“Beta”: (noun) A word originally derived from the word “Betamax” (an old video format) referring to information describing a climb. One online dictionary of “fringe English” describes “beta” as “a verbal videotape” of how to execute a particular climb.
Most often, the term “beta” is used as shorthand for the holds and moves needed for a successful ascent. One thing that I’ve learned about climbing, however, is that everybody has their own beta. A case in point: photos of three climbers (Christina Pilo, Rich Condon, and Josh Morey) on Seven Spanish Angels, a distinctive V6 climb at the Get Carter boulders outside of Bishop, California.
A lot of my girlfriends and I specialize in coming up with creative solutions for being shorter or (only sometimes) less burly than our male counterparts. My friend Christina, who is a tiny but strong 4’11”, introduced me to the idea of a “beta book”, a way to keep track of the complicated solutions that we sometime have to come up with on our hardest projects. When you create your own unique set of moves for a climb, you can’t rely on watching anyone else to remind yourself of the beta. I’ve started jotting down notes in my own beta book that I stash in my bag. It has become something of a climbing diary for me as well.
Similarly, my friend Jess Chen, who is 5’4″, likes to post “little beta notes” of her completed projects in her album on facebook. At the far extreme of this idea, Andrew Kornylak created “The Beta” series for the Triple Crown Bouldering competition. It provides the ultimate beta for some classic projects in the southeast. Hey Andrew – do you want to come out to Cali sometime?