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Personal Style And safety

Author: jmaher
Date: November 16, 2003
One of the most important lessons that I have learned as I have progressed from a beginning tree climber to a somewhat questionably better tree climber is that no matter how much I learn, someone else is always going to have some way of doing things that is newer than, or different from, what I am already doing. This is OK, because the more new and different things that I am exposed to, the better the chance that I will be able to improve my own personal climbing style and the more opportunity I will have to add to my own personal kitbag of tricks and techniques. This is what the development of a personal style of climbing is all about; you look at what is available, you try it out, then you decide if you wish to use it. The process is one of continuous renewal; each time a new idea or technique is encountered, whether it is adopted or not, it influences and creates an impact upon whatever may be your current technique.

What is important is having the knowledge, ability, and experience to know the difference between what will be good for your kitbag and what will not work for you. Recreational tree climbing is still in its infancy, and because of that there a whole lot of people trying out new and different things everyday. Some things that may work for one climber might be questionable for other climbers, depending on those climber's levels of competence, confidence, and degree of experience. We are all different and it must be remembered that what works for one person might not work for another. It is important that climbers keep this in mind as they share each other's ideas and techniques.

It must also be remembered that a person who has come up with a new idea or technique that works for them is going to be very enthusiastic about showing that idea off to fellow climbers. Sometimes this gets a bit out of hand and the person discovering the new technique will put forth their find as a state of the art discovery and be rather dogmatic in their insistence that others adopt the new tactic. Be careful; don't adopt a new technique just because it is new or different, or because the person showing it to you is an older and better climber than you. Before adding a new idea or technique to your personal kitbag, try it out--very low and very slow--then ask yourself if it will complement the style you are already using and ask yourself, "is it safe?" If you decide that it will, indeed, complement your current style, and if you see it as being safe, then go out and practice it--again, very low and very slow--before making it a permanent fixture within your bag of climbing tricks.

Most recreational climbers have learned their skills from a climbing instructor, and most basic climbing courses begin with, and rarely progress beyond, double rope technique. There is a reason for this: Double rope technique is the safest thing going and instructors don't want you to go out hurting yourself. It's bad for the sport and it's bad for the instructor's reputation. It does not take the beginning climber long, however, to discover that there is a lot more to tree climbing than standard double rope technique, and in a very short time the beginner will be out there ready to try out all these new ideas that are floating around. This is the point at which a climber will start to develop his or her own personal style of climbing, personal style being defined as the modifications upon whatever style one is using to fit one's own personal climbing challenges. Remember, as you develop you own personal style, that double rope technique is the safest thing going and that there was a reason your instructor taught you that method instead of another. Be very cautious and very thoughtful as you progress beyond that basic climbing course. Not only are the reputations of recreational tree climbing and your instructor at risk, but there is also the issue of your own personal health and wellness.

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