Mt Watkins: a question of ethics


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Topic Author's Original Post - Jul 27, 2006 - 11:21pm PT
About three weeks ago me and two friends went and climbed the south face of Mt. Watkins.. It was spectacular climbing with a definate remote and oldschool feel.. cmacs somewhat misleading topo added to the adventure of the climb..our experience was detracted from due to the condition we found the route.. at the base there was a few old rotten drybags filled with even more rotten and mildewed gear and a bunch of manky empty dromadary bags hanging in the tree... we could see a bunch of fixed lines up the whole route..once at sheraton watkins ledge we could see that the next pitch (a SWEET 5.10 finger crack) filled with a buch of cams and clipped as directionals.. this was definately one of the best free pitches on the route and we were unable to place any of our own gear because the cracked was filled with cams, many of which were rusted and pretty haggered....the pitch does traverse but not so many directionals were needed to safely jug these fixed lines...the condition of the route got worse after belay 12 we found a bag filled with rotten power bars and gu with expiration dates from 04 and 05..obvoiouslly pretty old and abandoned... two pitches later my partner just finished the 5.9 variation around the 10.d pitch (which has NO bolts contrary to the 3 listed on the topo) my partner was run out about 70 feet and a little sketched and was about to clip the anchors but there was another tote bagclipped to the achor which he had to move (it ironically said "do not touch") as he went to move it a a huge nest of silverfish came out of the thing and swarmed him and were all over his face and in his mouth..he pushed the thing away and a bottle of rotten juice inside the bag exploded all over him and he was covered in a rancid slime...he almost vomited and nearly pitched off the thing... we tried to work around the lines and were sympathetic to whoever had them there since we assumed someone was trying to free the route but at this point were were pretty effin pissed about the situation.... as it stands right now there is about 2000 feet of manky to somewhat decent fixed lines on the route which obviouslly had been there a long time... afterwards we tried to find out who the lines and gear belonged to and were wondering what should be done about this.... we feel that the condition the route was left in is a travesty and the gear was rumored to belong to a certain high profile yosemite climber who ironically is sponsored by patagonia... the words of chouinard "respect the creation, travel light, and face yourself" became somewhat of a mantra to us during this climb and we felt the legacy that chouinard helped create on this climb was being shat upon.. I am posting this to get some input from the climbing community as to what should be done about this situation... if the gear is abandoned i dont feel that the nps should be responsible for the removal or any other climbers or organization for that matter... I feel that whoever left this mess should be held accountable for the cleanup and removal of at very least the gear on climbers what do you think... sorry for the wordiness but I feel some light should be shed upon this matter... peace to all and happy climbing

Kerlib Kubbler

Trad climber
Somewhere, CA
Jul 27, 2006 - 11:36pm PT
If the owner can be identified, then do it. Post their name here, report them to NPS - have them cited, fined, and let their sponsor know. They're a disgrace to the climbing community. [EDIT - strike the NPS part. Their sponsor should be held liable here. THE SPONSOR should be reported to NPS. Patagonia's got deeper pockets than some rat in camp 4. Make Patagonoia send someone up there and clean that crap up. No sponsor = no piles of gear to leave.]

Since South Face went free at 5.12, there's zero justification for any 'extreme' measures. It's an effing 12!? People have been sending 12's in Tenaya Cyn since the 80's - Half Dome, Qtr. Dome, etc.

(Or am I getting trolled here? Waiting to hear that this is for real... if it is, it's pretty serious.)

Topic Author's Reply - Jul 27, 2006 - 11:56pm PT
definately not a troll...was wondering if anyone else had do deal with this mess as well

Gym climber
Jul 28, 2006 - 12:09am PT
That silverfish story has to be a Top Ten.

What a total drag. I've a feelin' who you're fingerin' here...Prominent or not, people should clean up their garbage.

Fixed lines suck.

There should be a Via Ferrata up to Heart and a zip line down from ELedges.

Fixed lines suck.

Trad climber
Jul 28, 2006 - 12:13am PT
Let us know the name of the climber whose crap is up there.

Topic Author's Reply - Jul 28, 2006 - 12:17am PT
I do not want to acuse or point fingers at anyone untill it is verified who is responsible for the mess...dont think it is right to start rumors untill the truth is know....anybody have any info who wants to chime in....

I will say that there was a lot of patagucci gear, prototype c4's, and other blackdiamond gear... definately reeks of the sponsored type...

Big Wall climber
San Luis Obispo CA
Jul 28, 2006 - 12:34am PT
Apparently, the Latest Craze (freeing long Valley routes) is getting out of hand. Sport bolts four feet from an aid crack on Dihedral? And now this?

Maybe we can petition whoever controls Hoover Dam to let these jokers glue bondo holds up that thing, so they'll leave the rock alone.

I'm so over it
Jul 28, 2006 - 12:41am PT
Dibs on that Gu. That crap ain't cheap.
Ben Wah

Social climber
Jul 28, 2006 - 12:42am PT
If the garbage offends you, clean it up. But do it without raising a stink, and if you would do climbing a favor, do NOT involve the NPS in any way. They are not anybody's friend. Abandoned fixed lines are one of my biggest peeves; they should be removed as soon as they are noticed, but to raise a big hullaballoo about them creates more bad press for climbers than the lines themselves. Just get rid of all offending fixed gear with the minimum amount of fuss.
Ben Wah
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jul 28, 2006 - 12:42am PT
Given your report, I suspect the situation will clean itself up quickly - it sounds like one or two guys with some jumars could clean it all up and pocket the cams as their reward.

right here, right now
Jul 28, 2006 - 12:57am PT
What a bummer.

