Susan E.B. Schwartz - Reader Blog 9

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This is the blog I swore I’d never write.

After all, I’m not a professional or outstanding climber. I’m just your adequate, recreational weekend trad climber.

So I always figured: who the heck am I to give technical advice?

But there is one technical how-to I feel amply qualified to offer: Roofs. More specifically, how to follow leaders of much higher abilities up routes with roofs far above the second’s prowess.

Here’s a personal trick which enables two climbing partners of widely differing roof abilities to climb together in harmony (such as at the Gunks).

It’s amazingly simple: The leader places a piece of pro above the roof (whether before or after pulling the roof), clipping one or more slings into the piece so that a sling hangs below the roof.

If the second comes off at the roof, he can use the sling to pull back in. In a pinch, he can use the sling as an etrier to stand in while making the move.

I’ve also used this trick on lead so I have perspective from both ends of the rope. The only disadvantage I’ve been able to see is the extra sling or two that you use. (But that’s what protecting the second is about anyway.)

This trick has enabled me to get up roofs that I couldn’t cleanly free climb. For all I know, without this trick, fifteen years later I might still be dangling from one of those Gunks roofs even now.

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—SEBS