Dan Osman’s famous speed solo video

Check out this famous video of Dan Osman, a Japanese-American outdoor adventurist who like to run up 400+ feet tall crags &mdash like this one at Lover’s Leap near South Lake Tahoe &mdash without any protection. Most of the time, climbing this rock requires a lot of hardware &mdash nuts, camalots, quickdraws, a rope, a belay device &mdash but when you’re Dan Osman, all you need is a lot of balls. Osman was also an avid free-jumper &mdash he liked to jump off of cliffs with a normal rope (not the elastic kind that softens your fall like in bungee jumping) that would place him just inches off the ground. Sadly, but not too surprisingly, Osman died in Yosemite at the age of 35 when a rope failed him.

About Lisa Katayama

I'm a contributing editor here at Boing Boing. I also have a blog (TokyoMango), a book (Urawaza), and I freelance for Wired, Make, the NY Times Magazine, PRI's Studio360, etc. I'm @tokyomango on Twitter.
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10 Responses to Dan Osman’s famous speed solo video

  1. arikol says:

    Good to note, his rope failure was not due to him using a rope for climbing but rather because he liked using a rope for a 1000 foot JUMP of a cliff. Very impressive and looks fun.
    He did a jump, left the rope for a day or two where it suffered the elements, and then repeated the jump. The rope was weakened due to previous jumps and exposure, possibly wet, at least damp (rope loses strength when wet).

    I don’t view him as having had a deathwish. I see it more as a longing for life. He did however make a few bad calls which, sadly, left his little girl without a father.

  2. adralien says:

    I remember something that said he also jumped on the wrong side of a rope recovery pulley which caused his rope to whip over it sideways… one of his double figure 8 knots exploded when it crashed into the pulley. It was in an old Climbing magazine at the time.

  3. arikol says:

    Climbing is in large part about self-discovery.
    Finding your limits and exceeding your limitations.
    Living. Feeling alive.

    As all climbers know, the feeling of nailing a tough move is vastly different when top-roping or when leading.
    Doing the same move while bouldering 4-6m above the ground with only a couple of mats (and pals) is still another feeling.

    Then doing a route which you have perfect control over without any protection is another challenge entirely.

    Now, I don’t free solo (I have kids and don’t take extreme risks) but I truly understand multiple reasons for doing it.
    A joy of living is one of the reasons I see

  4. MarkM says:

    If he didn’t have a death wish, I don’t know who does have a death wish. He took just egregious risks.

    Free soloing is generally not sane. Any handhold that breaks or slips, and you die, period. A bee stings you at the wrong time, and you die. If you had a non-fatal heart episode (ok, rare for someone in their 20s or 30s, sure), becomes fatal because you fall. a 5.7 like Bear’s Reach, I could give Osman a pass on because its so simple, but a lot of these guys free solo 5.10s or better, which makes one’s hands sweat just thinking about it. Had an acquaintance who freesolo’ed Epinephrine 5.9 in Red Rock: its like 10 pitches, with 3 x 5.9 flaring chimneys.
    Crazy.

    Photos of free-soloing
    http://www.summitpost.org/object_list.php?parent_id=171290&object_type=3

    Self-Photo while free-soloing
    http://www.summitpost.org/image/16235/171290/the-amazing-5-9-hand-crack-on.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Osman

  5. Anony Mouse says:

    That dyno 2/3 of the way through the clip is pure showboating.

    I used to solo a lot in the Peak District in the UK – mainly on gritstone so nothing as high as the clip shown. Never had any problems except the time I mis-identified an E2 as the VS next to it and soloed something at the (then) edge of my ability – that said, you climb a lot better when you know there’s nothing between you and the ground.

    JenJen – I don’t know what the culture of climbing is like in the states. My dad and his friends climbed in Yosemite, but I’ve never been there. However climbing is a very safe activity when you stick to proper safety procedure (though obviously it’s not possible to guarantee that every piece of gear will stay in etc, which is why less is generally not more in terms of gear placement). The only accidents I ever witnessed, or ever happened to people I knew were basically down to people thinking that they knew better than basic safety. Sadly in one case this resulted in a death. However suggesting that climbers are some kind of adrenaline junkies who persist in some kind of crazy death-wish sport without regard for the rest of society is a bit, well, ridiculous, really. Don’t cross the road! Pedestrians die crossing the road every day! Will nobody think of teh CHILDREN?!

    However in comparison to soloing – and I don’t know how other climbers feel about this – I think that climbing with a partner who doesn’t have proper regard for safety is far more dangerous than soloing.

  6. murray says:

    People like this just piss me off. I admire his incredible athletic abilities, but the guy was a selfish jerk. If you want to take insane risks, do so only there is nobody else who your inevitable early death will hurt.

  7. technogeek says:

    Gotta agree. Even a free rappel is just plain stupid these days, _possibly_ with the exception of when done under fire (and I’m not convinced of that either). Free climbing… yeah, as noted this is a 5.7, which isn’t hard if you’re in decent shape. (I used to second on 5.7’s in the Gunks, and I was in marginal condition at the time). But the proper reaction is still “ok, he’s good, but he’s an idiot or an adrenaline junkie or both. There’s no percentage in deliberately seeking out situations where the unexpected-but-not-unreasonable can kill you.”

    For example: I was once halfway up a cliff, pulled my nose up over a ledge, and found myself eye-to-eye with a nice coppery-colored snake. It’s amazing how quickly one can traverse when properly motivated. “I understand, that’s _your_ ledge, I’m going this way instead if that’s OK with you.” (I’m still not sure if it was a copperhead, though they do exist in that area — I didn’t stay to find out.)

    Just to clarify for those who don’t have the experience: In fact, rock climbers are doing exactly what he’s doing — they’re just doing it with safety equipment, that being the rope. In a grade-five climb, you are always climbing on the rock, never on the equipment; the rope and anchors (and your partner) are there to catch you if something goes wrong. There are climbs which require using the equipment to install additional handholds and footholds; those are grade six.

    Except that every now and then some maniac finds a way to do those grade-six climbs without assistance. As a result, the grade 5 categories, which originally ran from 5.0 to 5.10, have been extended to include 5.11, 5.12, and 5.13.

  8. Michael says:

    Not as cool as that, but this is still some impressive speed climbing. Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear in an Audi RS4 racing a speed climber in France.
    http://www.topgear.com/au/videos/rs4-v-climbers-2

  9. cha0tic says:

    That made my forearms ache just watching it.

  10. jenjen says:

    I knew someone who dreamed of being a ranger at Yosemite. He worked hard and got there, only to discover that part of “other duties as assigned” was cleaning people-bits off the rocks. Left-behind garbage and gear, and sometimes literally, bits of people. Not quite the idyllic time he’d been hoping for. Traumatizing, actually. It’s all about the rush, never a thought to the consequences for the people who will have to pick up after them.

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