Class 3+, Solo or partner?

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Class 3+, Solo or partner?

Postby SES_17 » Sat Sep 22, 2012 9:52 pm

In light of the recent climbing death on North Marroon peak earlier this month, I thought I'd throw out the question "how many would climb class 3+ solo and how many wouldn't attempt without a partner?"
I realize a lot has to do with knowing your ability and limitaions and a lot of you are quite capable of soloing much more than class 3. I've yet to tackle a class 3 route, yet I know I could probably handle Kelso Ridge on my own but would I dare try it?

Personally, I'm obsessed with finding solitude and quite confident in my ability but the jump in risk from class 2 to 3 is enough for me to think, why chance it?
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Re: Class 3+, Solo or partner?

Postby Paragon4 » Sat Sep 22, 2012 10:25 pm

I soloed Wetterhorn and it was amazing. I wouldn't trade that experience for anything. Well, maybe some NZT-48 if it were real. Wetterhorn is a bit dangerous though. The hike was perfect solitude! And I sat with some marmots on the summit. Just remember to let people know where you are going and use your noggin.

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Re: Class 3+, Solo or partner?

Postby tommyboy360 » Sat Sep 22, 2012 10:29 pm

Many folks on this site solo up to low/mid class 5 without a problem.

It's all based on experience, your confidence in your mountaineering skills and a willingness to accept risk. Keep charging solo at class 3+ if you're feeling doubtful. I think the southwest ridge of Ellingwood Point would be a good confidence builder since it's a sustained class 3+ with solid rock and exposure. Tour d' Abyss is another great route to go solo, especially if you stick to the ridge proper.

Having partners can actually add more risk in certain situations. Most of the deaths have been someone part of a bigger group. Unless you're roping up for a technical climb or rappel, climbing in groups on low class 5 and below only offers a sense of false confidence if you need guidance, encouragement, spotting and help with route finding.

Going solo is a great freedom but you have to be confident in everything: planning, route finding and other mountaineering basics. Just make sure you have others aware of your exact route plan and time schedule if you head out solo. Solo flights have been some of my most rewarding and educational climbs.

Best of luck to you.
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Re: Class 3+, Solo or partner?

Postby Tory Wells » Sat Sep 22, 2012 10:31 pm

Responses to this question are transitory. They evolve. It is relative to your experience level. When all of us were new to this sport, we thought class 3 was a BIG DEAL. Then, after completing some class 3's, we learned it is not that big a deal. For most folks, class 3 has left the realm of being scary and has become just plain fun.

When I was new to the sport, soloing class 3 scared me. After 10 years, I don't even think about it anymore. Just last week, I soloed a class 3 route (west ridge of Pacific Pk) where I did not see another person the whole day. Some people might call that irresponsible, but my comfort level is such that I have very high confidence on such a route.

I guess what I'm saying is: give it some time. Do some class 3's, gain experience and comfort on them and maybe your level of acceptable risk will change too.
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Re: Class 3+, Solo or partner?

Postby MountainMedic » Sun Sep 23, 2012 2:07 am

I vastly prefer climbing with a partner - it's more fun and a heck of a lot more safe. I don't think much about soloing if others will be on the peak the same time as me - I initially planned to solo North Maroon this summer but happened to run into MonGoose at Crater Lake.

I soloed Wilson Peak after El Diente and Mt Wilson a couple weeks ago, summiting the peak around 3 PM. This was a little harrowing - if I had gotten hurt, nobody would've found me for at least a day. To be perfectly honest, though, class III is not that big a deal, and I'd feel comfortable soloing just about any 14er (depending on the conditions and excluding traverses). That said, having been involved in the Hagerman accident in August, I don't know what I would have done without Greg, Dillon, and Dan on that day. The bottom line is that you never know what can happen.

There's something to be said for climbing the tougher stuff alone, but you won't see me climbing solo very often.

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Re: Class 3+, Solo or partner?

Postby lackerstef » Sun Sep 23, 2012 6:22 am

Did Little Bear solo last week and was glad to not get bowled over with rocks in the hourglass.

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Re: Class 3+, Solo or partner?

Postby GregMiller » Sun Sep 23, 2012 6:29 am

Personally, I wouldn't do class 3 without a partner right now. Maybe if I had a PLB of some sort. However, give it two years, and I probably will. I'd say start on an easier class 3 where you know someone will be coming up behind you before too long (Kelso Ridge), and work from there.

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Re: Class 3+, Solo or partner?

Postby Vermont Mike » Sun Sep 23, 2012 7:03 am

Another option would be to just climb some non-mandatory class 3/4 stuff while hiking class 2 routes. This gives you practice and builds confidence while always allowing you the chance to bail to easier terrain.

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Re: Class 3+, Solo or partner?

Postby MatB » Sun Sep 23, 2012 7:26 am

It's all relative to your own experiences and confidence. I think Vermont Mike has made a good suggestion. While I like to have a partner, the majority of my hiking this summer has been solo and a quite a few of those routes had 3/4 terrain. Every mountain has multiple routes to the top and offers all kinds of variations to enjoy (one of the funnest sections of climbing I had this summer was on Pacific Peak whose "standard route" is class 2). I think what bothers most people more than anything is exposure. If you can build up your tolerance/confidence in exposed areas than I don't think the class 3/4 solo would be a problem.

There is never a time when I am comfortable making a mistake in the mountains (partners or no partners). So while my decisions may be a little different when I am solo, a fall is never an option.

Hope this helps.
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Re: Class 3+, Solo or partner?

Postby FCSquid » Sun Sep 23, 2012 9:49 am

My personal policy is to partner up for Class 3 or above. It's just a function of probability of getting hurt. On harder routes, more bad things can happen - and since exposure tends to go hand-in-hand with the harder technical routes, more really bad things can happen.

I've done enough hikes that I'm 99% certain I'll get up and down a Class I or II without incident, so I really enjoy being solo on those mountains. However, strictly as a matter of safety, I never do a Class 3 or 4 route alone.
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Re: Class 3+, Solo or partner?

Postby edhaman » Sun Sep 23, 2012 2:29 pm

I share FCSquid's policy.

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Re: Class 3+, Solo or partner?

Postby Tortoise1 » Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:07 pm

So what's a good class 3 to start on - i.e. good experience, but on the low side in exposure?


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