A 'Surprise' bolt!


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Trad climber
Fresno CA
Nov 13, 2009 - 05:49pm PT
I'm with Kris on this one. Normally, I would say get rid of the bolt. I first led the Surprise in Robbins boots, Stoppers and first-generation Hexcentrics (the kind that were symmetric about the vertical axis). So what? When I first did the climb, it wasn't as an act of death defiance. I'd been told that most of the route was easy, and all of it enjoyable. What I saw confirmed that, and I therefore was comfortable running it out.

My original post on this thread marveled that a new bolt could be placed on Suprise and no one know the story or do anything about it. Now that I know both the story and who placed it, I would defer to his judgment.

I can't make this a hard-and-fast rule, of course, because I don't have the same knowledge of, and therefore the same respect for, the judgment of all climbers.

Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C. Small wall climber.
Nov 13, 2009 - 05:51pm PT
A discussion which I'm following with interest, in part because I'm working to restore Slab Alley, the first route climbed on the Apron at Squamish, in 1961. It's become disused. http://www.squamishclimbing.com/squamish_climbing_bb/viewtopic.php?t=2522

Both of those who did the FA are dead. For now, all I'm doing is cleaning the route, and I'll replace the existing bolts in the spring. There are some larger questions regarding what to do about two bolts that were added in 1974 to protect a traverse (to deter piton use) - one at least may still make sense. Also about whether it would be appropriate to do anything about some long, moderate slab runouts in the upper section, and possibly some minor re-routing. There has been some healthy discussion - these things should not be done hastily.

Once the preliminary work is done, I'm planning to do Slab Alley with a variety of climbers, and ask others to do it, to determine what if any consensus there is. If there is no consensus, then I'll leave the route as it was - cleaner, new bolts exactly where the old ones were, no more.

There has been an awkward history at Squamish of a few who clean up old routes, add bolts, and purport to re-name them.

And then there's Werner's thread about museum climbs, at http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.html?topic_id=447487 Or was it about museum climbers?

Big Wall climber
Nov 13, 2009 - 05:56pm PT
Daddy is off to fight a Bolt War. Robbins and Warren would be proud.

Why add bolts to the first pitch of Clam Chowder? Thats insane.

looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Latitute 33
Nov 13, 2009 - 06:18pm PT
Anders, it is nice to see that some climbers give thought and care into what is really a limited resource.

But, as you probably divined, neither Clam Chowder or Surprise are "museum" climbs. Rather, they (particularly Surprise) log hundreds of ascents each season. No one really seems to be arguing that the bolt in question is necessary or even adds to the "safety" of the climb.

Frankly, I'm still scratching my head over this one.

Social climber
So Cal
Nov 13, 2009 - 06:34pm PT
I was going to use a simple example.

If someone painted a mustache on the Mona Lisa everyone would call it vandalism. No question.

If Leonardo had done it, most of us would think it ridiculous, but not question his right to do it.

Now, it turns out that she originally had eyebrows, pink skin and the painting is now nothing like the original.


Would it be recognized if restored?

Nothings all that simple.

And, no, neither climb is a masterpiece although Surprise does have historic significance.
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C. Small wall climber.
Nov 13, 2009 - 06:34pm PT
Yes, we get it in another context, where people put in 'squeeze' routes, particularly on the Apron, usually cleaning and bolting on rappel. Sometimes they place bolts which are accessible from existing, often-climbed routes, and alter their nature. Usually the bolt isn't needed for the historical route, although perhaps convenient.

Ultimately, as you say, we have a limited resource. Strange how climbers in England (and Wales and Scotland) and Scandinavia, have been so aware of that fact, and others not.

Big Wall climber
Nov 13, 2009 - 07:09pm PT

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Nov 13, 2009 - 07:14pm PT

hrm, MungeFest 2010!!!

yeah, that's the ticket!

Big Wall climber
Nov 13, 2009 - 07:18pm PT

Topic Author's Reply - Nov 14, 2009 - 12:24am PT
"Clark opened a damn can of worms."

