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What you wish you knew for your first class III

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby screeman57 » Mon Jun 25, 2012 7:31 pm

Some outstanding advice here, and I'm no expert, but I'll throw in my two cents (I also just did Kelso ridge this past Sunday). My advice is not to get overwhelmed with the totality of what lies ahead. It's easy to look up a ridge and think, "how the hell?!?!?!" But if you focus on your immediate surroundings (occasionally looking at the whole to put them in context), the easiest path will often reveal itself to you. I think this is particularly true on Kelso. +1 on being sure you can downclimb sections you've just climbed (why not downclimb a few of them just for practice?). +1 as well on being aware of others on the route, particularly below you. Have fun!
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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby KentonB » Mon Jun 25, 2012 7:40 pm

joshbrink wrote:I am also doing my first class 3 in september, kelso ridge and then the sawtooth traverse later in the week. My question is what is the biggest difference between class 3 and 4? If your comfortable with heights/exposure and your feeling good on the climb what are the tell tale signs your on a class 4/off route instead of 3?

One of the better descriptions I've heard (and found to be true) is that if you can face outward downclimbing it, it's Class 3. If you have to downclimb facing inward, it's Class 4. That rule doesn't always hold, and any given climb could be somewhere in the middle, but generally I feel like I "could" die falling from a Class 4 route. I seldom get that feeling on Class 3.

EDIT: With the noteable exception of Sunlight. No idea why that has a Class 4 rating... should be about Class 2.

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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby joshbrink » Mon Jun 25, 2012 7:48 pm

KentonB wrote:
joshbrink wrote:I am also doing my first class 3 in september, kelso ridge and then the sawtooth traverse later in the week. My question is what is the biggest difference between class 3 and 4? If your comfortable with heights/exposure and your feeling good on the climb what are the tell tale signs your on a class 4/off route instead of 3?

One of the better descriptions I've heard (and found to be true) is that if you can face outward downclimbing it, it's Class 3. If you have to downclimb facing inward, it's Class 4. That rule doesn't always hold, and any given climb could be somewhere in the middle, but generally I feel like I "could" die falling from a Class 4 route. I seldom get that feeling on Class 3.

EDIT: With the noteable exception of Sunlight. No idea why that has a Class 4 rating... should be about Class 2.

Thanks, That is one of the better expalnations that I have heard,,,, very simple to put into practice..
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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby djkest » Mon Jun 25, 2012 8:46 pm

KentonB wrote:EDIT: With the noteable exception of Sunlight. No idea why that has a Class 4 rating... should be about Class 2.


Summit block is highly exposed class 3/4 move. If you don't sit on top of the summit block it's still considered class 3 because of some moves below the summit and the "chimney" (which would be impossible to go through w/o hands).

I'd rather do all the class 4 stuff I've seen so far over again before I'd sit on that summit block.

Back on topic- class 3 stuff is easy. I've done it my whole life, just never in a "formal" classified context. It's the exposure that always gets to me more than anything else. But just like many things, experience will temper your fears and sharpen your skills.
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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby milan » Mon Jun 25, 2012 10:58 pm

As many people wrote here, the ratings doesn't tell anything about the exposure. I wish I realized those exposure barrs before I went my first class III (Longs Peak) 5 years ago. I rope climb, so class III is not a problem with technique for me. Its fight with my mind (scared of exposure). I usually stop, tell myself, yeah, it is exposed but if you were on the rope, you even would not think about this part how easy it really is. And it usually works. If you don't see easy passage forward, you need to look over the corner, walk on the ledge farther or something to find it. I usually don't have problem routefinding on the way down, I tend to remember each step at exposed areas so I exactly know where to put my foot or where is the best handhold; but it's different for everybody. Sawtooth is easy to start with. I didn't go Kelso. My favorite was Wetterhorn..

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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby SilverLynx » Mon Jun 25, 2012 11:03 pm

What I wish I knew before Longs and Crestone Needle, and Sawtooth:

1.) Trust your feet!
2.) Trust your feet!
3.) If you can help it, face in when downclimbing.
4.) Pay attention to where your feet are, not where they aren't.
5.) It's not as bad as it looks.

Oh and one more:

Unless you want to try some impromptu Class 4 or unroped Class 5, route-finding is important!
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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby KentonB » Tue Jun 26, 2012 12:26 am

SilverLynx wrote:5.) It's not as bad as it looks.

