As comforting as it is to be clipped right at the bolt, the minutes before that happens can be very alarming. It becomes alarming if you let yourself realize that you are the furthest you will be from your previous protection. Once that can of thought is open, the next alarming thought is about how much extra rope will be in the system as a clip is attempted.
Once the can is open it is hard to close. The easiest, but not necessarily best, way to close the can is to dog bone. A lot of noobs (like yours truly) are happy to panic grab the webbing of their quickdraw as soon as a hold does not seem satisfactory.
*It is an important distinction to clarify that this article covers panic holding, not one done on purpose. Aide climbers are known to use gear, but in a purposeful way since it is a different style of climbing than traditional sport climbing.*
Just say no
- From the bottom of my heart I mean this. If you are tempted to do it just don’t do it. There is this immediate reward from dog boning. If you start doing it it’s that much easier to do next time.
- In my experience it is more dangerous to dog bone, than take the fall. Grabbing on unnaturally to the webbing makes it really easy to reverse clip. I then have to extend double the energy to unclip and re-clip (without reverse clipping again). Sometimes I have had to repeat this process multiple times. Somehow after using this aide I am still extremely pumped and I have to take a break after each clip.
Falling isn’t that bad
- Keep the feet behind the rope. The riskiest things to do when falling is having your feet in front of the rope. Instead of opening the can, I use mental training as a reminder that I am a good climber. My feet are in a good spot. I will not be flipped over by my feet if I fall. As an added bonus, having good footwork will help to climb harder routes when we someday get there.
- Wear a helmet. Sometimes I have to give myself excuses to feel better. Wear a helmet, knee pad, or whatever it takes to feel and be safe!
- From a comfort perspective, falling really isn’t that bad. Lead ropes are dynamic (stretchy). We have been focusing on foot placement so our feet are behind the rope. To top it off, we picked a good belayer. As much as I avoid falls, after a fall I always have to re-evaluate because it really wasn’t that bad.
How do I stop/avoid?!
- Bring it down a notch. Or two. Or three! Last outdoor season I was a dog boning champion. I also focused on rating instead of technique. Over the winter in the gym I took it way down and have slowly brought it up. This built good habits. It also helped ingrain that falling isn’t that bad. I did spend some time playing games (more to come soon!). It seems to be paying off! Just a month ago I hopped on a climb that I just dog boned the heck out of last year. I didn’t dog bone once!
- Endurance train. The biggest cause of my dog boning was feeling the pump in my arm as I was needing to clip. The pump was my personal can opener. This spring I started to spend at least one day a week climbing easier climbs multiple times in a row to build more endurance. For reference I can almost flash 11a. When I endurance train I try to stay 10b or below.
- Mental train. Another plus to bring it down a notch is to build mental habits when the going is easy. That way they are there when it is bad. To learn more about mental training and to read about my swearing habits check out my earlier article here.
- Negative feedback. I have heard of climbers that will make themselves take a full fall if they catch themselves dog boning. This helpful to fight the positive reinforcement of an easy feeling clip.
- Give it time. I’m on the road to recovery. For me it took lead climbing 1+ times a week over the entire winter to reach a spot where I feel comfortable without dog boning.
How did you stop dog boning?