We make a foundational decision to climb because climbing gives us something we can’t fully explain. This decision determines why we climb, even though we cannot answer it specifically. Now, as we go deeper into climbing itself, we make primary decisions about what we climb. If we didn’t make the foundational decision well, then we’ll make poor primary decisions about what we climb.
A primary decision is a choice we make to accomplish a major goal for its own sake. That goal may be a mixed ascent of the Nose of El Cap, Everest without supplemental oxygen, or a redpoint ascent of The Prow on Cathedral Ledge, New Hampshire. These are not ascents you do as steppingstones to other goals. Rather, you decide to climb the route as an end in itself.
Primary decisions address macro goals that are clearly defined, such as a redpoint ascent of The Prow. You decide to redpoint the route, not on-sight it or climb it in a mixed aid/free fashion. This distinction, that you’ll redpoint the route, creates a clear image of the outcome and also determines how you’ll make secondary decisions. Since you’re going to redpoint it, your initial efforts on the route allow you to freely hang on protection to figure out sequences, rests, falls, and protection possibilities. This is a very different set of actions than if you decided to on-sight the route or climb it in a mixed aid/free fashion.

184_8446-w900-h700We make a foundational decision to climb because climbing gives us something we can’t fully explain. This decision determines why we climb, even though we cannot answer it specifically. Now, as we go deeper into climbing itself, we make primary decisions about what we climb. If we didn’t make the foundational decision well, then we’ll make poor primary decisions about what we climb.

A primary decision is a choice we make to accomplish a major goal for its own sake. That goal may be a mixed ascent of the Nose of El Cap, Everest without supplemental oxygen, or a redpoint ascent of The Prow on Cathedral Ledge, New Hampshire. These are not ascents you do as steppingstones to other goals. Rather, you decide to climb the route as an end in itself.

Primary decisions address macro goals that are clearly defined, such as a redpoint ascent of The Prow. You decide to redpoint the route, not on-sight it or climb it in a mixed aid/free fashion. This distinction, that you’ll redpoint the route, creates a clear image of the outcome and also determines how you’ll make secondary decisions. Since you’re going to redpoint it, your initial efforts on the route allow you to freely hang on protection to figure out sequences, rests, falls, and protection possibilities. This is a very different set of actions than if you decided to on-sight the route or climb it in a mixed aid/free fashion.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. kali

    Arno,
    It is amazing that your latest post is on the issue of primary decisions.
    I’ve been obsessed for the past few weeks with the thought of my possibilities of climbing a specific route [Le Guerre Sainte] in Wadi Rum, Jordan. Till now I never thought it fesible; bold run out pitches of 6b,c & 7a,b and me a 51 year old, 6c max climber with 30 years of experience and 15 years of wadi Rum climbing under my belt. I’m definitely first and foremost a on-sight trad. climber, hardly ever work on routes, not much difference between my sport and trad. abilities. So when a friend and top Israeli sport climber offered we join forces for the route, my immediate answer was: I’m not up to it. Then I thought: I can start training now for a winter bid . But even though I’ve set my mind to what I will climb, I’m not being myself at all in believing how I can climb it. For me doing a climb has always been about leading and doing it free and in impecable style and here I am saying to myself: you’ll give Ofer the hard pitches and get up them “French-free”. If I’m not gonna lead the harder pitches, at least I want to 2nd them well! What I think I”ll do is get to know the bottom four 6b & c pitches and work on redpointing them in Oct. or Nov. as preparation for our bid for the full 12 pitches in Jan or Feb. Yeehaa! Kali

Leave a Reply