Friday, December 30, 2011

Frozen Falls

The time it has taken for me to progress in climbing and mountaineering has long exceeded what I ever would have imagined. This process has become a humbling lesson in patience and perseverance. There have been many factors limiting my progress - finances, physical injuries (ACL and meniscus injury from a tweaked landing on a crash pad at the gym), inconsistent training, flaky climbing partners, and an absence of a consistent mentor.

A lesser, but obvious issue, was also the lack of ideal alpine climbing. Oregon is known for many things, but it pales in comparison to the Northern Cascade range, the Rockies, and the Sierra Nevadas (not to mention Alaska) for mountaineering. Sure, we have Hood - the birth place of the Mountain Rescue Association, and a great source of easy to moderate snow and ice routes. However, Oregon also lacks an abundance of something that modern alpinists cherish; frozen vertical ice and waterfalls. This is one of the reasons Oregon lost one of our greatest resident mountaineers, Steve House, to an area outside Ouray.

Not only is it enjoyable to climb these sometimes dangerous structures, but it also hones the skills needed for more technical and demanding alpine routes. But because of the extreme lack of available ice, I have not pursued investing in the specialized equipment or learning waterfall ice technique beyond academic observation, until recently a friend and East Coast ice climbing enthusiast caught me on my day off, during the tail end of a cold snap that turned Paulina Falls into something worth (read: somewhat safe) climbing. He had the willingness to initiate me in my first attempt at frozen waterfalls, pushing me to complete a mixed condition WI 4 +.

I am hooked.

The crux was extremely difficult and precarious, with a free hanging block of large icicles in excess of 500 pounds, and my lack of conditioning showed, however I was able to fight my way to the top with only a cut nose, a bruised cheekbone, pumped forearms, and a smile. My friend suffered a few large blocks to his helmeted bean which were sent down by my indelicate thwacking of my ice tools, though he didn't complain until we were in the truck headed back to town.

It was a trial by fire method of learning, with him shouting from below how to amend my improper technique. My favorite was "Don't do that! Stop climbing like a rock climber!" in response to my footwork. During the climb, I felt a learning curve that is only found early on, long before plateaus are reached. It's rare to have such "aha!" moments like these. Conceptually, I have grown significantly.

This experience has me excited for the direction I would like to take my mountain pursuits. I am eager to step off the dry rock, and the snowy slopes, for more vertical and frozen terrain. While I know my journey will be slow, meandering at a pace much slower than I would like (especially in comparison to my aging), I have made one more step in the direction I would like to go. Now I eagerly anticipate the next cold snap, and a day off to enjoy it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Long Overdue

For me, climbing experience has been hard earned. Finding suitable partners and mentors has proved often elusive. My goals set for years have only now started to come to fruition. I was able to try an alternate route up South Sister (Prouty Glacier) that proved to appear too risky for all the participants excluding myself, meaning a premature turnaround in my eyes.  Dodging bergstroms didn't appeal to my climbing partners I suppose.  Video is here.

I also finally got to settle my score with Broken Top, leading and fixing the one low fifth class mini-routes to the step that leads to the cat walks. Nothing ground breaking, but refreshing to be able to do it none-the-less.

Then yesterday I was able to climb Superslab at Smith Rock with my good buddy Matty B. This has been in the works for three or so years, maybe even longer. Busy life and a myriad of factors prevented it, but I couldn't imagine a better person to climb with and learn from.  The climb was at a relaxing pace; both of us hadn't done much rock climbing in the last year or two.  I would like to lead the second pitch if we run up this again anytime soon.

After the climb, we rappelled down in the dark, spent about 25 minutes getting the rope unstuck from a crack (the wind started howling and dragged it off the fall line) at the mid wall anchor point, then rapped the rest of the way down to the ground. 

It is said to be the best 5.6 of its type in the area - 3 pitches of fairly good trad climbing.  It was truly 450 feet of great fun.  The first pitch is a little funky, and the second pitch is a traverse on ledges followed by a short but unprotectable section of 5.4 (we only got a sling and one micro on the second pitch).  The third, and most difficult of the three, is by far the best.  It has a better rhythm, thank-god holds where you need them, some steep and fun moves, some great jams, and the best section (and maybe most difficult) is the last 10 feet or so.  For some great pictures of the last pitch looking down, check out here.

