Friday, July 23, 2010

Alphabet Soup

Climbers, like cats, are a territorial bunch. Woe unto them that piss on our territory, unless of course our territory is the Split Pillar on a hot Saturday in mid-August, at which point the Left Side becomes not just the Right Side's evil kid brother but also the route's outhouse.

Climbers are also a notoriously finicky bunch. Did it go free? How much aid was used? Did you French-free, fully free, aid, what? Is chalk aid? Yadda yadda. Now, these definitions are pretty clear, after fifty-plus years of campfire debates and Arcing Plot fistfights. There is another set of terms whose meaning also tends to be clear, and today I want to explore the meanings of the terms FA, FCA, FFA and FCFA.

After climbing, for the first time, our route from bottom to top in one go (the 5.11b A0 version), the Driller and I decided to publish the topo. We need feedback, it's dry right now, and hot (good weather for our route), the route needs traffic cos it's new, etc. Well after posting the topo, a bit of a shit-storm started. There was some dispute over the meaning of FA, FCA, FCFA, etc, and how these letters, strung by climbers after their names the way British astronomers hang FRC, D.Ph etc after theirs, should apply to various members of the team who put up La Gota Fria.

Well, as we well know, "FA" stands for nothing other than "first ass". This means, the first guy (or girl) to get their ass up a route. Or a pitch. The first time you go up a pitch, if nobody has done it (birds excluded) you get say "yea, I am the First Ass on that." Long-time hardmen (and women) get to say "I've had a lot of First Asses." It's kind of like a pedophile (or zoophile) having at the anus of a young boy or girl or Labrador Retriever (or sheep, if s/he is Scottish or from New Zealand)...ooooohh....mmmmmm...first ass....

Now, the next term of contention is "FCA," which as we well know stands for "First Complete Ass." Now this is a term used when you have a route that includes more than one pitch. So, you could have the First Ass on one (or more) pitches of a multi-pitch route, but when the route as a whole gets climbed in one go, from bottom to top, the person doing that qualifies as First Complete Ass.

"FCA" also stands for "First Colorado Ass," which refers to Indian Creek. You are camped at the Bridger Jacks, enjoying an evening of whiskey, bluegrass and pedophile jokes, when you hear the high-pitched whining sound of non-work-trucks in the distance. Then they come-- the Colorado Asses, loosed from their tedious nine-to-fives, and out to slay some 10- handcracks in gangs of seven-- and the first SUV to pull into the Jacks is the First Colorado Ass.

The, third but not forgotten, is FFA. This stands for First Full Ass. This refers to when a pitch (or problem) is first climbed in one go, no falls, without using gear to support the climber's bodyweight.

The last term of contention is "FCFA." This one, obviously, means "First Complete Full Ass." Now, this refers to the hard-person who first climbs a route, bottom to top, with no aid. You don't just want to be the First Ass, or the First Complete want to be the First Complete Full Ass.

Just to be clear on this, I busted out Kevin Mclane's trusty "The Climbers' Guide to Squamish" to see how this worked. I asked the good Mr McLane how his book, which keeps track of who climbed what, and when, and how, and how hard, and how much whiskey they needed afterward, uses these various acronyms.

In his book, no acronym = FA = First Ass = the first guys/girls to go up a route, by whatever means, including helicopter, climbing gear and magic spells, though to be fair mostly climbing gear. Some routes-- let's take Freeway as an example-- are just loads of alphabet soup. The FA is Tom Gibson and Rob Rohn's, who used "some aid" to get their First Ass. Then, there are a buttload of individual pitches, variations, etc. Then we have this: and FFA (first full ass) of P1-6 by Mssrs. Hart, Atkinson, Eltis and Jones, all of whom had been involved in cleaning and projecting individual pitches. Finally, there is the FCFA-- First Complete Full Ass-- by Atkinson and Hart, where these two gentlemen hauled both their asses completely. and without aid, fully up the route.

So as we can see, you can be part of the FA of individual pitches, but not of the FCFA. You could be part of the FA of the whole thing, but not the FFA, or the FCFA.
As I contemplated this alphabet soup, I wondered how it applied to our route. And as nearly as I can tell, the First Ass of various pitches of route go 60% or so to Napoleon and others, and 40% to Driller and I and others. The First Complete Ass goes the the Driller and I, July 11, 2010. But the biggest prize of all-- the First Complete Full Ass-- is waiting to be claimed by Napoleon.


  1. Pants are aid! The only send that matters is the FNA.

  2. Hi Chris, this is Nate. We met the other week up in the Bugs. I have some pictures for you on my camera that you might like.
    Shoot me an email
    natetack AT