I agree that not making a big fuss over it is a good idea, at least in terms of involving NPS and authorities.

This usually just draws a fire toward us climbers as a community and the powers that be do not distinguish their opinions and ideologies of climbers between good climbers and bad climbers.

Photos and a letter to potential sponsors is a great idea.
Best of luck with this,
Thanks for Posting.

Roy McClenahan

Trad climber
places you shouldn't talk about in polite company
Jul 28, 2006 - 01:05am PT
so, you are saying that you left it more or less as you found it, w/ the cams etc. still in place?

Trad climber
Somewhere, CA
Jul 28, 2006 - 01:10am PT
Agreed - NO NPS (yet). Light a fire under the sponsor with the ~threat~ of NPS action. Sponsors have to learn from this - we won't let them turn kids loose with tons of free gear to leave (as trash) all over the place.

If the person had a prototype C4, well... how many people can that be? BD will probably know who did this.

The only cam that I've found that got wintered over in the snow was rusted solid. Most of that 'booty' is going to be 'garbage'. And hauling your butt up to Watkins aint no fun to begin with. [Edit: Pulling a big pile of fixed lines and crap off Watkins isn't like cutting a fixed line loose from the Stove Legs. Sounds like there's a significant quantity, and it's going to suck pulling that mess down with all of your other gear... especially in 100 degree heat.]

As for "keep this quiet" - that's BS - the person behind this has had months go back and clean up their little mess. It's mid-July.

Trad climber
one pass away from the big ditch
Jul 28, 2006 - 01:35am PT
"...and pocket the cams as their reward."

I can just picture Clint's eyes lighting up...


Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Jul 28, 2006 - 01:45am PT
This is one of those things Supertopo can be good for. Working out issues without having to hassle the NPS and getting our act together on our own.

Sounds like this kind of Big Wall rehearsal expedition is becoming a problem that needs some ethical discussion and concensus so the few don't spoil things for the many.

Here's another if the same thing giving us a black eye.

Of course, there's still time for the folks who put the stuff up there to make right with everyone. We all need a wake-up call once in awhile


Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
Jul 28, 2006 - 01:49am PT
Didn't Max and Mark almost totally free the S. Face of Mt. Watkins twenty or so years ago? Couldn't be more than a couple of short sections that need to be freed anyway . . .

Topic Author's Reply - Jul 28, 2006 - 12:09pm PT
HMMMMMMMM "If the garbage offends you, clean it up." "Just get rid of all offending fixed gear with the minimum amount of fuss" so what you are saying is that if this offends me I should personally haul all this crap off the route... ummmmmmm no.. unless bd or patagucci wants to sponsor ME and reimburse me for the cleanup... this is not going to be some simple cleanup.. there is 2000+ feet of lines up there plus a bunch of other gear... and yes EVERYTHING (besides one msr fuel canisterwhich we bootied) was left there because we didnt feel right about taking a few items without a full fledged effort to get the stuff out.. I want to hold someone accountable for their actions.. there is about a full double set of cams up there or maybe more (most pretty rusted and effed up) plus a bibler bivy, sleeping bag, belay parka, rain gear, about 15 msr drom bags, cooking gear, three or four pairs of climbing shoes, a stick clip, poop tube, two dry bags, and sleeping pads... oh yeah and it seemed like it may have been a male/female duo at there was a few pairs of large sized anasazi velcros and a pair of small sized ones (with smiley faces drawn on them) left behind... so if anyone wants to jump on it go ahead.. I live in oregon and dont have the extra time to go out and clean up others crap..I predict two or three haul bags full of gear would be removed with a pretty significant hike out with it..not necessarily a walk in the park... I appreciate the input and hope this dialouge continues

Trad climber
Jul 28, 2006 - 12:22pm PT
Out the rats! I get the feeling that because they are sponsored and well known that there is a hesitancy to name names. A little peer pressure on the climbers themselves and unwanted press for the sponsors can go a long way to stop this kind of crap from happening in the future. I am sure St. Shoonard would not approve of his stuff littering the walls.

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Jul 28, 2006 - 12:23pm PT
Have great respect for Watkins in the summer. Bridwell, Schmitz, Kauk and I almost perished on a new route there (August). The place gets like an oven. There is no excuse for having lines fixed top to bottom on a forty year old wilderness wall, but striping all that stuff off in the summer will be rugged duty. I suggest two parties going up. One climbs the thing in one day and just cuts all that shite loose, and the other party retrieves the stuff and packs it out. Two fit groups could pull that off in a day given a super early start and knowledge of the approach (essential).

Ben Rumsen

Social climber
No Name City ( and it sure ain't pretty )
Jul 28, 2006 - 12:26pm PT
" If the garbage offends you, clean it up. But do it without raising a stink, and if you would do climbing a favor, do NOT involve the NPS in any way. They are not anybody's friend. Abandoned fixed lines are one of my biggest peeves; they should be removed as soon as they are noticed, but to raise a big hullaballoo about them creates more bad press for climbers than the lines themselves. Just get rid of all offending fixed gear with the minimum amount of fuss.
Ben Wah " -

That is total bullsh#t. These guys should be fined and kicked out of Yosemite for the next 2 years. They are littering the wilderness - plain and simple. Might as well dump a pick up truck worth of trash in T. Meadows while your at it. If it was me I'd just jettison everything to the base and complain to the Park Service.
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