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Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 1, 2005 - 03:20pm PT
Brief Points.

(1) Referring to comments on the Trickster thread, Higgins although intellectually fierce and at times quietly competitive, has to be one of the funniest people to have ever climbed. Cerebral rigor does not preclude the ability to be insanely funny; I submit that it promotes it. He has proven this for all time (g).

(2) I think that the huge changes we see in climbing, especially in how FAs, and FFAs are done, should not be seen so much as big-assed destructive or nasty struggle of several schools of ethics battling it out in the captain’s tower, but as a natural sea-change in the fundamental meaning climbing is assigned, the purpose we give to and get from it through a half-century of modern living. Like schools of thought in art, philosophy, and so forth, changing as life requires. Three decades ago, we were always interested in supreme difficulty like nowadays, and of course reached all kinds of levels in such a pursuit. But we were also very spiritually driven and adventurous, and willing, daily I insist, to risk our lives---even TomH, although he tends to downplay how deadly some of his stuff was/is, being a true gentleman (g). Realize that we began when the Valley was virtually unclimbed. I started when there were two or three routes on El Cap. With a huge part of the scouting activity having concluded, spectacular difficulty is now really the point, frankly. Another zillionth ascent of the Wall of Somethingorother, is more a constructed sports outing than it is a wild flight into the unknown, all risked for “the useless” as Terray points out. But currently it is not “a mopping up operation” as RR erroneously and demeaningly told me back in 1972, but a whole new kind of climbing, and is taking place for other reasons. Gullich said, “climbing is a sport. …it is arrogant to claim that climbing is more than that” ---something that would never have been said in 1955-1972. And much of this new climbing is really really wonderful and important.

(3) What TomH, myself and others apparently want to assure is that fifty years of climbing not all be painted with the same brush. The current methods and protocol in severe rockclimbing are required for to reach the objectives of the sport as it is now configured. And 30 years ago, our purpose being really different in some regards, required us to work from very different plans mentioned above. Neither school of thought was in some form of deceit and neither school was wrong, given their respective goals. But for us older climbers, it is truly wierd to watch some of the sport climbers trying to climb old dangerous classics.

(4) RR wrote about 15-20 years ago or so, that sport climbing is “the child that wants to eat its mother”. A morbid statement only RR could have coined. And in this sense, we have now seen fudging of reports regarding how FA’s, FFA’s, and early ascents are done, and how older routes are maintained or re-constructed. And in general how some climbers report their ascents to each other. Discrepancies, although infuriating, are just petty, and usually nothing is won by this lying. And to be honest, we have always had some problems with climbers’ accounts. And always will. This is not an issue between and trad and sport climbers, but between people. I can remember getting really worked up about how Gripper, Freestone, and so forth were secretly “prepared”. I think I wasted some years being aggressively astonished and angry about it, but now see other possibilities of reacting.

(5) And perhaps my last issue here, is sustaining rights of a FA or FFA party upon the stone itself. God what a tough issue that is; it’s always coming up. I guess if someone went and bolted the crap out of the left side of the Hourglass, I would laugh really loudly but also know how much sport-fun the route would be now! It is public property, after all, and any claim I had on it would be merely abstract and even merely poetic. As in all things, you can’t stop people from shooting themselves in the foot or acting foolishly, and generally it takes too much energy to really defile a route, so most routes go unmolested, even if they are important and hideously high-risk. On a practical level, we don’t have authorities managing our actions to any thorough extent in this. But in the cases mentioned in prior threads about retro-bolted free routes, there is really nothing you can do but laugh at such people for their ignorance of what a FA or FFA is all about--- the thing that was originally created, however frightening or pointlessly dangerous it might seem. Imagine, with all the damned rock in the world, a party trying to “fix” someone else’s little route. As DMT mentioned, it is very classy to talk to the FA party about a problem, but none of this is “law”, just plain manners; it stems from an awareness that a FA or FFA is a permanent expression, locked in history, hopefully for centuries and that there is always something better to do besides editing other people's stuff. "Don't teach a pig to sing; it annoys the pig and wastes your time"

Cheers to all.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
one pass away from the big ditch
Dec 1, 2005 - 03:34pm PT
as an apologist, peter, you sing a sweet song.

so sweet though that I'll pull retro bolts as my Sisyphusian ideal, as poetics writ real. I'll patch the holes to match the color of the rock. Then to preserve the onsight of adventure , maybe I should let someone else climb it. Maybe that's what we are left with; the first, or the feeling of first. With bolts there, hard to say someone else wasn't first doing something.

