Climbing styles in traditional climbing - soloing
Climbing without ropes or protection - known as free soloing - is perhaps the most dangerous climbing discipline. Leo comes down to earth with the bare facts.

Climbing styles in traditional climbing - soloing

Free soloing is perhaps the ultimate form of expression in climbing. With no ropes, no heavy equipment, and no margin for error, soloing provides a sensation of oneness with the rock and ease within oneself. It is, for many, unjustifiably dangerous and for some, highly addictive.

Although many climbers say that they only solo when they are in absolute control and well within their capabilities, the truth is that there are factors beyond their control determining their fate. The tiniest slip, a loose hold, or a drop of rain is all it takes. The soloist is constantly faced with the stark reality that the smallest of errors may result in death.

The soloist is constantly faced with the stark reality that the smallest of errors may result in death

But it is this stark reality that creates addictive attraction. The blatant jeopardy involved evokes feelings of command and mastery over life. Few sports can compete with the intensity of emotion. Who's to say how an Olympic gold medal can compare with a self-imposed near death experience?

The High

Following a particularly rewarding solo, the climber feels like a magician, on a higher plane of consciousness to ordinary man. The closer the scrape with death, the more intense the relief of survival. And herein lies the insidious horror of this courtship with doom. A narrow escape is too often followed by an eagerness to take things further, to attain the same high.

Why do it

Rationalising such an inherently dangerous pursuit is not possible. To risk your life to climb a certain piece of rock in a certain style is simply madness and incredibly selfish.

I leave you with the master's opinion, a blunt instruction from Joe Brown, 'Don't solo.'


People die soloing. Friends of mine have died soloing.

Survival guidelines

If you insist on experimenting with this lethally rewarding game, follow these few simple guidelines and you may live longer.
  • Never solo a route just because somebody else did - peer pressure kills.
  • Question your motivation. If you are doing this for anyone other than yourself, don't.
  • If you have any doubt about it, forget it.
  • Never be too proud to request a rescue.


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