Ammon's House of Cards

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Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 12, 2006 - 12:19am PT
Ammon, I’ve been following your postings of your speed ascent of Cosmic Trauma. It’s time for a little honesty and self-examination, which unfortunately has to be forced on you by others.

The clean move which eluded you on Pitch 7 is a highly technical blind reach with a No. 3 RP out to the side bypassing the roof placement where you chose to nail. A couple of my good old-dad climbing buddies from Tucson got their thrill clean climbing this route because they have what you lack; clarity of intent and commitment to clean climbing principles. Several parties have found it unnecessary to pound on this route, not just one.

You, on the other hand, failed to work this move out and chose the destructive option of pounding a pin. This single placement alone is not the source of real disgruntlement here. The bigger question is why you or anyone else considers it acceptable style to have a hammer and pitons on your rack at all while repeating a clean climb? Under the flimsy guise of “efficient” climbing, you have offered a string of rationalizations for being destructive that no thinking person can really accept.

You simply couldn’t get it done where others did and are unwilling to take responsibility for being destructive which seems to be intrinsic to your stylistic house of cards. Do you really think that anybody out there buys it, that when you pound a piton, it’s the least destructive option? Get real.

In the normal context of sport competition, for this speed climbing nonsense to hold together at all, the only time record that sensibly matters involves climbing the route in the best style to date and on sight. Anything less sullies the accomplishment. You continually rationalize lowering the bar by your choice of equipment and tactics.

Just because the pin rack speaks to you, and that others have chosen to pound, justifies nothing. Why not honor and respect the efforts of others and rise to the occasion? The logic of Nuremberg (Hey! Everybody’s doing it, right?) really doesn’t get you anywhere meaningful.

While you seem to be a capable and accomplished climber, your ego is obviously twisting your common sense. That you and many others, involved in this alpine ghetto game called speed aid climbing, are willing to give yourselves license to climb in poor style is ethically deplorable because it speeds up the degradation of the vertical environment. Especially when the speed climbing game may bring you back to the same route for several ascents in an effort to hold on to that slim time record.

Piss poor style is the same now as it was 20 years ago and somehow the current active climbing community is miserably unable to provide any direction.

As a committed clean climber for the last 30 years, I understand the dynamics of peer pressure. In my early climbing career, before I was set straight by wiser climbers, I too placed pitons where they were not needed and took the heat for it. In that tradition, I’m holding your feet to the fire.

One of my old buddies mentioned earlier while climbing another route not far from Cosmic Trauma heard the sound of nailing and yelled over to the offending party that CT had gone clean. The leader slumped in his aiders and the party soon retreated. Most people know when they are screwing up. You seem utterly lacking in remorse here.

Retreating off a route you can’t do in good style takes more integrity and guts than most wall climbers are willing to summon. It takes no guts whatsoever to bring the climb down to your standard. To do this and to advocate that others do the same, and follow your example, is deplorable. Your activities are highly visible and for that reason your opinion actually has some impact that you need to consider.

Historically, considerable peer pressure was necessary to get people to stop carrying a hammer where it was not necessary on free climbs. We all enjoy the fruits of those rather intense interactions concerning style and ethics. As Mr. Stannard will attest, a lot of yelling and badgering went on in the 70s leading to a clean climbing ethic. This ethic has always been slow to make its way onto the big walls and we all have suffered greatly for it.

I have been howling about this disconnect for a long time and the need to cut impact down is more acute now than it ever was. A lot of excuses and arm waving do nothing to diminish the continual damage. Do you really want this sort of thing to be emblematic of your best efforts?
Lambone

Ice climber
Ashland, Or
Sep 12, 2006 - 12:25am PT
Alot of parties bash pins on routes that have gone clean on El Cap. Nobody seems to call them out???

How about all the numourous parties doing Zodiac, Trip, Shield, New Dawn, PO, Dihedral, Ten Days After, etc, etc, etc...that nail? Why not bitch at them too?

