Video Digest: October 12, 2007

Meave Gallagher scales the videos of rock climbing, chronicling amazing ascents: Scientists take their work to the peaks; Dan Osman, RIP; German DJ climbing; Chris Sharma the wunderkind; a French Spider-Man.

Hey, climbing. Another thing that paralyzes me with fear. My boyfriend has been climbing at a gym for a while now, and he loves it, so because I love him, I’ve tried it, but it didn’t take. It’s the looking-down that always ruins it; you’re close to the wall, all the holds are right where your feet and hands want to go, and the urge to see how far you’ve come overpowers you and DEAR LORD YOU ARE A BILLION FEET OFF THE GROUND.

A lady I know climbed for years, trying to cure her fear of heights. She told me that sometimes she and her group would sleep overnight in hammocks strung across the rock face. I asked her if her fear of heights was cured; she said no. With that knowledge, I’m fine to just watch the effects of regular climbing on my boyfriend’s physique. From the ground.

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Let’s start our rock-climbing lesson with a lesson about the rocks people climb. Two young Coloradans bring the science on their local peaks (though they forbid us to embed the video, so you will have to click here). Please note the safety gear the brothers are wearing, protecting their fragile bones and milk teeth—this may be the only video featuring climbers with helmets.

On to what is called a free climb. That means this man is depending solely on the rock’s features and his own hands and feet, with no additional aid. Further, he’s climbing it solo. That means he is all alone on the rock, nary a rope nor harness in sight. Now watch him climb really, really fast. At 1:05 he does something amazing, which when seen from the angle at 1:13 will knock your socks off. (In a major blow to the climbing world, the climber in the video, Dan Osman, died in 1998 after his rope failed in a free-fall jump.)

Not as cool as humans climbing, but still fun to watch: climbing robot.

Imagine you had a climbing gym, a German to DJ, and an experimental filmmaker. Dance break!

Meet Chris Sharma in the following clip, one of the prettiest and well known faces in climbing. This is video of him “solving a bouldering problem” that no one, not even his mentor Dr. Leaky at MIT, had figured out before. Bouldering is, according to my boyfriend, the non-suicidal man’s free solo climbing; you’re unprotected, but you never get higher than a couple meters. Sharma’s gecko-like finger adhesion is the envy of all his climbing chums. This is what allows him to climb an essentially featureless surface.

Spider-Man lives in France under the secret identity of Alain Robert. He may seem like just another man walking up the stairs with a camera filming him, but the next thing you know he’s scaling a building (“buildering,” in the parlance). Protective gear? Not for Spider-Man. Besides, we earthbound folk wouldn’t be nearly so terrified and in awe if he was wearing a harness attached to a rope.

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