What climbing in Little Cottonwood taught me

A friend of mine once told me, “If you can learn to climb in Little, you can climb anywhere.”

LCC routes are known for their old school/sandbag rating system meaning routes are often more difficult than they are rated.

The quick history about this: In the pioneer days of climbing, routes never went above 5.10. Anytime a route felt more difficult, climbers in fear of being called soft would call it 5.9 or 5.10.

Today, the rating system has been expanded, the hardest in the world being 5.15. But there are still old school ratings that hang around. LCC has become somewhat locally famous for some 5.10 routes being easier than some 5.11 routes. (The key is to look when the first ascent was made.)

In addition, the LCC standard is to use gear that makes sense and to preserve the nature of the first of ascent and the finite resource as much as humanly possible. Basically, if it makes sense to use removable gear, use it. If you can justify a bolt, you may (or may not) choose to use one.

Often, this meant adding an element of what climbers call “spice”. 30+ foot run outs with nothing between you and your last piece of protection were sometimes necessary (a fall is measured by the distance of the climber and the last piece of protection times two plus rope stretch, in this case about a 70 foot fall).

What climbing in LCC taught me is this:

Not every route is for every climber. Routes are all about raising your abilities to meet the challenge, not lowering the standard to yours. 

There are “classic” climbs that I would need to put more work in for me to do. Right now, I’m not willing to put in that kind of time in my life. It doesn’t mean I get to lower the bar just so I can get another check mark off my climbing to-do list. It has been a tremendous analogy for me in other facets of my life.