The Noble and Ancient Art Of Lobbing

Lob v.&n. (lobbed, lobbing)
i. verb. To take a fall whilst lead climbing.
ii. Noun. A climbing fall or other misfortune.
Source: The Climber’s Dictionary, 2nd ed., T.I. Press, 1988

The origins of the act of lobbing are difficult to trace. Many commentators believe that it was Whillans introduction of the sit-harness, coupled with the use of lightweight, high strength nylon ropes that introduced the ‘lob’ to the climbing world. Equally, other experts point out that Whillans’ design is one of the most effective deterrents to lobbing (Johnny Gearman will agree with that, his first ever lob being on a Whillans harness, Ouch!). What we can be certain about though, is that the advent of the nylon kernmantle rope, allied with the reliable protection devices, has made lobbing available to the masses.

As today’s rock climbers seek to push the level at which they climb ever further, most accept lobbing as part of their climbing. Many accept that they will never be able to climb such-and-such a climb successfully at the first attempt. To fail on such routes even only a few years ago would have meant serious injury, or worse, for the budding rock-star. Now it merely results in an airborne retreat and a rest on the rope. Many of the present generation of climbers, particularly within our hallowed institutes of further education, have evolved lobbing into a sport in its own right; amongst some it has reached the status of an art-form.

As I mentioned at the start, lobbing used to be when a lead climber parted company with the rock when above their gear and trying to progress further upwards. Many lobs today are still taken in this manner. However, as lobbing has evolved, more and more elaborate measures have been taken in the quest for the perfect lob. It is now generally acknowledged that almost any mishap that occurs whilst indulging in any mountaineering-type activity (for example, on rock or ice, or while XC skiing, mountain walking, driving, drinking …) will qualify as a lob.

The main question is, ‘ Will it make a good story?’ For that is the crux. Even small falls or mishaps may become lobs of epic proportions if the story is right. The story is all. The climber’s comments, the belayer’s excuses, or any manner of other things all contribute in a great lob.

Various encouragements are offered to entice would-be lobbers to taste the freedom of free-fall. These are usually broken down into three levels of ‘achievement’.

The status of Lemming is bestowed on any person who is seen repeatedly trying routes much too hard for them, resulting in a number of falls. The Lemming can also usually be spotted on the crag way above their gear, wobbling badly, making comments like: ‘It’s a bit hard here. I’ll go up a bit more before I put any more gear in’. However, many Lobbing Lemmings mature to become champion lobbers later in their life, if they have one.

The next award on the scale is that of a Pilot’s Licence, the reward for excessive airtime. To achieve this level requires a high degree of commitment; indeed many who receive a Pilot’s Licence in only one or two seasons of lobbing should probably be committed to a secure hospital for their own good.

However, the ultimate accolade, sought by all, but only achieved by the few, is the ‘Lob of the Year’. This treasured award is decided by a not-very-independent panel of judges, a dedicated team who consider the lobbing performances of the year in terms of the distance, situation, artistic impression, size of the bribe and other important factors. They then publish their findings, recounting the better of the entries and announce the winner for the year.

So that’s lobbing. There’s not that much to it. I hope this little appetiser has whetted your appetite for more. The ‘Lob of the Year’ (LotY) are announced at the Christmas Curry in December each year. Entries should be recounted to the nominated Club Officer at the earliest opportunity. But please remember the Government Health Warning: ‘Lobbing may be bad for your health’.

NOTE: The Club committee would like to point out that falling off is probably the most dangerous part of climbing. The committee discourages all persons from deliberately ‘lobbing’ and accepts no responsibility for any injury sustained while climbing.

Members of the IMC may read our ‘Roll of Honour Page‘ to find out about winners of ‘Lob of the Year’ and other annual awards.

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