Cadden’s Thoughts: Blowing the On-sight

I have lost my mind almost entirely, and now that I have sailed to new found power and immunity, I seek to abuse this for my own amusement.  TL;DR Myles likes that I use the site lots, so he won’t let the powers that be take my posts down.  (TRY AND STOP ME JONNY!)

Look, we all know that my life isn’t going anywhere right now.  It’s not a very fun thing to admit, but don’t give me that bullshit pity you “Humans” love to pour out on to people like me.  If you can give me a job somehow, that’s entirely different, but know this: it WILL spell the end of my writing…….’career’ (mad ramblings on the internet).  Of recent I have run out of climbing trips to report on, and my boredom has reached new heights, or rather lows.  Until now I had resigned to keep you poor/lesser beings from knowing the true depths of my mind.  Oh yes, these stories and epic ballads you have read this past while are but mere fleeting glimpses of the more….sensible parts of my consciousness.

Few have listened to the deeper fathoms, and I had always felt bound to protect the wider world from knowing my deepest contemplations.  No mere mortal can witness my inner most ideals, but I can allow SOME level of intrusion further.  This means, that at entirely random times as I see fit, I shall unleash torrents of utter drivel unto the page and post for pure amusement’s sake of you folk.  If you have ever been on a trip with me, and listened to me go off on some unreasonable tangent to a thought, these posts will basically be written forms of this.

Now I shall do my best to make these shorter than a regular trip report, though this one is longer because I had to explain the concept of the matter.  So without further delay, My thoughts on Blowing the onsite.

I will make it very clear, all of this is complete shit (mostly), many styles of climbing are acceptable, this is a joke and does not reflect my real views, other than the actual definitions of the terms.  


So we must begin at the most basic, what is ‘On-sight’ climbing?  In it’s truest sense, climbing a route ‘On-sight’ is to climb a route cleanly (no falls) with no prior practice or knowledge of the moves and or gear.  Everything else is subjective, made up, far fetched nonsense.  These ideals are concocted by nobody in particular, and abide by no laws of man or god, and often follow restrictions and parameters which have no purpose or meaning……or so it seems the the untrained eye.

My friends, I intend to educate you as to the ethics and arguments involved in on-sighting, concluding with a definitive list of actions which will blow the on-sight.  This work is the culmination of much research (googling) and in-depth crag discussions with experienced climbers of all backgrounds and climbing areas (mainly Jamie, Prebble and Toby when we were talking shit).

On-sighting is the pinnacle of climbing.  Summed up fantastically by Neil Dickson in the film ‘On Sight’ – “There’s just as big a difference between head-pointing and on-sighting, as there is between head-pointing and top-roping”.  So more explanation required, head-pointing is basically practicing a route before leading it.  While top-roping is often the actual practice for head-pointing a route.  With on-sighting, there is no practice, hence it’s purity and difficulty.

“A route hasn’t really had a real assent until it’s been on-sighted” – Neil Dickson on on-sight climbing.

When all is said and done, climbing has slowly moved from it’s quiet, but adventurous, beginnings.  The original sport of climbing was about adventure, the unknown, and diving head-first into it to see if you would resurface unscathed.  Between bolting sport routes, bouldering and head-pointing, climbing has just become a sub-sectioned sport.  The only difference between these is how much you cheat by, and in what way.

Here is my definitive list of ACTIONS TO AVOID if you seek a TRUE on-sight climbing experience:

  1. Sport climbs can’t be on-sighted.  Bolts are pre-placed gear.  Theoretically one COULD on-sight a sport route if one bolted it as one went, but this is unethical and so is not practiced.
  2. Boulders can be on-sighted, but worthless.  While technically an on-sight, bouldering is just training for REAL climbing.  Look, if you lift a weight on the first go, it just means you were too strong for the exercise, and need to find a harder one to get better.
  3. Being given any information on the moves of the route.
  4. Being given any information on the gear of the route.
  5. Begin given any information on the rock type of the route.
  6. Climbing with holds still chalked by previous climbers.  (EXCEPTION – The Beta Sandbag Flash: this is when a friend has purposefully chalked the wrong holds, to further add to the challenge of figuring out the moves.  However, this is still only a flash not on-sight).
  7. By extension, using chalk.
  8. Reading the route description.
  9. Looking at the climb before getting on the route.
  10. Climbing with your eyes open at all.
  11. Using rated gear (ruins the on-sight as you have some knowledge of the gear quality).
  12. By extension, testing gear placements after placing them.
  13. Aid-climbing (it’s just dogging a route without even trying to do the real moves for something you can’t climb).
  14. Checking what gear is on your harness at any point (in the spirit of on-sight, you reach for something, place it best you can, clip it and move on).
  15. Similar rules for rope, if you coiled it right last time there shouldn’t be any need to sort out knots in it.
  16. Saying the route name more than 3 times before climbing.
  17. Knowing anything about the route other than the start and end points (even this is hotly contested by some).
  18. Have any form of climbing practice in the past 2 months (in the event that any moves on other routes are similar to the moves on this one).

Ultimately the only way to truly on-sight a route is to have the first ascent, blindfolded, backwards, feet-first, only to be topped off with a Blade Runner style memory wipe of the whole experience.

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