Climbing for Beginners

suggestions for best order of routes

Boys training boys produces cruelty and high risk, along with expediency: a lot of beginners are started on 'Chicken Bone', at least as a first rappel, which is both cruel and risky. Following Kelley's or the pocket guide will lead many to put especially children on 'Honeypot/Every Major Dudette' because of the sandbag rating. No one should be on that face, until they are ready for trying the 5.8 variations or jamming in the chimney.

The best, most productive introduction to climbing is as easy as can be found, with no fear and no failure. Let them learn about the gear, the safety procedures, what rock looks and feels like, how to find holds for hands and feet, how to move, thinking only about going up and not about falling. At Pilot Mtn., there is no perfect first route. The easiest yet realistic face is 'Steaming Piles'. It was noted as closed in the second edition of the pocket guide, from falling rock causing injury to people sitting below; but there has been no other notice. It has natural anchors, a long hike to the base, and many ledges that could cause landing injury and make rappelling difficult. Otherwise, it would be the best first climb.

Many people make 'Goldilocks' the first climb, no matter what waiting it takes to get on it. The face is sloped with a low feeling of exposure, and has a good place for grip and feet everywhere a beginner will need it, regardless of body height. It will take enough effort and concentration to feel good about "making it", with almost no possibility of failure because of the route. It has bolted anchors with direct access, and is at the shortest approach area by Three Bears Gully. There will be some rope abrasion without very long runners, it is often sandy after rains, and there is no clear "topping" or view. The area is popular, meaning probably crowded.

Make 'Pee Break' or 'Howdy Dudette' the second climb. 'Howdy Dudette' has zero exposure. The start is difficult in the crack, and the face is discontinuous, requiring planning and chimney techniques. The belay area is the same as for 'Howdy Dude', which will either be convenient or crowded. 'Pee Break' is very scary for beginners for its feeling of exposure. The start on the face is at least 5.7, and the holds along the mid-area vertical crack are difficult to find and feel confident about. It is sloped yet without ledges, and has a confusing upper area. It takes real rock climbing work, and will reward that with a fine view and feeling of accomplishment. Whichever is second, make the other third.

For the fourth climb, many will stay in the general area, but only 'Grandpa's Belay' would be next on the list for progress. On the Schoolroom wall, many will put the student on 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrel', but it is a miserable struggle for most with a high rate of failure to complete and no useful learning. 'Place Your Bet' is very hard on the face in two places, and the top on the left side face is not at all "positive" either. A neglected climb for beginners is down the cliff line at 'Cowboys and Heroes' past 'I Gotta Wear Shades' and next to Cowboy Gully. It is short, varied, and has a high possibility of completion along the upper crack, like 'Scarface' near the arete, but unlike 'Body Surfin' which finishes at 5.8 and exhaustion. Way up the cliff line at Big Arete, the big problem with 'Bet Ya Can't Eat Just One' is getting up to the anchors carrying your rope. After that, it is short yet surprisingly complex with a high rate of getting lost and stuck. That makes it good for a longer session, trying other tiny variations that make a big difference. Particularly here, do not block hikers at all ever.

However you start or start your students, eventually you will be faced with crowding and the vagaries of real rock, and:
"If you are going to climb, you have to climb."

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Posted for first copyrights :  Aug. 11, 2011