Why single out Ammon? Give the guy a break. Not one of his shinning moments...we are not perfect.
john hansen

climber
Sep 12, 2006 - 12:35am PT
steve is a visionary.
Hawkeye

climber
State of Mine
Sep 12, 2006 - 12:37am PT
lambone,

SG is calling out ammon because he is obviously at or near the top of the wall climbing heap and therefore will gain more impact on the message.

but what about you? havent you done some of those routes and pounded pins? lol just kidding.

john hansen

climber
Sep 12, 2006 - 12:37am PT
Purist vs working man
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 12, 2006 - 12:43am PT
Hey Lambone,
My writing and criticism are intended for general consumption. If you see yourself in my words don't be afraid to look back into the mirror. I can't really discuss specifics except as they provided. Believe me there are several other folks in line for a good footwarming, should they approach the fire. I will eagerly respond to any respectful challenge to my ideas. I have listened to jackasses braying about their love of the piton for three decades now and rarely hear anything convincing. So rockbeaters have at me.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 12, 2006 - 12:45am PT
Hello John H,
Oddly enough I swing a hammer for a living.
Burt

Gym climber
hookers and blow baby...
Sep 12, 2006 - 12:50am PT
Steve, I was there when the first clean ascent was claimed, 3-4 years ago??? Maybe longer I have been out of the game for some time now, but from my understanding the route has only been climbed clean 2-3 times with a lot of other parties nailing in more than that one spot. Steve you climbed well in your time (and still might now) and Ammon and myself have talked about you before and the routes that you have climbed. He is a straight shooter and has the utmost respect for the people that have paved the way for the future. Maybe you could show the same respect. If you have not climbed with Ammon and have not witnessed his craft then please try not to throw stones. His love for the climbing and for the walls he is on way over shadows the fame or the glory as some people here might think. A missed placement on a route that has gone clean just a couple of times? I know that when the Zodiac, Mescaltio, Shield, Days of No Future, Swoop Gimp (early clean ascents), Desert Shield (early clean ascents), Lunar Ex (early clean ascents), Etc I made sure that the pins where in the bag or on my rack for the routes on that list that I have done. And in spots I couldn’t justify a cam hook (that makes WAY more damage that a softly drivin pin like Mr. McNeely does when he speed climbs)in the soft stone where other parties did, or the 4 sets of ball nuts that they had and forgot to put in on the rack requirements. I sure Ammon is trying his best to come up with some sort of answer for you and I think he owes you nothing. ONE PLACMENT???? That is a mighty cloud that you sit on Steve. Lets hope you don’t fall.
Kurt “Burt”Arend
Loom

climber
The Whiteboard Jungle
Sep 12, 2006 - 12:52am PT
The logic of Nuremberg (Hey! Everybody’s doing it, right?)

Wow! Usually it takes at least a couple dozen posts before someone proves Godwin's Law. Congratulations Steve, you did it in your first post. What's next? Geologic Holocaust? Nazi Nailers? That has a nice alliterative ring to it.
Darnell

Big Wall climber
Chicago
Sep 12, 2006 - 01:01am PT
Wow! Another Jihad over one placement of the thousands he has put in. Those of us who have climbed in the valley a good deal, know that Ammon has solid style and ethics.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 12, 2006 - 01:15am PT
Loom,
And your point would be?
Loom

climber
The Whiteboard Jungle
Sep 12, 2006 - 01:33am PT
Tone control.

I tend to get worked up over retro-bolting, and I've found that it helps the discussion proceed if you control your tone. If you sound like you want to start Nuremberg II, you may alienate part of your audience that might be otherwise sympathetic to your argument.

As to nailing vs. clean climbing I'm ambivalent. There are a number of good arguments that can be made for clean climbing and a number of rationalizations for continuing to nail. I've enjoyed the challenges inherent in both; I don't find myself drawn to any puritanical arguments.

