Semi-Rad: Do You Want Some Beta?

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Brendan Leonard
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OK, if you step up on that right foot, then reach up with the left hand, there’s a good sidepull. Feel it? No, it’s up higher. A little higher. Your hand should be on it. OK, yeah, it’s not that great, you’re right. You can get a full pad of all your fingers on it, can’t you? OK, no, you’re right, maybe three of them. Not full pads, just tips. Anyway, it’s good. I mean, it’s pretty good. Yeah, so pull on that, transfer your weight to your right foot, and just over that little mini-roof on your right is a crimp. You really have to stretch for it, but it’s up there. That’s it.

Do you like beta? Some people do; some people don’t. How much beta do you like? Do you want move-by-move instructions on how to send a 60-foot sport route? Would you prefer I just tell you where the key hand jam is at the crux as I belay you from above? Or would you like no beta whatsoever, so you can claim the true onsight?

Hold on. Did you read the guidebook entry, which noted a key hold right after the fourth bolt? Is that beta? Did you look up the climb on Mountain Project and find out that the crux move would be easy for you because the 30th commenter said it was a piece of cake if you’re 5’11” or taller? Does that count as beta? How many photos of the route have you seen? One? Twenty? Should we blindfold you on the approach to the crag and only remove it when you have your feet on the starting footholds?

How many people do you prefer to get beta from? One crusty guidebook author who last climbed the route 20 years before the book was published and forgot most of it, so he just wrote some vague info? Maybe just a verbal description from one person at the crag who just climbed it and says nothing besides that it’s “a little reachy”? Or would you like all of your friends to stand around at the bottom of the climb and yell different things at you as you search around for the one goddamn handhold they said was the key to the whole climb?

What type of beta do you need to send today? Just that one vague guidebook entry from the crusty guy? Or that guidebook plus the description from the Mountain Project app? Or how about the guidebook, plus Mountain Project, plus all the comments on Mountain Project, whether they’re relevant or not, plus all the photos? Would you like to watch a video of someone climbing it first? Would you like to watch someone climb it first in person? Would you like someone to put tick marks on all the good fingerlocks, or the hard-to-spot footholds, before you go for it? Or would you prefer to share a photo on an Internet forum and crowdsource beta from anyone who is willing to help and possibly indicate the beta with some basic Photoshop work?

How much beta is too much? Are you getting soft? Are we getting soft? You know, Fred Beckey went back there and put up that route when there wasn’t even a road—they walked 17 miles. Not to mention the lack of a trail to the base, knowledge of a descent route, or anything about a possible line to the top. You think he had beta? Hell no, he didn’t. Is it too much beta if you read his guidebook? Is it too much beta if you follow chalk? How about those little dog tags they have at some crags, denoting which route is which, or the small painted signs in Europe? How about bolts? They’re pretty much a dead giveaway where the route goes, after all. What about a signed approach trail, or non-confusing driving directions to the crag from the closest major city? Too much beta? Look, I’m happy to help; I just need to know what you like.

Brendan Leonard lives for the relentless pursuit of 5.fun. His first book, The New American Road Trip Mixtape, is available at semi-rad.com.