I'm not going to try to justify soloing or explain my motivation to do it. There is a huge body of literature on it. You can read about the out-of-body experience, the focus, the flow, the sense of freedom that people gain from it. People who don't climb a lot will never really understand. They either call you crazy, or stupid, or blabber about how amazing it is.
For the uninitiated I will offer some information for perspective: All climbs are rated. Some of those ratings (i.e. 3rd and 4th class) are defined as climbs where a rope is not necessary, or even appropriate. Fifth class climbs imply the use of a rope. Since ratings are a matter of opinion some 4th class climbs are harder/more dangerous than low 5th class climbs. Many alpine climbing guide books will explicitly tell you to solo some sections of 5th class climbing to save time and minimize other hazards such as changing weather. I don't mean to make a slippery slope argument. I'm merely pointing out that nothing is black and white. Using a rope has never been a given in climbing. How someone climbs a route is personal decision that is based on many factors. Obviously there is a big difference between Peter Croft free soloing Astroman in Yosemite and me soloing moderate routes at Smith. The line between safety and insanity is different for everyone.
When it comes to soloing I have a personal set of guidelines to follow. The route I climb must have solid rock (nothing too chossy), I must be familiar with the terrain (ideally I've climbed it before), and it must be rated much lower than the hardest grade I can currently on-sight. I also make sure I have certain items accessible. Besides wearing rock shoes and a helmet, I wear my harness and rack some gear on it. This always includes a set of stoppers, a couple quick draws and a couple alpine draws, an ATC, prusik slings, and a locking 'biner with a long sling. I also have my rope coiled in my pack, which I wear while climbing. With this kit I can secure myself to the rock in a range of situations, establish a self-belay, or rappel back down if necessary.
|Racking up beneath Mini Half Dome.|
|The Koala is the yellow rock in the middle and the Wombat is the green spire behind it.|
|Brogan Spire summit pic. Wombat is on the left.|
|On the Opossum. Looking down on Brogan Spire on the right.|
|Sitting on the top of the Koala, looking back down Round River Direct.|
|Koala top-out stoke!|
|The Sisters emerge from the clouds. Smith Rock Group in the foreground.|
|Smith Rock State Park from the top of the Wombat.|
|The Monument area from the top of the Wombat.|
|Someone replaced the old rap sling on the Wombat. It didn't feel like much of a community service since they left the old sling and didn't replace it with a very long-term solution. Simple solution: don't rap, the down climb is short and easy.|
Bonus: Check out this video of famous American alpinist Steve House soloing hard ice climbs in New England. The precision and deliberateness that he demonstrates while climbing, and the personal approach to climbing and soloing that he espouses in the interview, changed how I approach climbing. http://vimeo.com/22993356