WoS "confessions"--The whole truth about the "enhancements"


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Big Wall climber
Walla Walla, WA
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 20, 2009 - 06:47pm PT
Some continue to claim that we have not been forthcoming about the "enhanced" hooks on Wings of Steel. The hole count of the route, and its "repeatability" are called into question. And the claim is made that we continue to hide something: "the big lie."

All but the "repeatability" issue are entirely specious. We have been more forthcoming about the details of the ascent than any climbers in history. In fact, some of the statistics in my book that a few poke fun at are among the evidences of our studied effort to be forthright and truthful about everything.

To recap:
The book and many threads state the number of holes in the route (145), ALL of which were filled with metal except for a few (I think 9, but I don't remember now) bat hooks on the 13th pitch.

We used 151 hooks to ascend the route. All but 3 were Leeper Narrows, and the 151 does not include the bat hooks on pitch 13.

No "cover up," "big lie," or mystery here. And our hole/foot of climbed rock is a better ratio than other touted routes, like the Sea of Dreams.

The issue of "repeatability" comes up now and then, and most recently it has been suggested that to repeat the route one must be willing to drill additional "dimples" to "enhance" hook placements. It is claimed that we made it easier for ourselves because any time we got scared, supposedly we just whipped out the drill and "enhanced" some hooks. Finally, it is claimed that the the number we "enhanced" is disputable and actually counts as the "majority" of our hook placements.

I have consistently asserted that our non-natural hooks were a very small number, like in the ballpark of 10% of our total hook placements. I have not varied on this estimate.

However, the problem is IN the terminology, because "enhanced hooks" has come to mean "dimpled hooks," and now that term: "dimpled" is applied when it should not be.

I have explained this in other threads, but some people appear to need pictures. So, I have drawn a few diagrams to help the feeble-minded understand exactly what we did and what we did not do.

Diagram 1:

Here you see a cross-section of a tiny edge. The actual size of our hooking edges was typically from dime-thick to quarter-thick (as those who have actually be ON the route will agree), so these diagrams are greatly magnified. You can see a representation of a small crystal that occupies part of the back of the ledge. Turning the diagram 90 degrees (facing the rock) makes the idea clearer. You can see that the crystal makes the edge non-flat. With the crystal there, the edge cannot be hooked, as the hook tip will skit off to one side or the other.

Diagram 2 (what "enhanced" means to most people):

The way most "enhancement" is done is to drill INTO the rock, creating a pocket for the hook tip to sit IN the rock face. The depth of the pocket ranges from shallow ("dimple") to deep ("bat hook"). The continuum shallower than "bat hook" has come to be called a "dimple," and "dimple" has come to be synonymous with "enhancement," as the drilled hole puts more rock under the tip of the hook, making the hook more secure and less likely to fail: enhanced = better.

We did not make ANY "enhancements" in this sense. We did not "dimple" our hooks at all. NONE of what we called a "hook placement," as opposed to a "hole" (as in, the bat hooks on pitch 13), are "dimpled" at all. At no point did we drill INTO the rock face and call that a "hook placement."

Diagram 3 (what we did):

Rarely, a few times, we found potential hook flakes with crystals like this that would keep the hook tip from seating on the tiny ledge. On these few occasions, we found that the point of the drill (we didn't sharpen our bits flat, as is common today; they were sharpened to a fine point) could be used to "explode" that tiny crystal. To do this, we did not point the drill IN toward the rock. Instead, we pointed the drill along the axis of the ledge, using the sharp point of the drill to explode that tiny crystal, leaving the ledge intact, and leaving no "dimple" of any kind in the rock face.

This is why we are able to say that all of our "enhancements" look natural. We did not leave "dimples," as has been claimed. Furthermore, we quickly learned that the tiny edges we were hooking were already extremely insecure, and even the one "tap" to remove such a crystal seemed to make them even worse. We noticed that such ledges seemed to fail more than entirely natural ones. So, our "enhancements" proved to be "anti-enhancements," as they made the ledges more likely to fail rather than less likely: enhanced = usable but worse.

