A Risky Pursuit

Free soloing allows dare devils to live life on the edge, literally

By Sean Sweeney

Looking straight down out of a skyscraper is scary. Staring down at the ground from so far up that people appear as diminutive as ants and other buildings barely reach half your altitude will bring the toughest SOB to grab the railing. Free-soloing, that is, rock climbing straight up cliffs, without a rope, is as dangerous as scaling up the side of a skyscraper.

One of my friends is a self-described crazy man. He tries everything, even scuba diving in frozen lakes, believing he will be dead within ten years. One of his favorite “passions” is watching people free solo.

Not using a rope provides a rush, knowing you have no safety. One misstep or slip and you are probably dead. This guy in the video is like a real-life Cody from Disney’s The Rescuers Down Under. Speed soloing – he’s literally running up the cliff.

Every ledge, every protruding rock can be used to lighten the pressure of gravity. And don’t even think about looking down. Without 100 percent focus, bad things are going to happen.

Every person I’ve ever known who has even thought about the possibility of doing this – about two people – believe they are “one with nature.” Well they certainly will be if they fall.

They believe this one time won’t be their last. Those that free solo forget what exactly they are doing, so entrenched – they are in the moment.

And I don’t think there is any real league or establishment for this sport. All you really need is a place to climb and the balls to do it.

Sean Sweeney is a regular contributor to The Greasy Pole.