Scare Tactics: Free Soloist Explains Bizarre Ascent of ‘The Dangler’


Rock climbers who leave the rope on the ground — questing into the vertical to knowingly risk death — have long played the mental game the discipline requires.

It is, patently, a game. Free soloing only exists through personal choice. Many of the climbs selected by free soloists also receive hundreds or thousands of normal, roped ascents.

So, why do it? You’ll find a few answers here — but potentially more questions. This free solo of “The Dangler,” in New York’s famous Schawangunks, is one of the more puzzling entries I’ve seen in the genre.

Watch a few young boulderers set their sights on the big roof that juts from otherwise trivial climbing. The overhang yawns out at a height that’s well into the danger zone, and the photo op is a clear attractant. If the ascent is an attention grab, it offers a bang for your buck.

But not a lot else. The roof amounts to groveling across a ledge at 5.8, 5.10, or V2, depending on who you talk to. It’s parked in the midst of totally nondescript 5th-class climbing. It’s also in the middle of nowhere, according to dispassionate comments from Mountain Project users.

Watch the climber rehearse the moves, which are clearly easy for him, and never once come close to apparent effort. When it’s time to send, he doesn’t bother to climb the entire wall — he just rappels to the ledge below the roof and goes from there.

Cheap? Maybe. But on the other hand, it’s rock climbing — the whole point is you’re supposed to be able to do what you want.

And I have to admit the commitment is there. When the climber goes for it, you can feel the tension in the camera crew. The outburst of juvenile expletives it triggers when he finally pulls the roof is funny, but it also proves the intensity of the act.

Still, the “why” behind this high-risk, low-acuity climb escapes me. And that might be the case for the ascensionist, too.

“This is … my first (maybe last as long as my mom is still alive) solo. I don’t recommend soloing to anyone,” he writes in the video description. “Enjoy the vid, nerds.”

Takes all kinds.

Runtime: 9.5 minutes

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