So, as to the issue of repeatability, it's a pretty simple tactic. If you find a small ledge with a crystal keeping the hook tip from getting ONTO the ledge, and you can knock that crystal out of there without pointing INTO the rock, and without entering the rock FACE at all, then you can "enhance" all you want this way. Hehe... you will quickly find that there are very FEW ledges like this, and you will also quickly find that you will typically make the ledge LESS secure this way.

So, far from making your life easier to just willy-nilly produce "dimples" all over your ascent, you will find that you will rarely employ this tactic. And, when you are done, nobody will be able to tell which were natural and which were "enhanced" hooks.

If you feel that your life needs to be made as "easy" as was ours on the first ascent, and you think that "easy" means "enhancing" as we did, then have at it. Just don't leave any "dimples" behind by drilling INTO the rock, because we didn't.

So, anybody that has been kept off of the route by the fear of the hooking can now jump on it will full assurance. You now know exactly how we "enhanced," that was the FA tactic in a few instances, and the FA team encourages you to employ the same tactic if you find an ideal edge but with a problem crystal.

Again, there will be very few of these, and by the time you get up the slab, you will have removed no more rock with this tactic than is typically removed by placing and extracting a single beak placement. (For those worried about the "impact" of a given route, those fears should now be laid to rest. There are fewer holes-per-foot on WoS than on many well-respected routes, and the FA and subsequent ascents do less "rock damage" than is typically done by a single placement on traditional routes.)

Of course, those few remaining vociferous critics are those that have not attempted the route, so they remain clueless about the TINY nature of the hooking. Thus, they remain clueless about the microscopic amount of rock affected by our tactic. I cannot address willful ignorance. But I can address this issue as forthrightly as possible for those that care to honestly weigh the EVIDENCE.

What I do not want anybody to be able to intentionally conflate any more is the idea that what we did counted as "dimples." We did not drill INTO the rock and count that as a hook placement. Our "anti-enhancements" are nothing like what everybody else calls an "enhancement."

[edit to correct a missing "no"]

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Sep 20, 2009 - 07:10pm PT
Do people really get involved in such minutiae regarding new routes on El Cap? I must be out of touch.

Ice climber
Ashland, Or
Sep 20, 2009 - 07:15pm PT
donini do a search on "Wings of Steel" and get caught up on the rantings and ravings about this route....if you want...

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Sep 20, 2009 - 07:25pm PT
It came from here: http://supertopo.com/climbing/thread.html?topic_id=963337&msg=963377#msg963377

Tucson, AZ
Sep 20, 2009 - 07:29pm PT
Jim: yes.

and it's sad on so many levels (and I mean no offense to the OP)

Trad climber
pacific beach, ca
Sep 20, 2009 - 07:29pm PT
Dang, i thought this thread was going to be about "WomenS confessions"--the whole truth about "enhancements"", meaning boob jobs, with pictures.

And again, i get trolled in to a thread by the title.....

Big Wall climber
Walla Walla, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 20, 2009 - 07:45pm PT
Sorry, Zip. Didn't mean to bait you. :) Nothing here to see... move along.

Thanks, Joe. Hadn't seen that one yet. I was actually responding to this one:

And, yes, sadly, this level of minutia is what it takes to set THIS story straight. First the claim was "a thousand bolts to Horse Chute," then it was "a rivet ladder up the slab," then it was, "every other placement is a bolt or rivet," then it was, "most placements needed the drill," then it was, "hard, but mostly enhanced hooking," then it was, "whenever you are scared, just drill a dimple, like the FA team did." The lies about the route and our tactics started out grotesquely stupid, as you can see printed in the "Classic" article linked to above. As more and more evidence has piled up to the contrary, the critics (a few still unfazed) have simply "refined" their attacks... until now, minutia is the order of the day. And, even the "dimples" criticism is unfounded; there were no "dimples" on the FA of WoS.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Sep 20, 2009 - 07:49pm PT
Richard- of the 146 or so pointed Logan hook placements on Wings Of Steel, how many did NOT involve the use of a hammer AT ALL? Both of you guys commit to a number or this is no confession but more of the same.

