Free Solo Climbing: Cool or Not Cool?

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COOL: 27%

If you want to risk the dangers of free climbing, go for it, as long as you don’t put others in danger. Climbers should be responsible for their own safety.

—Dan M., Spruce Pine, N.C.

Solo climbing makes you feel free. Being alone on a rock face with no limits or distractions is the ultimate outdoor high.

       —Richard, Memphis, Tenn.

Sometimes it’s necessary to test your limits in nature. You gotta cut yourself loose of all connections, so that it’s just you and the rock. There is nothing more pure and powerful than that. I don’t advocate free solo climbing without a ton of climbing experience and well-honed skills. But when the time is right and your skills and experience have progressed, a free solo climb can provide a deeper climbing experience than the traditional roped climb. You find out what you’re made of and how utterly dependent you are on the ancient slab before you.

—Mike D., Atlanta, Ga.

NoT COOL: 73%

The glorifying of free solo-climbers in film, articles, and television sets a bad precedent for young climbers who don’t know much about the history of climbing. It teaches them that a good way to become famous in the sport of climbing is to free solo something rather than learn the ropes first.

—Amanda Danger Smith via Facebook

There is thrill, and there is stupidity. When you have all the safety equipment available, use it. You can still get the thrill without solo climbing.

 —Jason, Mahwah, N.J.

Free solo climbing is reckless and irresponsible. Climbing—and all outdoor recreation, really—are excellent ways to test your abilities and improve your health in beautiful natural settings. But ultimately, climbing is recreation. It’s never worth risking your life for. If you were in a real-life Deliverance scenario which necessitated a free solo climb to escape backwoods sodomy, then perhaps a free solo climb is justified. But for most of us, climbing is something we do for fun, not for survival. To turn the sport of climbing into a life-or-death situation is egomaniacal and just plain dumb.

—Kristen Hogarth, Washington, D.C. 

It’s not cool, unless having an obituary that informs everyone of your stupid and preventable death seems cool to you. Then maybe it’s cool.

—Chris, Columbia, S.C.

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