes in to play. To put it broadly, experience and judgement is essentially recognizing a dangerous situation and doing what you can to avoid it. Checking the weather overhead before you set off on your route.

To answer the OPs questions explicitly, yes I have done dangerous things in the course of my climbing and i judge the risks using the experience I've gained through the years I've been climbing.

level 1

I'm not going to say i haven't tried it, but I don't like to encourage it. Although many climbers may be good enough and confidant enough to solo a route, it doesn't mean you should.

I find soloing to be a purely selfish endeavor. Even if you have the calm, smooth control necessary to solo "safely," we must keep in mind the ramifications. Fist off, soloing is really cool; who is going to sit there and say a the soloist doesn't have cojones? That's why it's a problem. Soloing creates a spectacle to those who may not have been climbing as long. They will inevitably try too and they WILL get in over their heads and fall.
Second. What if you fall?

who's gotta carry your ass out? who's going to miss you? who will be emotionally disturbed for life after watching you splat? will an access sensitive area be closed to climbing because of your fall?

so, before you go and solo, make sure you have thought about the consequences of fucking up.

level 1
2 points · 7 years ago

A lot of roped climbing has big stretches of you shall not fall.

The climb might have a 5.10 crux, and long bits of secure 5.7.

Some terrain lends itself to running it out without pro and some doesn't. When it doesn't, and the climbing is secure enough, you are basically soloing.

level 1
2 points · 7 years ago

Of course I solo - not with much frequency or on hard stuff though.

I compare it to hanging upside down by your legs or jaywalking. These are things that can end in vicious injury if any control is lost. However, they are very high confidence activities. I jaywalk with close timing because I know I will not trip.

Focus and comfort are imperative in order to keep everything within your control as safe as possible.

Don't solo on choss.

level 1
2 points · 7 years ago

It seems to me that no matter how good a climber you are, there will always be elements beyond your control, even indoors (you can only trust your belayer). I don't understand why climbers would want to increase the risk of death or serious injury. Is that thrill worth never climbing again, or leaving a family to support/grieve a disabled/deceased loved one? Maybe for some, never for me.

level 1
0 points · 7 years ago · edited 7 years ago

The idolization of free soloists is disturbing as it is stupid. This trend inspires climbers to take risks they wouldn't otherwise and as a result more climbers fall and, thus, suffer or die. Free soloing shifts the end goal of climbing from pure physical difficulty to "let's see who's the craziest".

That said, I'm not so much concerned with experienced climbers who understand the consequences yet still engage in free soloing to appease their ego, "free spirit", or whatever bullshit justification. Even if you're a pro, you know that holds break, feet slip, fear can take over. Anyone who gambles their life and, more importantly, the love and reliance of their loved ones on their reputation, on a fucking rock climb, earns no respect from me. In my opinion, any climber so selfish or stupid deserves to die. Good riddance. Look where your need for attention got you.

The people I feel sorry for are noobies who will be inspired to boulder a few feet higher than they feel comfortable because of this culture of risk-taking and will suffer injuries. I even feel bad for the noobies who think it's alright to solo something "easy" just because soloing is acceptable and "inspiring".

I hope that the climbing community will stop dick sucking these dare-devil retards who will probably end up as vomit inducing piles of blood splattered organs and instead give knuckles to climbers who push the limits of the sport by "climbing harder" with a fucking rope on.

Is this so illogical?

level 2

While I agree with you about the idealization of soloing I disagree with the following:

| Free soloing shifts the end goal of climbing from pure physical difficulty to "let's see who's the craziest".

Climbing doesn't have an end goal. To me it's just a way to play.

level 3

I wish more people thought that way.

Myself included.

level 2

Don't you realize that everything you said could be said by someone who thinks that climbing is "stupid" even with full protection? After all, climbers die every year even when they are trying to be as careful as possible due to risks such as falling rock which can never be completely avoided. Just as you are talking shit about free soloists, someone could talk shit about choosing to climb anything, because if you don't climb off the ground, you have zero risk of dying while climbing.

You are no more justified in your comments about free soloists than someone would be to make the same statements about you because you choose to take the needless risks of climbing anything in the first place.

level 3
-4 points · 7 years ago · edited 7 years ago

Participating in life is risky, of course.

But there is a bold fucking line between the needless risks of free soloing and the calculated risks of properly protected rock climbing.

The chances of dying are ridiculously higher than the latter.

level 4

Ridiculously higher? Really? How often do you hear about someone dieing while free soloing. The answer is almost never, but people die all the time roped climbing and rappelling.

level 5

That's not quite valid statistical reasoning. There are far fewer people soloing compared to those doing roped climbing and rappelling. After adjusting for the population size difference it would be useful to control for ability and experience.

level 6

I agree with you about that, but it is not like soloists are dropping left and right.

level 5

Free soloing deaths are only "rare" because a very small percentage of climbers regularly free solo. You can bet that if everyone started soloing (even well within their limits), a lot more people would die. Think of all the times you have unexpectedly fell on gear. Now imagine your gear not there.

Here are some dead free soloers.

John Bachar

Derek Hersey

Michael Reardon

George Gardner

Christina Chan

level 6

Reardon didn't die climbing though, so he doesn't count.

level 7

My bad.

According to these stats. Almost 1000 out of 6000 mountaineering accidents in the last 60 years had "climbing unroped" as a contributory cause.

Just sayin.

level 7

My bad.

According to these stats. Almost 1000 out of 6000 mountaineering accidents in the last 60 years had "climbing unroped" as a contributory cause.

Just sayin.

level 5
Original Poster1 point · 7 years ago · edited 7 years ago

It may or may not be true that free soloing is statiscally safer because the people who do it may choose only to do it when climbing well below their grade. However I think 3MartiniLunch's point is that logically a route where you are tied in must be safer than the same route where you are not.

level 6

How about ice climbing under a serac or cornice? In that situation it could be argued tying in would slow you down putting you in objective danger for longer, meaning a solo would be the safest.

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