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Weekend Whipper: Newly Minted Leader Wanders Off Route, Nearly Decks

“I realized there was no foothold to move across to the bolt and I took a 30-foot whip, face down, one-foot from the ground.”

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Readers, please send your Weekend Whipper videos, information, and any lessons learned to Anthony Walsh, awalsh@outsideinc.com.

Gabriel Sainz had a close call climbing in Red Rock recently, on Spotted Eagle (5.10a), an exciting pitch with just four bolts in 100 feet of crimping. The day before, under the guidance of his university’s climbing club, Sainz logged his first outdoor lead after top roping indoors for the previous four months.

The next day, he wrote to Climbing, “We were so eager to climb because half of the club was waiting in line to climb the same route on the Trophy Wall. After about two hours of waiting, someone else in the club and me decided to look on Mountain Project for any nearby climbs. We found a few routes on the Avian Wall. We did almost zero reconnaissance. I just saw that it was 5.10a and decided that I wanted to lead it.”

Sainz tied in and set off. Immediately he realized the bolts were quite runout and the climbing less straightforward than it appeared from below. Sainz said he strayed too far to the right while searching for holds, and was level with the third bolt—though five feet to the side—when he realized his mistake. “[I] realized there was no foothold to move across to the bolt [and] I took a 30-foot whip, face down, one-foot from the ground.”

A route overlay of Spotted Eagle rock climb.
A route overlay of Spotted Eagle. (Photo: Gabriel Sainz)

Lessons learned

Sainz said that next time he will thoroughly survey the pitch from the ground before hopping on. “Had I done this, I would have realized just how far [apart] the second and third bolts were [roughly 10 feet]. I could have used this information to gauge the risk of attempting the climb, considering my lack of experience.” Sainz also thinks that asking the more experienced members of his group what they thought of his route choice would have likely prevented him from getting in over his head—or, at least, would have impressed upon him the risks of runout sport climbs. “Last off, I really should have downclimbed when I got stuck,” he said. “That way I could have reassessed or bailed, or at least avoided falling so far. Instead, out of pride I clung to the wall thinking that I could figure it out, ultimately draining my energy until I fell.”

Happy Friday, and be safe out there this weekend.

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