Next up is some practice leading some trad routes, and perhaps First Kiss, Spiderman or Moscow.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


"One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am — a reluctant enthusiast ... a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it's still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotised by desk calculators. I promise you this; you will outlive the bastards." Edward Abbey.

After you've walked two hours in the mountains, you are more intelligent." — Coline Serreau, French film director, La belle verte.

"A man without defaults is like a mountain without crevasses. Not interesting." — Ren´ Char, French poet, Feuillets d'Hypnos.

"The only zen thoughts you can find on a mountain summit are those you brought yourself." —Robert Pirsig, American writer.

"Will allow you to climb summits; without will you stay at the base of the mountain."

"A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions." Oliver Wendell Holmes

"Never was anything achieved without danger." Niccolo Machiavelli

"Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess." Oscar Wilde (AWESOME!!!)

"Traveler's will cross many rivers and climb many mountains. Plainsmen may always live within a valley. But only those seeking truth will ever reach the summit." — 11th century Indian saying.

"There is probably no pleasure equal to the pleasure of climbing a dangerous Alp; but it is a pleasure which is confined strictly to people who can find pleasure in it." — Mark Twain quotes (1835-1910).

"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night, in the dusty recesses of their minds, awake in the day to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it reality." T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia).

"For we are known for being at once most adventurous in action and yet most reflective beforehand; other men are bold in their ignorance whilst reflection would stop their onset. But, the bravest are surely those that have the clearest vision of what lies before them, danger and glory alike and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it. For whole Earth is a sepulchre of famous men and their story is not only graven in stone over their native land, but, lives on far away without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men's lives." Thucydides (460-404BCE).

"Success is not counted by how high you have climbed but by how many people you brought with you." — Will Rose.

"The mountains have done the spiritual side of me more good religiously, as well as in my body physically, than anything else in the world. No one knows who and what God is until he has seen some real mountaineering and climbing in the Alps." — Rev F. T. Wethered, 1919.

"He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary." Friedrich Nietzsche

"Only through suffering can we find ourselves." Fyodor Dostoyevsky

"Niente fremiti di gioia. Niente ebbrezza della vittoria.
La mèta raggiunta è già superata.
Direi quasi un senso di amarezza per il sogno diventato realtà.
Credo che sarebbe molto più bello poter desiderare per tutta la vita qualcosa, lottare continuamente per raggiungerla e non ottenerla mai...
L'uomo felice non dovrebbe avere più nulla da dire, più nulla da fare.
Per mio conto preferisco una felicità irragiungibile, sempre vicina e sempre fuggente." Giusto Gervasutti

"Nothing is thrilling about joy. Nothing is intoxicating about victory. Once a goal is achieved, it is already outdated. I would say I almost feel a sense of bitterness when a dream becomes reality. I believe that it would be much better to want something the rest of one's life, to strive constantly to achieve it and to never obtain it... the joyous man has nothing left to say, and nothing left to do. For myself, I prefer happiness to be unattainable, always close, and always escaping.

"Hours slide by like minutes. The accumulated clutter of day-to-day existence — the lapses of conscience, the unpaid bills, the bungled opportunities, the dust under the couch, the inescapable prison of your genes — all of it is temporarily forgotten, crowded from your thoughts by an overpowering clarity of purpose by the seriousness of the task at hand." — Jon Krakauer - into the wild

"To live for some future goal is shallow. It is the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top." Robert Pirsig.

"Today is your day ! Your mountain is waiting. So... get on your way." Dr. Seuss (1904—1991)

"Tomorrow ? Probably back on the ground involved in other struggles more dangerous than loose flakes, more demanding than commitment to a desert wall. Dealing with man can be less than beautiful. Climbing is beautiful." — Bill Forrest, the secret passage route.

"A sport is advanced by the handful of people who do it brilliantly, but it is kept sweet and sane by the great numbers of the mediocre, who do it for fun." — Elizabeth Coxhead.

"Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent." Marilyn vos Savant.