Your obfuscation is laughable because you know very well what an enhancement is and how often you reached for the hammer to make sure that the hook placement was viable. The use of force isn't vague to anyone else once they choose to drill or chip or whatever.

When I swung over for a look at your work while on Horse Chute, the enhancements were easily discernable.

All of the pitches on the slab have been repeated so no mystery there.

An honest number from BOTH of you... no conflation please!!! LOL

I think Mark knew what he meant when he stated that there were "lots" of enhancements on WOS. Mark what did you mean by the word?

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Sep 20, 2009 - 08:08pm PT
Thanks Lambone, but I'll pass. El Cap is the most important crag in the World, and climbing there has led to an astonishing number of advances both in technique and equipment but I think that sometimes you can get too much of a good thing.
Might be an idea for climbers to get out and explore new venues rather than getting heated up about 'tempests in a teapot.' Yep, it's a pretty big World out there. I found a two thousand foot granite wall in Patagonia last year that is three miles from a road and has never been touched by climbers- not yet, anyway.

Big Wall climber
Walla Walla, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 20, 2009 - 08:29pm PT
Steve, we have been around this same bush before. I have told you that it is impossible for us to remember a NUMBER of "enhancements" at this point. I am confident that there were less than 20 in the route, but I cannot be more accurate than that, no matter how much you razz me to be more accurate. What Mark recollects is up to him, so perhaps he will post up here as well. But you cannot get a more accurate representation than what I've said from me, because I won't claim to have a more accurate memory than I do have, and no amount of razzing will entice me to invent a number that reflects more accuracy than I have on the subject.

The vast majority of our 151 (not "146 or so;" this is a number we did write down) were entirely natural. Less the (my best estimation, which is all you can get) 10% of hooks that we made usable by removing a single offending crystal (NO "dimples"), our hooking was entirely natural.

Regarding your repeated claims about what you saw on the ninth pitch, I think that any reasonable person can put a few facts together to realize that whatever you claim to have seen was not our work:

1) There are numerous MUCH harder pitches on WoS than the ninth; in fact, the ninth is arguably the easiest pitch on the route. The first, second, and fifth are all much, MUCH harder; and people that have been on them ALL report seeing nothing like what you claim to have seen on the ninth. Without exception. So, this raises the question of why we would do things to make life easier for ourselves on the EASY ninth pitch that we were DEMONSTRABLY not willing to do on other MUCH harder pitches.

2) The ninth pitch is the EASIEST pitch for anybody to get on and inspect. It is easy to get to that anchor via Horse Chute and then rap that pitch at will. The only way to get to the first two pitches is to do them (so far nobody has succeeded) or rap onto them after doing the "bogus start" (still not NEARLY as easy as getting to the ninth anchor via Horse Chute). This begs a reasonable person to question why we would leave such blatant tactics as you report for people to EASILY inspect, while we did not employ such tactics on pitches very difficult to inspect (the fifth is very difficult to inspect).

3) The ninth pitch is the EASIEST for anybody (including YOU) to get on and modify for their own purposes to further the ongoing lies about the route. In fact, Bill Russell told us to our faces that he was going to do virtually that very thing you describe, or chop the route. I put nothing past people that would chop a route they had not done, in the night. Nothing is too cowardly for such people.

