Getting the point!

As the story goes, when the German legend Kurt Albert was trying to free climb a new route in the early 70’s, he would paint a red x on each piton he could avoid using for hands and feet. Once he was able to avoid all of them, he was free climbing. If he succeeded to free climb a new route, he would then paint a red dot called rotpunkt (otherwise known as ‘the point of red) at the base of the climb for him and others to know the difference. Not only was this the beginning of the free climbing era in Europe, but also, the birth place of the sport climbing movement. Today, a redpoint is common lingo and is beginning to creep its way into everyday culture. One time I overheard two non-climbing brick layers at the coffee shop talking about “redpointing” thier renovations. I know what you’re thinking, maybe they were climbers, but not judging by their wasteline or the neck breaking speed at which they “flashed” their Mountain Man breakfast, a massive mound of pancakes, topped with suasage, sprinkled with bacon. So maybe they picked it up from a co-worker, or a family member, who’s to say? The fact is, redpointing is here to stay.

While these days ‘redpointing’ is okay for quickdraws to be pre-placed on bolt hangers, traditional climbing still requires the leader to place all the gear by themselves on lead, otherwise it’s called a pink point. Pink Pointing is sort of like asking a more charming friend to get a girl drunk for you and then you take her home for the night. It’s not really a complete transaction. You failed to put in all the work required. It’s sort of like cheating. But climbing is for fun anyway, and cheating is okay, unless you join our circle of friends, in which case it’s encouraged. Pink pointing also counts if you redpoint a route in pink pants, like our man Nels here.

By the time the 1990’s rolled around, the Brits had “Head Point” climbing down to a bewildering science, and gritstone was the arena of choice. Headpointing is where you basically pick the only pitch/or variation of pebbles that you haven’t done yet, and top rope it enough times that you actually get bored, at which stage your so called ‘friends’ begin their ruthless badgering. So, you finally suppress your self-preservational desires and lead it from the ground with a butter knife for gear and a potentially lethal landing. (It used to be said that telling your wife of this headpointing game was a one way ticket to the dog house, now days it’s your wife on the sharp end). Although I didn’t have enough time myself to get bored per se, I did dabble with gods own rock for a couple of days back in 2007, and I found it to be a very pleasant way to earn my tea and crumpets.

So, now what is Grey Pointing you ask? Or should I call it, Gray Pointing (US spelling)? I’ve heard of bits and pieces of this, and I have come to form my own conclusion, (btw, please feel free to disagree, I’m no expert here) greypointing is when a leader climbs up to a (usually controversial) point in the route (hence the grey area) and places their highest piece of gear, only then to begin their descent all the way back down to the ground for a piss in the shrubs and a cup of coffee. After a short nap, some Thai message and a quick facebook session, they head back up the route as fresh as the Prince of Bel-Air on a top rope. When they reach their disputable juncture again, they surpass it and yawn while clipping the chains. Now here’s where it gets really funky, I once grey pointed a sport route by stick clipping the third (crux), pre-placed quickdraw. My ankles thanked me later.

Naturally, this leads us to the High Point. This means either you got to your maximum location on a given climb (usually a boulder or a deep water solo) and you fell off – OR – you smoked a phat blunt before your attempt and somehow topped out anyway. For more information about High Pointing click here. Or here.

And last, but definitely not least, we have the Ball Point Ascent. This one is self explanatory, but lets say you spot a new route, you clean it, bolt it and even before you get around to actually climbing on it, you name it, grade it and claim the coveted First Ascent just in time to get it “inked” into the new guidebook release. Voila, a ballpoint ascent. You’d be surprised how many of these are out there floating around, do you actually think your local hero really did that impossible 5.12a? The one that nobody else can do? Ha ha, all I’m saying is….

Well, this just about wraps up my blah blah installment of Sonnie’s Senseless Scribbling, grin, but before I go, are there any other ___ points I forgot? If you have any, we want to hear them. Happy Climbing Ya’ll.

P.S. please don’t take any of this crap seriously, it’s supposed to make you smile, it’s just a joke really, for fun, except for the Kurt Albert thing, that information is for real. Cool eh? If I have somehow offended you here, it’s probably best you don’t visit this site anymore. Sorry. Thanks and Best wishes.

  • I’m a big fan of porting climbing lingo into regular life, but I’m pretty sure your bricklaying friends were saying “repoint,” which is a technique for repairing the mortar between bricks.

    Oh, and you missed a crucial type of bouldering “ascent” – the unlinked send. This is the all too common scenario wherein the climber has “done all the moves” and just needs to link them from the start. I’m a champion of this style.


  • Jakob

    you forgot the rest-point where you can smoke your blunt in order to do the high point 🙂

    of course climbing language is used by us all day (especially when we are talking about girls), it’s nice to have a code only climbers understand

    funny article, loved the “fresh as the Prince of Bel-Air on a top rope”!

    and thanks sonnie for your tendonitis and water drinking advice in the other post. sip sip sip….

  • assmunch

    sonnie judges non climbers again..

  • elias

    hey sonnie,

    sorry for bringing another discussion but i just got an injury just like the one you got a few months ago, and hell it really hurts , i went to sleep with a little pain in my pinky finger and today it looks like the picture you uploaded. just wanna know what to do to prevent an armpit injury like yours…should i clean it??? should i cut the entire finger?? let it rot until it falls??? enter a hot tub???

    and getting back to points…..i liked the restpoint idea….gonna try it this week-end and we’ll see if i survive to tell the story… saludos!