"I refuse to believe in a risk free society where the thrill of living is traded for the safety of existence."

"Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things. It isn't the mountain ahead that wears you out — it's the grain of sand in your shoe."Robert Service (1874—1958).

"One can't take a breath large enough to last a lifetime ; one can't eat a meal big enough so that one never needs to eat again. Similarly, I don't think any climb can make you content never to climb again." Wilson Sayre

"What is hard to endure is sweet to remember."

"The events of the past day have proven to me that I am wholly alive, and that no matter what transpires from here on in, I have truly lived." — Anonymous climber.

"The world is a better place to live in because it contains human beings who will give up ease and security in order to do what they themselves think worth doing. They do the useless, brave, noble, divinely foolish, and the very wisest things that are done by Man. And what they prove to themselves and to others is that Man is no mere creature of his habits, no automaton in his routine, but that in the dust of which he is made there is also fire, lighted now and then by great winds from the sky." Walter Lippmann, journalist.

"Each fresh peak ascended teaches something." — Sir Martin Convay.

"If the conquest of a great peak brings moments of exultation and bliss, which in the monotonous, materialistic existence of modern times nothing else can approach, it also presents great dangers. It is not the goal of grand alpinism to face peril, but it is one of the tests one must undergo to deserve the joy of rising for an instant above the state of crawling grubs. But soon we have to start the descent. Suddenly I feel sad and despondent. I am well aware that a mountaineering victory is only a scratch in space But in spite of this, how sad I feel at leaving that crest ! On this proud and beautiful mountain we have lived hours of fraternal, warm and exalting nobility. Here for a few days we have ceased to be slaves and have really been men. It is

"The bizarre trend in mountaineers is not the risk they take, but the large degree to which they value life. They are not crazy because they don't dare, they're crazy because they do. These people tend to enjoy life to the fullest, laugh the hardest, travel the most, and work the least." — Lisa Morgan.

"But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he cannot learn, feel, change, grow or live. Chained by his servitude he is a slave who has forfeited all freedom. Only a person who risks is free. The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; and the realist adjusts the sails." — William Arthur Ward.

"To put yourself into a situation where a mistake cannot necessarily be recouped, where the life you lose may be your own, clears the head wonderfully. It puts domestic problems back into proportion and adds an element of seriousness to your drab, routine life. Perhaps this is one reason why climbing has become increasingly hard as society has become increasingly, disproportionately, coddling." — A. Alvarez, The Games Climbers Play.

"Climbing is the lazy man's way to enlightenment. It forces you to pay attention, because if you don't, you won't succeed, which is minor — or you may get hurt, which is major. Instead of years of meditation, you have this activity that forces you to relax and monitor your breathing and tread that line between living and dying. When you climb, you always are confronted with the edge. Hey, if it was just like climbing a ladder, we all would have quit a long time ago." — Duncan Ferguson.

"When you ride your bike, you're working your legs, but your mind is on a treadmill. When you play chess, your mind is clicking along, but your body is stagnating. Climbing brings it together in a beautiful, magical way. The adrenaline is flowing, and it's flowing all the time." Pat Ament.

"One cannot climb at all unless he has sufficient urge to do so. Danger must be met (indeed it must be used) to an extent beyond that incurred to normal life. That is one reason men climb; for only in response to challenge does one man becomes his best." — Ax Nelson.

"On this proud and beautiful mountain we have lived hours of fraternal, warm and exalting nobility. Here for a few days we have ceased to be slaves and have really been men. It is hard to return to servitude." — Lionel Terray.

"Climbing is as close as we can come to flying." — Margaret Young, aviator and alpinist.
drewjcheney: "Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb." — Greg Child.

"It's always further than it looks.
It's always taller than it looks.
And it's always harder than it looks." — The 3 rules of mountaineering.

"It's a round trip. Getting to the summit is optional, getting down is mandatory." — Ed Viesturs.

"Remember that time spent on a rock climb isn't subtracted from your life span." — Will Niccolls.

"Climbing is not a spectator sport." — Mark Wellman.

"Climbing is one of the few sports in which the arena (the cliffs, the mountains and their specific routes) acquire a notoriety that outpopulates, outshines and outlives the actual athletes." —Jonathan Waterman.