4) Given the above three points, I'm sure there would be some people interested to hear what you would report from our HARD pitches. You can get up on the first two and tell us what you report there. If you can get up 'em, you'll be the first since us, and I've already told you our exact tactic, which is easily repeatable by you or anybody. Of course, I don't recommend doing our anti-enhancements very much, because, as we did, you'll quickly find that you fall MORE often. But, all your blow-hard claims are entirely vapid since you have not actually been ON the route. Do some of our harder pitches, tell us ALL what you find, and then perhaps even YOU will question your certainty that we are responsible for whatever you claim to have seen on the ninth pitch.

If you continue to insist on a more accurate number of enhancements than I have repeatedly and consistently provided, then you are asking for something that is obviously unreasonable. We have told everybody what things we did keep track of (hole/hook counts and other such bits of trivia). We have also told everybody that we never imagined our anti-enhancements to become an issue in anybody's mind, so we did not keep records of the FEW removed crystals.

I have challenged YOU to produce similar counts for your routes (it is obviously a HUGE issue in your mind, which it was not in ours), and you have steadfastly refused to even consider the idea, much less produce the numbers. Surely you know (since you seem to think that we do) how many crystals YOU have removed from a copperhead seam, from a crumbling corner, or from a beak slot! So, how about giving US a count, Steve? Hold YOURSELF to the same standard! I want to hear the number of incidents and the grams of rock affected. Or perhaps even you can recognize this stupidity as just what it is: stupidity.

Now, regarding "dimples," as you have come to call them, we have a clear, unambiguous number for you, and it is the same number we have always claimed: 0 (zero), zip, nada, NONE. Meanwhile, after several threads in which this has come up, WE await YOUR count.

Is zero clear enough to satisfy you?

Big Wall climber
Walla Walla, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 20, 2009 - 08:30pm PT
I agree entirely, Donini! I have even used that exact phrase: tempest in a teapot.

Sep 20, 2009 - 08:35pm PT
The truth about the enhancement.


Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Sep 20, 2009 - 08:58pm PT
I know not when this was done, but apparently...

"also that same year in february there was another team of euros putting up a new route over by horse chute, i never heard any more about this either."

"Route is immediately to the left of Horse Chute, to the right of WOS. Hard to see, hard to tell how many independent pitches, maybe only 4 or 5? If it goes where I think it goes, it climbs some thin little splitters on the face next to the Horse Chute mega dihedral then up. I remember seeing the portaledge under the WOS roof and then hearing that they were on the ground after some weather moved in. Seemed like the portaledge was up there for weeks, not moving."

which is not to say euros are more likely than not to use enhanced hooks, but just that someone at sometime was climbing in that area. I know not very illuminating. Sorry.


Trad climber
pacific beach, ca
Sep 20, 2009 - 09:08pm PT

Now that is what i am talking about!

Does that stuff really work?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Sep 20, 2009 - 09:15pm PT
Mark Smith, you down for twenty enhanced narrow Logan placements out of 146?

If you can't take the hook, set it and move along without hammering, it is not natural or unenhanced. 125 times you guys did this cleanly fresh from the Quarry?

What say you, Gunsmoke?

Big Wall climber
Portland, Oregon
Sep 20, 2009 - 09:33pm PT
Lambone: "Yawn"
If it’s a yawner to you, go read another thread.

donini: "Do people really get involved in such minutiae regarding new routes on El Cap?"
Evidently, "yes". Go talk to Grossman/Mimisoft who (1) care about what they mistakenly call “dimples”, alterations that are actually so small as to be neither "dimples" nor detectable, and who (2) demand an explanation. They started and constantly stir this. Now, at their challenge, I either respond, or they assert that silence means that I concede. Note that this thread was started as a response to Grossman's never ending stir and restir.

Sorry that this thread isn't about "WOmenS confessions and plastic surgery enhancements. Unfortunately, it's about something far, far smaller and exceedingly less interesting.

The Chief: "LET IT GO!"
Indeed, I would like to. Please note that I did not post once to the last attempt Grossman/Mimisoft made to fire this back up several weeks ago. Is your "let it go" advice to Grossman or me? I'm open for advice, seriously. Do you think silence in the face of being called out by name, multiple times for an explanation should be ignored or responded to?

