Sunday, August 22, 2010

Spotting in Bouldering: Some Do's and Dont's

As mentioned in the previous post, with the advent of crash pads, the game of bouldering changed drastically in the mid-1990s. For many problems, spotting became a non-issue.The use of of crashpads took the sting out of many previously committing problems.However, risk is still a big part of bouldering and spotting is an essential part of managing it. Any number of twisted sprained or broken ankles testify to this basic truth; every fall in bouldering is a ground fall. A good spot can provide the margin of confidence needed to succeed on the problem and maybe  never even put the spot to the test.

To make the spot successful, a few basic rules need to be followed and they can by summed up as follows using the SPOT acronym: S=Stance, P=Preparation, O=Observation, T=Tactics

By stance, I mean the way in which a spotter stands relative to the climber. Generally the spotter wants to be standing close to the climber, with legs apart, knees bent with hands positioned just above the climbers center of gravity. The footing should be secure and reliable and nothing should threaten to interfere with the movement of the spotter.

By preparation, I mean that the landing area has been cleared of extraneous stuff and pads arranged for maximal use and effectiveness.

By observation, I mean that the spotter is continually observing the climber and the terrain, being aware of any changes in the situation that may affect the safety of the climber.

By tactics, I mean that both the spotter and the climber have a plan in place to maximize the effectiveness of the tools and people at hand to ensure a successful ascent.

A good spot on Tommy's Arete V7 RMNP
The photo above shows a good spot in action on a problem where it really helps.Tommy's Arete V7 in Rocky Mountain National Park is a steeply overhung problem that goes over a very uneven talus landing. Several pads are required to prepare the base to a minimal level of security. To further complicate matters, a large boulder rests just behind the problem, offering a backslapping slide down to the pads from the last crux. In the photo, climber Tara Kramer is being spotted on this last section in perfect form. The spotter's hands are at rib level, ready to guide her into the pile of pads at the base. Just out of the frame, a pad has been hung on the steep slab behind the problem, offering some protection in the event of a fall. While Tara didn't get the problem in this session, she tried it in the confidence that a safe outcome would be the likely result, regardless of whether she topped out or not.

In the next post, more on special spotting situations and some thoughts on how to fall better.

No comments:

Post a Comment