How does video affect climbing?

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“20m. The stunning hanging groove; brilliant climbing, but restricted to the bold. The technical crux is getting into the groove but is well protected (easier for the tall, 6b). Superb moves above this gain a psychologically-draining rest point at the top of the groove where even breathing feels precarious! Slopers out right lead to the psycho-crux pull onto the arete with a high kick for a toe-hook, much gusto and a strong will to live.”

—Johnny Dawes commenting on his 1986 first ascent of Gaia (E8 6c). © ROCKFAX

Gaia (E8 6c) is one of those routes isn’t it. We all know about it. You’d be hard pressed to find many climbers that haven’t stumbled across the horrendous fall in the opening scene of Slackjaw Film’s Hard Grit.

It’s interesting reading people’s thoughts on the internet and in magazines, about how video is directly affecting modern climbing. When is watching a video beta? And when is watching a video, equivalent to reading a guidebook description?

Look at that scene from Hard Grit. It’s a wide shot, displaying the obvious natural feature of Gaia. You certainly don’t see that hidden sloper on the left of the groove, or that right foot smear. I’d argue that watching this before going for the ‘flash’, would, if anything, have a detrimental effect on the climber. What’s worse than having a mental image of what happens when things go wrong?

There’s a reason why many ‘climbing coaches’ recommend picturing yourself climbing the route successfully. None that I know of suggest picturing yourself falling off and breaking bones.

Let’s compare the Hard Grit scene with something more recent, Big Up’s Gaia dose, with Lisa Rands. Whilst the Dosage series are extremely popular, I’d hesitate a guess that Slackjaw’s clip has been seen a lot more.

Big Up primarily filmed the route on a rope, looking down the line. We can clearly see the holds that Rands’ uses, we see close-ups of the gear placements and sizes. But, take a look in a guidebook. It’s not uncommon to read a route description that is something similar to this:

“Climb up the groove to a good jug on the left, where good gear is reached (Friend 1.5), then traverse left to finish (using a hidden pocket around the obvious corner).” etc.

Gaia (and Black Rocks) has had a lot of press recently, what with “Team America” having a go. Honnold climbed the route from the bottom to the top, on his first go. He didn’t fall off. He hadn’t pre-inspected the line on a rope. But, he, like most, had seen clips of the route.

How much is too much? Have you watched Hard Grit? Would you claim the onsight or flash?

Click Here to watch a video of George Ullrich attempting to falsh Gaia

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