"Doubly happy, however, is the man to whom lofty mountain tops are within reach." —John Muir.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

ah the tick list

Some climbers say making too many plans and goals can be problematic; it is easy to spend too much time dreaming, and not enough time on the mountain. I know I am guilty of climbing more in fantasy than actuality. I know I spend quite a bit of time in my books, reading beta, studying photographs and film, planning trips, and figuring out gear requirements. I sip on my coffee, and I dream of the Karakorum range, or a more likely climb up Mt. Stuart's North Ridge Route. I sit here in a sedentary slump, with an ache in my body for lack of exercise. The winter presents plenty of opportunities to train for the following alpine season, however I find myself inactive.

How do I fuel the fire, how do I continue to push my boundaries? How does one learn more climbing when there are so few willing to impart their hard earned wisdom? The greatest climbers of all time have made mistakes, some of which are life altering or life ending; one never stops learning. I am at the most dramatic portion of an alpinist's progress- every climb being a lesson from start to finish, and every step being something of an adventure. Yet, perhaps when that isn't the case, there is no reason to climb?

Regardless, I think some couldn't be more wrong asserting the notion that plans are bad. Plans give me not only goals, but the notion that I should prepare. Perhaps this winter will be devoid of any real climbing, but instead constant painful slogs up hills. Perhaps aside from some formal snow and avalanche training, I will gain marginal amounts of knowledge for next spring, summer and fall. Maybe I NEED these goals to survive this winter. Skis and snow shoes will have to do; around here there isn't as much use for an ace axe as in many places. Ice climbing is severely limited, and the terrain is arguably flat compared to other portions of this range.

So I sip some more coffee, and I read about heroic multi-day ascents, of bivies on 4th class routes, of 48 hours climbing, and perhaps a few pleasant strolls along giant Cascade glaciers. As I get the jitters, I realize I must train hard through the winter. That seems significantly more difficult than the climbing season that will follow it. An apathetic lazy climber can't achieve much of anything to be proud of, yet with all this motivation, it is hard to not be a couch potato throughout the dark, cold winter.

So what is the point of all this? Perhaps it is to commit to a formal list of goals, so that I am reminded of what I must prepare for. For the climbing season of 2011, I have some ambitious climbs in mind. Yes, it's a bit early for New Year resolutions. No matter...

Mount Jefferson:
Second highest peak in Oregon coming in at 10497ft, and the most technical of the larger peaks thanks to the steep snow field traverse and a class 4/5 summit block. 8-12 hours from base camp depending on route. Probably will attempt the Jefferson Park route.

Middle Sister:
This one proved elusive this last summer. It's mostly a slog, and should fit in mid to late summer as a good overnight climb. No biggie.

Broken Top:
Another elusive climb- as soon as things melt from the Broken Top TH, I'm doing this. Single day speed ascent style. Maybe I can run part of it?

Mount McLaughlin:
Early season trip- should be fine in some snow.

Mt. Hood:
Because I need to at least do it once.

Mt. Shuksan:
It's a beautiful mountain, with a myriad of routes that look interesting. It's a bit far north, so the drive will prove to be the most obnoxious part of the approach.

Mt. Stuart:
North Ridge route. This climb is my number one goal, and likely to be a good late season finale to my year. It is not only a test of endourance ( Grade III to IV, 5.4 to 5.9 depending on the variation), but is also a test of technical ability. The descent is also one of the more difficult parts of this climb. I am unsure of the logistics yet, but if there is one climb I want more for next season, I cannot think of it. It is also one of the 50 Classic Climbs of North America, and one of the few that deserve it (so I am told).

Second most prominent peak in Oregon at 6,388, with elevation of 9,838. It's most popular route is non technical, and the climbs tend to be on sub par rock. Its location and its views draw me more than anything.

Smith Rock -

Monkey Face:
It's a classic climb.

Wherever I May Roam:
Another great multi-pitch climb.

What does all this mean? Nobody will be impressed with this list. In fact, the bottom line is, if I can't complete this list, or at least whittle away at it, I shall feel abundant shame. This is my base line, and if I can't manage this, I should retire now.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Notions of Grandeur

John Gill said "I don't think I would become a climber if I were young man now [...] What is freedom to a bird if it is in the middle of a flock ?"

