Unsent: It’s Not a Free Solo, It’s a Highball, DAD!

By “Kevvie” Corrigan, age 15

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Unsent /un-sent/ 1. To have failed so badly on a route you had previously climbed that you negate your redpoint. 2. A humor column.

Highball Bouldering Rock Climbing Funny Unsent
It’s fine, see? He has spotters. Geeze! Photo: Andrew Burr

Oh. My. GOD. Stop worrying! You and mom are such babies. I’m not going to “kill myself climbing without a rope” because that doesn’t even make sense. I’m a boulderer. You can’t boulder with a rope because then it wouldn’t be bouldering. Roped climbing is for losers: Do I look like I’d hangdog for an hour wearing orange pants and doing jazz hands so I can climb five more feet to the next bolt and then do it again? I know you saw Alex Honnold on 60 Minutes and suddenly you think you know everything about climbing. But, uh, actually? You don’t know anything. What I do is called HIGHBALL BOULDERING, not FREE SOLOING, and it’s completely different.

First of all—if you weren’t so old, you’d already know this—free soloing happens on cliffs; highball bouldering happens on boulders. Do you seriously not know the difference? Let me make it easy for you: The fake rocks at Blackbeard’s Cave at the putt-putt near Ruby Tuesday are boulders. The gym where I learned to climb at Ryan’s birthday party is made of cliffs. If you fall off a cliff free soloing you die, but if you fall highball bouldering you just get super fucked up. It’s not even close to the same thing.

FYI, I climb 50-foot highballs on boulders in Bishop because it’s dope as hell. And because I know you know literally nothing about anything: Bishop is this super-sick nature place where everyone blasts Red Hot Chili Peppers on portable speakers. There are so many film crews there that there’s, like, a 100 percent chance you’ll be in the background of the next epic YouTube video. Plus, it’s the wilderness so you can do whatever you want like smoke weed because there’s no cops. Chill out, OK? It’s just a plant!

BTW, we’re borrowing mom’s Camry to go there this weekend. Ryan just turned 18 so he can drive, but his parents won’t let them take their car because they said he’s irresponsible.

Look, I know you’re freaking out because you love me or whatever, but you need to realize that just because I’m not using a rope, it doesn’t mean I’m not being safe. And actually? I do use a rope while I’m working out the moves, but once I climb it on a rope, then I climb it again without a rope so it counts. Like, I couldn’t even “climb” a highball with a rope if I wanted to. That would be super disrespectful to the first ascensionist. Like, if a highball has death-fall potential, that’s because the first ascensionist thought that anyone who tries to climb it and fails should die, and we need to respect his wishes. It’s a rule. But, well, duh, that’s why you use a toprope first unless you’re going for an onsight.

By the time I send (don’t even bother asking me to define this), I know every move by heart so falling is basically impossible. Even if I did fall, I’ve got five crashpads and three spotters. No, dad. I’m not going to fall on my head. That’s what the spotters are for. They shove me in midair right before I hit the ground so I land on my feet. Yeah, I guess a 50-foot fall could technically break my legs, but then I’ll just go to the hospital and wear a cast for a month. Then I’ll be fine. It’s not a big deal; we have health insurance. That’s why you work, right?

Am I saying that if there was a boulder as tall as El Cap that it would be a highball? Uh, no. I’m NOT saying that because obviously that’s IMPOSSIBLE. The biggest boulder in the world is only, like, 70 feet high. But if there was a 3,000-foot boulder on Mars or whatever then, yeah, I’d borrow 30 pads and a spacesuit, and send that shit. That’d be sick.

Look, a highball boulderer is who I am, so you need to accept that I’m going to follow my dreams and go pro like Daniel Woods—maybe Google him? He sent The Process, which is 60 feet tall, and now he never wears a shirt, he’s got sick tattoos, and he gets free bouldering gear like crashpads, which would cost $200. So, yeah, I think he’s doing OK.

What about all the highball boulderers who didn’t make it? I don’t know. Who cares about them? They probably can’t even walk. Losers.

Read more Unsent. For Kevin’s non-humor columns, see Noon Patrol.