And to add a further futile effort I'll downgrade all climbs that are put up by, well, for lack of a better term or label, sport climbers that have no experience with grades established prior to 5.11 even existing.

I suppose this just all boils down to no point at all. Just mental masturbation on an electronic bbs. Or does it?
Gramicci

Social climber
Ventura
Dec 1, 2005 - 03:53pm PT
Good read Peter.

You say “with all the damned rock in the world” we are all led to believe there are plenty of good routes to go around. How often have we all heard someone whine “all the good lines are taken” the fact of the matter is great rocks to climb are a finite resource. Maybe most people don’t see this yet. Its like how we treat our environment, We all really don’t care because we pushed all the lines possible. Our sons and daughters will have fewer opportunities to grab up there claims to fame. At this rate our grandkids won’t be famous because “all the good lines are taken”. The sad thing is one those kids may have done a prematurely pushed route in a proud new style. Making bolt ladders out of free climbs will make sure that won't happen.

If you anyone thinks I’m wrong that lines are disappearing look at El Cap. What’s honestly left to do there without something like the wings of steel thing happening. I would love to start a thread “what’s the shortest El Cap route” This will be a bad analogy for all you wall climbers and I mean no disrespect but the smaller crags are paralleling this example.

“sport climbing is “the child that wants to eat its mother”” I love that comment
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 1, 2005 - 04:11pm PT
I look back on the years from 1970 to now somewhat differently, as I was not "pioneer" during that time, but merely a "hobbyest". There is no question that the sport of climbing, in the US, has changed quite a bit. And the goals of the sport now as practiced by the new generation of climbers is quite different. The old school ways, however, are not lost, nor are they archaic. They form a vital part of the climbing sports which are currently practiced.

In terms of what is safe and what is not, I believe the "old school" thought was focused around preparation to be able to climb something and survive. People didn't venture out on projects that they weren't ready for, though judging that was not a science... when you climb some very long and hard offwidth with no protection then you either succeed or die, as John Bachar pointed out in another thread recently. The point being that you prepared to succeed.

The rebolting issue has to do with the emergence of other schools of climbing, e.g. sports climbing, where the preparation is typically more systematic, the danger of falling mitigated by placing bolts frequently. In some sense, no sport route would be denied anyone's attempt, no matter how prepared, and the danger of falling not much more than is faced in a gym. Even sport climbing has evolved from well protected, steep outside face climbing to the outdoors realization of the indoor world of the gym, the venue of much of modern climbing.

The different schools of climbing should try to find a way of coexisting... but that is probably a vain hope at best.
WBraun

climber
Dec 1, 2005 - 05:00pm PT
The “old school thought “ of climbing still ranks supreme and always will. It is the fundamental foundation that climbing rests upon.

As Ed said; “The different schools of climbing should try to find a way of coexisting ….”
caughtinside

Social climber
Davis, CA
Dec 1, 2005 - 07:13pm PT
I'm curious about your gripper and freestone comment. By 'prepared' do you mean that they were aided, and gear left in situ for the free lead, or something like that?

bachar

Trad climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Dec 1, 2005 - 07:14pm PT
Rap bolted routes are just invisible top ropes. No more, no less.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Dec 1, 2005 - 07:38pm PT
Dogging up routes, trad or sport, is simply "aerial bouldering" because you are simply doing a series of short moves and bringing the "ground" up along with you as you go.
caughtinside

Social climber
Davis, CA
Dec 1, 2005 - 07:41pm PT
Invisible ropes?
Bringing the ground up with you?