Sadly, this sometimes rings true; what a mere mortal climbs has been climbed many times, every year, for a very long time, while often dodging crowds of other climbers. To climb something new requires acts of heroism, or perhaps insanity. It also requires specialization- a dedication to a specific form of climbing, or a willingness to take a route to a conquered mountain that no other person has been willing to take. It is an alpine style mixed route specialist taking on some marginally safe route of falling rocks, avalanche, low quality protection, and scary aid pitches. It requires marathon climbing for days on end. It requires something I doubt I have, and sacrifices I can't make.

Truly, I cannot climb for the sense of freedom, or for the feeling of being somewhere others haven't been many times, or even the rarefied virgin summit; these things do not exist much in the modern age, at least not without the above mentioned qualities, and money to go to distant lands.

So why keep attempting something so minuscule, trite, and pointless as climbing mountains that mean little to most people? Why keep flying in the center of the flock, just a number to be forgotten? Why fill a summit registry that few even will read? Why risk one's life and limb for such things?

I struggle with these thoughts, and I think any climber out there does more or less as well. Some do climb for the process, not the summit, however I do think there has to be a goal within that process. Even sport climbing has a point in which the climb has been reached- the goal.

But I read this:

"One does not climb to attain enlightenment, rather one climbs because he is enlightened." — Zen Master Futomaki.

Perhaps this is wishful thinking; I know some egomaniac climbers who are far from enlightened. However, this makes me smile. I would like to think this is a personal experience, and whether a billion people or not a soul has made it to the summit, only I can take myself to that summit. I am there to learn from the mountains, and to exercise meditation.

What little I understand of Zen, I do like, and it certainly seems to apply to mountaineering. Zen practice emphasizes less of teachings, and more of mindfulness throughout the day, especially through work. I think there is no time I have worked longer and harder than climbing, and no time I have been so clear minded through work, yoga aside.

When climbing with a clear and focused mind, it is absolutely sublime. When that focus is lost, and the mind starts darting from one place to another, from fear, to desire to reach the summit, it becomes absolutely miserable. Step by step, focusing on what you are doing and where to go next, rather than the summit, or any superficial things surrounding the climb, will degrade the experience.

I am struggling with the idea that it doesn't matter what I climb. It doesn't matter if it is a feat of masterful self control, endurance, and disregard for obvious risks, or if it is just a simple mountain in the Cascade mountains. What matters is that I challenge myself, and learn. It is easy to sit and dream about the epic climbs of the Karakorum range, or of more modest, but attainable climbs like Rainier or Shuksan (which i obviously do), but it is more important to continue to climb, whatever I can, whenever I can, and continue to grow.

“Let me respectfully remind you:
Life and death are of supreme importance.
Time swiftly passes and opportunity is lost.
Awaken! Awaken! Take Heed;
Do not squander your life.”

-a Zen gatha

Mount Stuart, Cascade Range, Washington (a personal goal to climb)

Top Photo: something I will likely never climb; K2 if I am not mistaken.

Botched Middle Sister

-- It is worth considering our priorities and how they affect the choices we make in the mountains. Thinking ahead of time about what risks, or how much one is willing to put on the line to reach the summit is critical. What will make us turn around is worth knowing in advance so that decisions are almost instantaneous. --

Middle Sister is the 5th highest mountain in Oregon, third tallest of the Three Sisters at 10047 feet. Its prominence is not that significant compared to South Sister (which is ranked 35th in the lower 48 United States) as it stands with North Sister, its col between 8880 and 8920 feet. However, the pair together still tower over the surrounding terrain, while being much more rugged than their southern sister due to many more years of erosion.

Art and I had tried to organize an overnight bivy and climb of Middle Sister twice before, with the trip falling apart both times. Finally, with the last minute addition of Katie, at 1pm we were on the Pole Creek trail to Camp Lake, which is below the saddle between South and Middle Sister. It had been several years since either Art or I had been to Camp Lake, and Katie had never been. We were tremendously excited for climb.