Steve Grossman : "Your obfuscation is laughable because you know very well what an enhancement is and how often you reached for the hammer. When I swung over for a look at your work while on Horse Chute, the enhancements were easily discernable."

You know, Grossman, it's everything I can do to not attack the man rather than the idea.
"You know very well what an enhancement is and how often you reached for the hammer." The fact of the matter is that you are as wrong about this as most of the rest of your WoS assessments. We did WoS for ourselves, not for you and your narrow opinion of us. We were concerned with climbing to the highest standards and what kind of experience the SA would have. How many crystals were cleared away wasn't part of our calculus. We took no written notes, nor even had the thought cross our minds that we should do so. After more than 25 years, my apologies if my middle aged mind can't replay each pitch to give a "touch the hammer count" (hereinafter TTHC).

Have you been on the Sea? That was the standard bitd. The key pitch, Hook or Book, reaches a critical spot where no hook flake presents itself. So Diegelman whips out the drill and enhances a 45 degree slope into a hookable placement (basically, it's a bat hook poorly disguised as a ledge). The Sea is full of that tactic, although the Hook or Book bat hook is the most noteworthy because it made an A4 pitch into an A5 classic. I can see the Bird taking up the conversation back on Continental Shelf. "Hey, Dave, nice lead. Time for me to log that pitch. Can you give me a rivet count and a TTHC?" Dave, "TTHC?". Bird, "Yah, you know, touch the hammer count."

"When I swung over for a look at your work while on Horse Chute, the enhancements were easily discernable". Grossman, you are full of Horse Chute. Multiple people have been on this climb, by your estimation every pitch from the ground to HC. No one other than you has reported ever finding even one enhancement, even when looking for them. The quality of our work did not dim one iota as the climb progressed. If you see enhancements, they're enhancement of your mind.

Big Wall climber
Walla Walla, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 20, 2009 - 09:39pm PT
Steve, your insistence on rewriting history is simply amazing and appalling. You quote repeatedly out of my book, so you clearly know what I printed there; and you have posts in this very thread to set you straight. The number 146 appears nowhere in anything we have ever written. The number of hooks we used on WoS is 151. If you can't even get that number correct, in the face of the evidence before you, then you have zero credibility to claim to be so concerned about "accurate" numbers.

Regarding "straight from the Quarry," as the book explains, we spent a couple of days at the base of WoS learning to hook the most ridiculous things before we headed up. The same "aid bouldering" tactics we used successfully prior to Intifada, we used before starting WoS. By the time we roped up, we KNEW what could be done.

Again, this is a documented fact that you simply refuse to take into consideration in your various "revisions" of reality.

YOU yourself could learn all you need to know to get up WoS (if you have the sack) by spending a day at the base to find out what can and cannot be hooked. You, like we were, will be amazed at what will hold NATURAL hooks and can even be top-looped (to reduce the number of them that you have to stand on).

So, spend a day learning what REALLY hard hooking is all about (instead of continuing to delude yourself that Jolly Roger set the high bar), and then you won't say obviously ridiculous things like: "straight from the Quarry."

And, we're still waiting for YOUR count... we'll even let you tell us a fairly vague percentage if you like. We've always been more forthcoming than you on these threads.

Berkeley, CA
Sep 20, 2009 - 11:46pm PT
We did WoS for ourselves, not for you and your narrow opinion of us

Perhaps Steve is just a little angel sent down to test your convictions?

Trad climber
Butte, America
Sep 20, 2009 - 11:49pm PT
...or maybe Satan hisself--never know with forces greater than yourselves:-)
Captain...or Skully

Social climber
Idaho, also. Sorta, kinda mostly, Yeah.
Sep 20, 2009 - 11:54pm PT
Props to The Chief.
Word, bro.
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