You guys are a couple of comedians. Or did Juan hack your ST account?
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Dec 1, 2005 - 07:45pm PT
Well, when you see someone get up an eight bolt route with eight rests what's the real [tecnical] distinction between hanging on the rope and standing on the ground as they start re-climbing after each rest. A literal distinction no doubt, but not an operative one...
Tan Slacks

Trad climber
Joshua Tree
Dec 1, 2005 - 07:46pm PT
What perfect timing for me and this thread. I too started climbing in the 70's. A romantic period for me to say the least. If it didn't fit in my car, I didn't own it, if I fell on a route, I sometimes never went back. Finding uncharted rock was surpreme, sharing it with your close friends was heaven. I was fortunate during those days to travel to Nepal and meet most of my idols and touch some of the mountains I had dreamed of. Can you imagine what Messner thinks about guiding Everest today? Climbing through Europe before the rap bolting years was amazing. Routes were kept secret for the most part. Topos... HA! they didn't exist. Exploration was the rule. I fought the 80's (tights, bolts and coke) very hard. I sold all my gear and joined the Peace Corps. Went to Africa and found a whole new uncharted range to climb. This was all pre-phones, internet and debit cards. Now to my point.. sorry it took me so long. I have been asked to speak at a Peace Corps recruitment thing in Feb. I decided to talk to some recent returnees. Do you know they all had cell phones and the internet while overseas! In MY day, you had to plan a trip just to make a POSSIBLE phone call. No one spoke english, so I learned the language of my village. Today you can just call home. Where's the adventure, the risk? see where I'm going?

It's just changed. I won't ruin it for the people to come, I'll just hang on to the changes I had and went through. Sure it's different today. I guess I'm just learning to let those climbers, volunteers of today believe in their risk or adventure with or without a helmet.

Man, I got lost somewhere here. One more thhing. I work on the rescue helicopter that responds in Joshua Tree. rescue work is friggin dangerous for those on the ground and in the air. Try and be prepared. I have lost too many friends climbing. I have lost more in the air.
caughtinside

Social climber
Davis, CA
Dec 1, 2005 - 07:55pm PT
Hmm, maybe I should try to come up with trite little sound bites to disparage types of climbing behavior I don't like.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Dec 1, 2005 - 08:08pm PT
caughtinside, it isn't a matter of triteness or disparagement; it's a matter of truth in reporting and simply pointing out the obvious. I personally think one of the biggest mistakes in climbing, and one that led to a lot of animosity between trad and sport climbers in the early 80's, was that we continued to use the same rating system to describe both clean, ground up and dogged ascents. It would have been much better at the time if routes had been put up by dogging them had been rated something like Sp.12a, used the French system from the get go, or just about anything that would have conveyed the tactics used in the differing FA's. As far as I'm concerned anyone claiming a rap-bolted, dogged, and "pointed" FA is remotely in the same class of endeavor as a clean, ground up "trad" FA is just seriously deluded - mixing the two was a real lapse.

P.S. Do you mean trite and dismissive bites like in "trad climbing" or "adventure climbing"
bob d'antonio

Trad climber
boulder, co
Dec 1, 2005 - 09:19pm PT
Having been a part of both sides of coin (trad & sport) I don't find either one superior to the other...just different. I enjoy both and what they have to offer. Climb how or what you want...just don't expect other to do the same.

Mike...I disagreed with your assestment of limited FA's. Certain areas may seem to be climbed out...but that is not alway the case. Each generation brings something new and fresh to the table. A new way of looking and seeing what other generations thought to impossible.

Healjye...for a smart guy you sure are stuck in strict dogma on your views of sport climbing. Glad Tommy Caldwell didn't stay limited to one view of climbing.

Healjye wrote: FA is remotely in the same class of endeavor as a clean, ground up "trad" FA is just seriously deluded - mixing the two was a real lapse.

