Monday, April 27, 2009

Rocky Mountain Highball

Tonight's the premiere of the long-anticipated climbing film Rocky Mountain Highball and since a hoped-for interview about the film did not materialize, I am going to ask a simple question: What is up with the hero spot? This is where the climber is up somewhere above 15 feet, i.e. where the laws of physics dictate that any object in the path of a falling climber will be crushed like a bug, yet there is a solitary figure, occasionally a small group, arms raised (in supplication?) prepared to do, what exactly? Can any readers explain the point at which said "spotter" is only a visual effect and ultimately with regard to any fall, simply the person who picks up the pieces after impact? Should there be an admission by photographers that this "spotter" is simply eye-candy to heighten the suspense and add a sense of scale?

Here is a photo by Andy Mann of Jason Kehl on Last Dance at Mount Evans. I am proposing that there is simply no way that anyone should be under another climber at that height and to imagine that a real opportunity exists to do anything but get quickly out of the way if said climber falls is physically impossible. Yes? No?


Here is Vimeo footage of an innocuous looking V13 in Lincoln Woods with a gruesome name.

Untitled from Phillip Schaal on Vimeo.

12 comments:

Julian said...

Maybe the hero spotter is there to play the bounce?

Yo Chi said...

In high-wind situations or in areas with sloping or highly irregular terrain for the landing, maybe that person is there to make sure that the pads stay where they need to be? Just throwing out my two cents. Either way, keep up the good blogging!

sock hands said...

all true... spotters keep the pads in place, keep mangy mutts off the pads, and definitely field the bounce. finally, in talus, the spotters usually play a key role in moving the pad stack as the climber ascends...since you cannot under pad the start moves like you can when the ground is flat, dirt, or both.

for the record, i've checked the swing of marcelo montalva ripping repeatedly off a dyno at about 17ft. i was screaming more than i ever do when climbing in anticipation of the pool-ball smack that i received to check his rocket fall. this was necessary to arrest the backwards motion so he would land on the pads rather than skip off them and plummet down the hill [that was my job].

unfortunately, peter, that you asked this question raises a point: you need to get out and do some tall lines this summer! this is standard tech!

bwhahahahaa

that said, the scariest climb i tried last season was "mental pollution"... a lowball... because i feared splitting my skull on the block behind... so maybe commitment is not limited to tall stuff? affirmative.

Peter Beal said...

Tall bouldering is soloing...

sock hands said...

maybe so, but tall bouldering only occurs on what i call "cameron cross deathballs". anything under 22ft is totally landable without acute physical trauma.

i blew off the top out of 'mavericks' in clear creek and landed literally flat on my back on a single layer of poor cordless pads... butt and shoulders hit at the same time... walked away... so with some real pads and decent spots, 20ft falls are no big deal.

search your feelings, luke. you know it to be true.

Peter Beal said...

You may begin to reconsider after a few more of those "landings." Evidence:

John Sherman's gear

Peter Beal said...

That's tape, not socks on the ankles

dreaminvertical said...

One thing that can be done is the fireman style pad spot. The spotter holds a pad a few feet in the air above the stack of pads to reduce the impact.

This can be seen when Lisa Rands falls/jumps off This Side of Paradise in the Sharp End.

bison balls said...

As another note, I can't count how many times I've been about 20 feet up on a boulder, scared out of my mind, and the only thing that really kept me from locking up in terror was the reassurance and encouragement from a friend or two down below spotting. There's something to be said about the mental security provided by just that little bit of motivation

Peter Beal said...

Very good point. The hands psychologically lift and protect even if they physically probably can't achieve much.

chuffer said...

After 24 feet or so, the hands can only keep the head from going splatt! A spotter who tries to do more is just asking for serious injury.

I'm pretty sure Joel saved Marcelo's life when he fell from 30+ feet off the top of the Broadway Brewery downtown onto the sidewalk.

Justin said...

Sometimes the idea is not to catch the falling climber, but to redirect the climber, even just a few inches can make a difference. Also, "hero" spots when falling on a hillside where a spot isn't necessary for hitting the pads, but is for keeping the climber from rolling down the hill comes to mind.

I will concede that the spot is often just for show (in the media) but that usually has more to do with the climbers ability than the inability of the single spotter to do anything.