  • Sonnie

    ha ha, great sense of humor guys, thanks for the laughs. Julien, nice catch, I had no idea about ‘repoint’. Well, that changes everything then, I guess I couldn’t hear them properly for I was scarfing down a plate myself. Elias, oh no, that sucks about your finger dude, keep it very clean, wash it everyday, and if you can apply an antibiotical ointment, do that, it helps a lot. I hope you’re feeling better soon. Cheers ya’ll.

  • Dru

    Your graypoint is in fact just the 80s style “yo-yo” ascent where you leave the gear in place after you fall off and lower, no?

  • Sonnie

    Hey Dru,

    I think yo-yoing is its own style of ascent, and a fun way to get up a route from the ground, especially with buddies. Boone Speed did this with his ascent of ‘Ice Cream’ 5.14c, clipping the third bolt is cruxy, he fell soon afterwards, lowered, and did not pull the rope. The next burn, he sent it pre-clipped. A Grey Point is reserved for those who believe if you don’t weight the rope at all, it still counts. So you are free to climb up, then back down, up, down, as high as you want, so long as you don’t rest on gear or the rope. I heard of one guy climbing up and then jumping off even to claim a greypoint, he likely got a bit scratched up in the process. It’s all good either way, for sure, whatever floats the boat.

    For those about to rock, we salute you.

  • yosh

    Yeah, I’m gonna guess that those guys were repointing their bricks. I had it done to my place a few years ago. But who knows…

  • Phunk

    In Utah we have the Brownpoint (toprope redpoint for my pussy friends too scared to lead something) and the Clearpoint (“I totally would have sent it, but it got dark or my foot slipped or I ran out of time and my roadtrip was ending, etc.”)


  • Sonnie

    ha ha, the brown point, that’s fuggin brilliant man. I’m still choked that repointing bricks is official lingo, that totally back fired on me, I guess, our “climbers” language isn’t as popular to the common folk as I thought it was. But like Jakob says, it comes in handy to have our own form of communication sometimes.

  • Nice post sonnie. Hilarious fun.

    Yeah, the brown point- cuz it don’t mean shit! Lets see if we can’t come up with some new ones huh guys? How bout the Sharma-point? When you just use the first super dynamic, skipping-half-the-holds beta that comes to mind, just because it’s “more fun”. you never work the moves, brush the holds or look for different sequences, just try it over and over again from the ground until he sky cracks open and the gods themselves allow you passage up the majestic wall, granting you and only you permission to defy gravity for a few minutes for the send…

    WTF am I still doing awake?

  • Bill D

    I was laughing so much that by the time i got to ‘greypoint’ I misread it and thought it said ‘gaypoint’ Is there something you’re concealing from us Sonnie? 😉

  • ktmt

    Like taxes and traffic lights, god knows we don’t need another “point” category. But “ballpoint” –that’s a keeper! Especially since I came *this* close to ballpointing last year (I didn’t even know it!) when I bolted a route but hadn’t yet climbed it when I heard a new guidebook was in the works. Then a friend got the actual FA, so now, you know, what do I care if it’s in the guide or not.

  • grant

    When i was living in Bishop for a few months we had a variation on the greypoint. Its called a hot tasty treat. You get to do some of the fun but back off before you get into the real business. Greypointing is like dry humping. Its like your doing the deed but your really getting knowhere but chafed. As for your comment about the more charming friend. Sounds like personal experience. Elaborate? Cheers

  • Toby

    Squamish may be a town where “redpointing” has entered common usage more than most; witness the bizarre “Redpoint Living” housing development whose signs have hung over the 99 under Hospital Hill for the last two years (are they still there? AFAIK the project failed to get approved).

  • Sonnie

    Sup Bill, you can call it gay-pointing if you’d like, instead of grey. Your choice, glad I could make you laugh. Ethan, the Sharma-point is priceless dude, funny shit mang, by your description it sounds like we should call it, god-pointing. Do the Seas ever part during those brief minutes of sick sendage?

  • Cole


    Your blog is the shit!!

    Hopefully one day we’ll meet and I can tell you this is person.

    Keep it up man!

  • Mike

    Black pointing… going out at night to steal fixed draws off projects. Just another form of booty. I’ve always called “brown pointing” “yellow pointing”, too yellow bellied and cowardly to do it on the sharp end. Rumours swirl about a famous ‘onsight’ done grey point style. Can you really onsight if you downclimb and rest a few hours??

  • If you can downclimb to a rest, whether that’s terra firma or the nearest ledge/good rest, is that still a redpoint if you bag it after a short rest? Or is that what you call the greypoint? This is all too academic for me!

    It brings me to another argument I’ve debated with friends: can you still call it “onsight” if you look it up in the guidebook?

  • polishbob

    I think if you mention “free climbing” starting in the 70’s you missed a few decades. There are routes in the range 5.8- 5.9+ both in Elbsanstein and in the Dolomites, which were put up in the early 20th century. Maybe not sport climbing by todays definition, but I think you should give credit, where the credit is due.