Scott
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 12, 2006 - 01:35am PT
Burt,
Falling is just part of the adventure and to be clear, pounding is pounding no matter how angelic your touch. If so little force is necessary why not hand place? It really only takes practice, solid testing technique and some sack to get wild up there. Leave the ironmongery on the groud and see for yourself.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 12, 2006 - 01:45am PT
LOOM,
It was only a quip, no Inquisition in mind really. I just find flexible ethics to be rather lame stuff. Better to stand for something than straddle fences with a chafed ass looking silly.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
one pass away from the big ditch
Sep 12, 2006 - 01:57am PT
I only take the post as a reminder we should try to excel when we can. clean ascents are a prime goal to preserve what we have.

Thx for that Steve.

Will I nail a route that has gone clean? Probably. Will i pound the pin as the first option? No. Will I risk death or serious physical injury to make it clean? probably not too much.

that's about all I have to say on that.



Ammon

Big Wall climber
El Cap
Sep 12, 2006 - 02:03am PT

Wow, Steve!! Thanks for putting me in my place, haa haa. I really didn't know that much about Cosmic Trauma prior to going up there. I've never even seen anyone climbing it, other than the guys who did it clean first.

When I asked the locals what they thought, they said they would definitely bring a few pins. I brought two, a blade and an arrow.

You saying that I have an ego about my accomplishments is a direct result of what you think about yourself. Why? Because you do not know me. You could never truly know someone from their writing.

I've always had the greatest respect for you and actually have friends in common. For you to jump on my case like that in a public forum, without ever even meeting me.... is pretty weak.

Should I start calling you out on your bolt ladder on Turning Point that Rob and Justin free climbed recently.

Anyway, I got to go back to work. Have a great night. Cheers!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 12, 2006 - 02:05am PT
Munge, I'm glad you appreciated my stance. You have to believe something is possible before you can realize it. We all know that as climbers. Bad fall situations on aid are classic trials by fire. All I'm trying to get people to do is to not make up their minds before they get there.
Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, Ca
Sep 12, 2006 - 02:13am PT
Hey Ammon, didn't you call out Ricardo publicly on this very forum?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 12, 2006 - 02:21am PT
Ammon, don't feel that because I'm criticizing your actions that I seek to judge you. Those are two distinctly different things. The only way we get to know each other is through the exchange of ideas and like I said in my post, a little heat is sometimes necessary to liquify things. I have no intention of boiling you or anyone else in oil for my own amusement. These issues are real and meaningful. You have spent enough time on El Cap to imagine the rock in its pristine state. My heartfelt desire is to stop the destruction cold, but this has always been an uphill battle. You would not believe how much resistance there is to simply trying hammerless climbing.

As for as anything I've ever aid climbed going free, hats off to them, as long as they don't diminish the challenge for anybody else by altering the route. Climbing always moves forward.
DixieGal

Trad climber
NC
Sep 12, 2006 - 02:44am PT
I don't see much merit in Steve Grossman's original post. His
post is unnecessarily confrontational and inflammatory. Most
climbers don't even own a piton, the climbing stores hardly
sell pins these days, and hardly anyone gives a sh*t about the
nuances of "clean" climbing versus "nailing" and all the shades
in-between. It seems to me that Steve doesn't like Ammon for
some reason, and found some technicality to heap opprobrium
on him. It's really hard to cast the first stone, unless one
has never ever pounded the hammer. In Steve's case, I daresay
he has wielded the hammer on El Cap on each and every one of
his first ascents.
After reading Steve's message I'm left with the impression
that he is just an old fart harping on the same inanities that
he does in the ethics chapter of his "Climbing Big Walls" book.
He writes, 'Remember the Golden Rule "Dump onto others as you
would have them dump onto you"'. Perhaps it's time to heed his
own message - if you want to dump sh*t on another climber on an
internet forum, be prepared to get dumped on by a whole lot of
others.
To put the whole thing in perspective: In the grand scheme of
things these are really petty squabbles. There are more
important spiritual matters in life.
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