Talk to any experienced climber and there will be a cringe moment or two in their history. They might not want to admit it, they might even lie about it but it will be there. The old cliché about mistakes holds true – that they are only mistakes if you don’t learn from them. And sometimes the only way to learn from them is to be honest.
Strong climbers can acquire superhuman status in a gym – everyone stops to watch when they are projecting, kids often pause with mouths wide open in total shock at what it is possible to achieve. But that doesn’t mean these experienced climbers are perfect, as the following anecdotes will attest.
Mentioning no names, we know someone who was lowered off a sport route with the gate of their carabiner undone. We also know someone who tied the perfect double figure eight – but it was only threaded through the top loop on their harness.
Belay plate on back to front – yes, we’ve seen it. Rope not long enough to finish the pitch? Been there. Dropped gear in the sea? Par for the course.
The funny thing about climbing is that while you repeat the same mistakes on the wall over and over – fuming that you forgot to get your hips in on the crux, berating yourself for messing up the foot swap yet again – most people don’t repeat the big errors that might kill them more than once.
No safety and improvising at the anchor? Not enough quickdraws? Back clip? Z clip? We’ve done it and learned from it. Jumping on someone else’s rope at Bowles – with their permission – and discovering the anchor was a loose granny knot wasn’t a great moment, nor was forgetting someone was NOT on lead and paying out slack instead of taking it in.
So, the next time you get intimidated by climbing with those god-like figures, who seem to know it all and float up the wall as effortlessly as a butterfly, just remember they are human too. They’ve made mistakes, taken falls they shouldn’t have and trust us – they are not judging you in the slightest.