After 8 miles or so of cutbacks and river crossings, we arrived at Camp Lake. It had snowed the night before up in the mountains, so fresh snow blanketed the jagged peaks, highlighting their beauty. We quickly found a protected bivy site, switched to dry clothing, and started bundling up as the temperature dropped. We did not have much sunlight left, so we quickly made our dinner and enjoyed the views before getting to bed for our alpine start.

South sister does not require technical gear, and we had but a few thousand feet of gain left, so we agreed upon a lazy alpine start at 5 a.m. Our route was going to be a bit different than the normal north ridge route. Instead we would take the snow fields and glaciers to the south, up the southwest ridge. We had our ropes, ice axes and crampons to cross the glaciers, and we brought enough technical gear to comfortably build basic rescue systems.

The temperature dropped quickly as it got dark, and the wind howled above the protection of the cluster of twisted alpine trees we were camped behind. I nodded off for short periods only to awaken again, feeling either too hot or too cold to sleep. I never sleep well or at all the first night out; it is a curse shared by many. My head is too busy, the distractions enough to disrupt the process of drifting off, and the excitement of the next day too much to allow for rest I suppose.

After a long night of tossing and turning, and looking at the stars, I watched the glow of my watch ticking its way to 5:00 a.m. It was 4:45 when I heard Art walking up to my bivy- I didn't know he was even awake- "Hey Drew!" he whispered harshly. "Wanna go on a mission?"

I knew it. For the last 24 hours I was waiting for something to sabotage our attempt to climb this mountain. Without much a thought I said yes, and asked the details. I had left my pager at home, and my cell phone was turned off, so he briefed me on the search in progress- three women lost about 10 to 15 miles to our northwest, overnight in jeans and t-shirts. The temperatures had been well below zero throughout the night.

We had our radio out, and were diverted down hill by command from where we came the previous day, so we could clear some trails to the north. Trudging through the dark, I realized I was walking away from my last chance to summit the Middle Sister that season. As we descended to the tree line, the alpine-glow lit up all three Sisters. I felt profound longing to be on those mountains, knowing I could not.

We were about three or four miles from the trail head when the subjects were located by a horse team deployed in the middle of the night. We walked to the car and drove over to the ICP so Art could check on the subjects (Art's our main medic), and meet the other teams and debrief. I was disappointed we missed our chance to summit Middle Sister, however there wasn't really a choice to be made; it was obvious that finding these girls was a much higher priority.

I don't have issues saying no to a summit- in fact, sometimes I wonder if I admit defeat too easily. Regardless, I do feel I have my priorities in check- life is more important, be it mine, my climbing partners, or some stranger. There is a certain amount of acceptable risk, but life is precious.

Pole Creek TrailPole Creek Trail- River crossing. Water was low due to being late summer.
Camp Lake- the wind was quite cold.

Camp Lake- without me making it look ugly.Middle Sister seen from Camp Lake
Middle Sister seen from camp lake

Our bivy siteEarly morning search- sun rising. Alpine-glow within the hour...


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Class IV

At the risk of being redundant, I want to specifically write about Class IV climbing. It is arguably the most dangerous part of mountaineering for many climbers, and can be the most intimidating; it is hard or slow to protect with rope, and falls can vary from "of consequence" to deadly. Class IV, when exposed, can be terrifying for any climber, especially those less seasoned. I read a great article about this subject, and I found myself in constant agreement with the author. It is certainly worth a read.

I myself do feel better on ropes, with sheer vertical. I still feel safer within the context of rope systems, anchors, and the like, than I do on class IV without ropes. Yes- often the climb is easy, even if the rock in the Cascades is often crumbly and rotten- but it can be absolutely intimidating. In fact it can simply be miserable to climb under such conditions, where one wrong step, or a crumbly hold can lead to an ugly, violent fall, and ultimately to one's demise. It is a slow process accepting the vertigo inducing nature of mountains; each climb it gets more comfortable, more easy.

I will refrain from talking about whether or not certain situations are safer with a rope, or in fact less safe with rope. I think people must use judgment that comes with time, and their own perceptions.

Anyway, rather than re-write a well written article, I thought I'd pass along the link.