One of the key points I was trying to establish got lost in the turbulences of the one-handed use of chainsaw kerfuffle the other week.
Contrary to what some seem to think, I am actually not interested in dictating to people what they should or should not do, as I am convinced that a change of behaviour which is not based upon understanding and an inner conviction will in all likelihood be short-lived. I do however feel strongly about that when making statements in public one should be aware of the signal one is broadcasting and the responsibility one has towards others.
What do I mean by that?
In the late nineties, when I was new to the the competition scene, all enthusiastic and bubbly about the opportunities opening up before my eyes, a person I looked up to at that point in time used to tell me how the the top climbers are not always tied in whilst climbing. X and Y, both prominent competition climbers whom I had a lot of admiration for, he said, regularly disconnected in the tree whilst repositioning.
So guess what?
As this correlated with what I was seeing from others, and according to this person the top people were also doing so, I accepted it as a given: it is ok to detach from your climbing system in the tree, so long as you feel fairly secure.
This is obviously not the case.
Today, in my daily climbing I do not come across situations where the only practicable solution is to detach from my climbing system, there will always be a viable secured alternative. This is partly due to a greatly expanded range of techniques and equipment, but more importantly linked to a change in my attitude and the way I approach a climbing challenge. From the point I leave the ground until the moment I finish the climb, I will remain tied in.
Consequently, when speaking in public, this is the message I will be transporting.
Think of the cool teacher whom all the kids look up to, smoking in the schoolyard . What effect do you reckon this will have on the youngsters’ opinion of smoking? You have to be very experienced and sure of your own position to be able to withstand the pull the behaviour of an authority figure you respect and admire has on you.
So there you go. It is important we take these responsibilities into account and to be as unambiguous as possible. This we owe to the next generation of climbers.