Where were you in the 70's. People were dogging, hanging and falling on "trad' FA's. Supercrack, Grand Illusion (to name a few) ring a bell??


healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Dec 1, 2005 - 10:06pm PT
Bob,

Again, for me they are two very, very different things. I can appreciate what goes into and results from each. I can also see the impact of gyms and sport climbing on the demographics of climbing. Those demographics impose some significant costs relative to footprint or impact. I'm admittedly a curmudgeon in the I don't like crowds, access problems, and cliffs littered with draws (and in the case of beautiful Eastern sandstone, covered with chalk for that matter). All of the above hassles are a direct result of the sheer numbers of the people who identify themselves as "climbers" today.

But in reality, the majority of them are a just tidal flow passing through, and they are 100% wholly supported by gyms and bolted routes. If gyms and bolted sport routes evaporated tomorrow then easily a full 70% of today's climbers wouldn't be climbers on Monday. Believe me, I didn't shed a tear when windsurfing collapsed from 1.5 mil back down to 450k participants in the early '90s and I likewise would have no problem with climbing seeing a similar loss of popular support. But twenty years later gyms are firmly rooted suburban cultural fixtures acting like engines or pumps behind a commercialized version of climbing that survives on that tidal flow.

A big difference between today's demographics and those past is that in the '70s - prior to gyms and sport - the ratios of top/competent/novice climbers looked more on the order of (for example) 1 : 10,000 : 500. That's because trad climbing presented a significantly high bar to entry that you had to get past pretty fast which most folks didn't abandoning climbing for other pursuits. Today, it looks something more like 1 : 50,000 : 750,000 and those novice climbers can linger indefinitely in that state for years supported by gyms and bolted lines. Providing outdoor resources for today's relatively enormous base of novice climbers causes most of the hassles we encounter today. I for one also don't buy the "strength in numbers" argument as we wouldn't have all the access and impact related issues if the numbers weren't there in the first place.

Call me cynical, selfish, and a curmudgeon - I freely admit it - I don't like climbing next to birthday parties, other societal [interest] subgroups that have 'discovered' climbing, or masses of suburbanites that think "safe", risk-free climbing is an pop culture, entertainment entitlement on par with Six Flags and that someone should always be performing the fine community service of rap bolting new and inspiring routes for them.

That wasn't too blunt was it...?

P.S. In the '70s we were climbing in So. Ill, Eldo, and the Gunks and everywhere I went it was tight, totally clean, ground up, no dogging ethic with very few exceptions - that's how my FA's were then and that's how they are now (though admittedly they're getting much further and further apart). My last FA was a five pitch 5.11c(R) a year ago that featured free climbing at times on 4-5 consecutive Crack'N Ups and small Lowe balls. Given it isn't my home crag I retro'd a couple of pins into those spots in keeping with local traditions and ethics. The route just saw a second ascent about a month ago.
TradIsGood

Trad climber
Gunks end of country
Dec 1, 2005 - 10:17pm PT
Nah. I'll call you elitist, evangelical, proseletyzing, fundamentalist climber. Kind of a red-state climber warrior.
WBraun

climber
Dec 1, 2005 - 10:23pm PT
Why traditional climbing still ranks Supreme and remains the solid foundation that climbing is built on.

It is the “natural” progression of the accession compared to the unnatural progression from top down. Knowledge “descends” and non traditional climbing is trying to artificially "ascend".

Irony at it’s finest .........
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Dec 1, 2005 - 10:26pm PT
Also, I totally appreciate the accomplishments of Caldwell, Rodden, Trotter, et al (particularly Trotter). It's just that today there is an enormous, broad, high impact pyramid of climbers underneath each of them...

Werner,

I don't now about "foundation". These days I think gyms and sport climbing can claim that turf. Caldwell's recent sends make me think, however, that you are right that trad climbing is still what [our top] climbers ultimately strive for and ascend to...
bob d'antonio

Trad climber
boulder, co
Dec 1, 2005 - 10:53pm PT
Healyje wrote: don't now about "foundation". These days I think gyms and sport climbing can claim that turf. Caldwell's recent sends make me think, however, that trad climbing is still what [our top] climbers ultimately strive for and ascend to...

Tommy Caldwell wouldn't be doing what he is doing without a solid foundation of sport,bouldering and trad climbing.
WBraun

climber
Dec 1, 2005 - 10:54pm PT
Yes Bob, very nicely said.
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