Technically, I've proven that wrong once or twice. ;-)

djkest wrote:[Regarding Sunlight] Summit block is highly exposed class 3/4 move. If you don't sit on top of the summit block it's still considered class 3 because of some moves below the summit and the "chimney" (which would be impossible to go through w/o hands).

I was using a little bit of hyperbole... There is certainly some Class 3 rock near the summit. However, although there is exposure on the summit block, I didn't feel the move (up or down) merited Class 4. Then again, I'm tall, so maybe that made it easier for me.

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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby vandyk68 » Tue Jun 26, 2012 3:14 am

I recently completed my first class 3 route (Sawtooth) and can relate to being slightly nervous before the climb. What I took away from my experience was........

#1-Unlike any of the 14ers I had done before, my upper body was a little sore for some reason the next day (duh!) #-o

#2-I actually kind of enjoyed the exposure (is that bad?)

#3-It was freakin awesome and I want to climb more routes like it

In the end it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, but I think being nervous kept me focused on what I was doing.

+1 on a helmet!

Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby forbins_mtn » Tue Jun 26, 2012 5:09 am

I just did Kelso on Saturday, and while my partner and I were screwing around and trying to find some more challenging lines we easily found ourselves in Class 4/5 moves on the last buttress. We went climbers left to skirt around the bottom of the buttress, when the path goes on the ridge to the right. Kelso is fun because route finding is present. A route like Long's is exposed and Class 3, but the bulls-eye's take away some of the difficulty.

Have fun this weekend! That was a great route, and it's a blast to see hundreds upon hundreds of people on their pilgrimage up the standard route while you and a few people are knocking out that gnarly ridge.

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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby susanjoypaul » Tue Jun 26, 2012 5:36 am

Lots of good advice here... and I agree with whomever said to wear a helmet. My first class 3 route was the Maroon Bells traverse, and what I wish I had known then, that I know now is: ROCKS MOVE.

Don't trust your weight to just one hold. Distribute it across at least two - hands, feet, or a combination - and three, if possible. Just because a bajillion people have climbed the route before you does not guarantee that a rock won't suddenly pull out and leave you hanging, just as you're trusting it to keep you from falling hundreds - or even thousands - of feet. I try to maintain three points of contact at all times, so that if a hand-hold or a ledge lets go, I still have two points of contact to hold my weight and regain my balance while I search for another hold.

Don't climb over other people, and if someone starts to climb over you, tell them to knock it off. Dislodged rocks have to go somewhere, and gravity dictates they will go down. Hence, the need for a helmet - and recommendation to keep your climbing "in line."

Lots of great class 3 routes out there... enjoy them all, safely!

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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby Dex » Tue Jun 26, 2012 6:36 am

Montani Semper Liberi
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Re: What you wish you knew for your first class III

Postby djkest » Tue Jun 26, 2012 6:53 am

A lot of good stuff here and I like what SJP wrote.

Some more stuff I thought of:
1) Helmet (as previously mentioned) is good. So far I haven't "needed" it, but I know that when it goes on it's "business time". They are comfy and light and make you look hardcore.
2) 3 points of contact! If you are on a sketchy part, especially loose rock, keep 3 points of contact at all times. This means you move one extremity slowly and deliberately at a time. It's slow but very steady. This is also a good technique to use when there is a lot of exposure
3) Use your legs- you may be able to do pull-ups, but your legs are much stronger and have more endurance than your arms do. Remember you can easily support your whole body weight with your legs. Your arms can help steady you and move you to the next holds, but legs are king
4) Test your holds- I usually yank on a hold before I trust it, my line of thinking is if I abuse it and it's good, then it will be good later. When you are actually using the hold, it's better to push down on the hold rather than pull out on it.
5) Might not be a bad idea to get some training with class 5 climbing so you can understand holds, balance, etc
6) I tend to "Go Light" because a big heavy pack is going to interfere with balance and climbing ability
7) I find "step ups" and lunges are good exercises in the gym to help with leg strength

It may be awkward but you may end up using shins, knees, butt, elbows, or other strange surfaces for a quick hold. It's not ideal but it happens. Soon enough you will crave the fun challenge of class 3 and normal class 2 hiking will seem mundane. I leave you with this, a slice of heaven on Sneffels SW ridge:
Sneffles_lr-35.jpg
Sneffles_lr-35.jpg (271.96 KiB) Viewed 138 times
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