Sweet baby jeebus weepin' onna kross, I am quite certain that it was I who opened this damned can of worms. As usual, coming to consensus on climbing ethics is proving to be the most unobtainable of all grails, ironically being argued by many who have never climbed the route (or even visited the area) and for what? A silly bolt placed by the FA'ist, a man who virtually all agree has performed more public service to Suicide than any other single person. I am about as traditionalist about preservation of routes as any of you, but this really seems out of balance.

If this 'issue' blows up to the point of resulting in harm to Suicide, or results in acrimonious doodah amongst the local climbing community, or hard feelings towards Clark, I offer my sincerest apologies, and express my greatest regret.

If you have (or haven't) climbed Surprise or C Chowder, try it again, and then let's try to continue this dialogue. In the meantime, let's maintain perspective on this, eh, folks?
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Nov 14, 2009 - 01:27am PT

> Your argument appears to be that, since the community has accepted the route(s) in its original form by logging numerous ascents, it should not be changed by anyone, including the FAist.


> The FAist dominion over the route has effectively expired and the community now has the right to determine the nature of the route.

No. The community doesn't get to change it, either. It is preserved, as is.

Nov 14, 2009 - 01:56am PT

Let's not forget that there is more than one person on the FA. In these cases shouldn't the rest of the FA team get some consideration? I also noticed Clark is listed last. Sometimes that means a guy caught a rope end to the top (I'm not saying that was the case here).

Unfortunately, my understanding is that Clark has added a bolt to at least one other route than has since been removed. Sometimes a local just gets itching to use the drill and runs out of 1/4 inchers to replace, you know?

As one of my friends puts it, "We thought we were keeping off the rif-raf, but they we turned into the rif-raf."

Clark is the nicest of people, and his climbing ability has never been the question. He has gone out of his way many, many times to help others, both clueless and not so clueless. None of that has any bearing on this subject.


Social climber
san joser
Nov 14, 2009 - 02:08am PT
"The community doesn't get to change it, either. It is preserved, as is."

Amen brother.


Trad climber
Idyllwild, CA
Nov 14, 2009 - 02:16am PT
as far as i gathered from talking to him he wanted to make the climb more accessible to climbers to reduce the danger so more people would do the route isn't that the point for us as a community to be inclusive instead of exclusive, the pitch is still runout and if you don't like the bolt don't clip it but removing it would cause more damage than good, he basically said if someone wants to remove it its their energy not his, he has better things to worry about. but i would be sad to see it go just because you can do the route without it he has placed many bolts on climbs after the FA and no one seems to be complaining about them.
The user formerly known as stzzo

Sneaking up behind you
Nov 14, 2009 - 02:49am PT
It really does not matter to me who placed the bolt (or even why). After this many decades and literally tens of thousands of ascents, it clearly does not belong there.

This is not a route that was recently put up and the FA team is now tweaking the protection. It is not a route that remains rarely climbed due to death defying run outs.

If Clark or anyone else on the FA wanted to "fix" the route, they have waited far too long to do so and have no more moral authority to add a bolt than anyone else. It is salient to observe that Clark has lived (and climbed) in Idyllwild almost continuously since the route was established. Why wait til now? What is the sudden need to fix a problem that does not exist?

Sorry, but that bolt should be removed. Carefully and quickly.

It would be rather ironic if the community rallied to remove the retro-bolt placed by the FA... Has such a thing happened before (on an otherwise accepted route)?

Soul Cal
Oct 3, 2012 - 06:04pm PT
Those bolts will probably not be there after this weekend. The FA team does not "own" a route. I know Clark quite well and will discuss this with him but he does not have the last word. Suicide routes will not get "dumbed" down or "safer" by adding bolts while I'm still breathing.

Trad climber
Oct 3, 2012 - 06:27pm PT
I never thought the first pitch was a big deal. For me the "surprise" was climbing up and right on the rail then seeing a bolt 15 feet above the rail. I dug the pine needles out of the piton scars placed 2 pieces equalized and climbed the shiny crystal dike found it to be SPICY for 5.8 the whole second pitch was a SURPRISE! I guess that is why we climb (at least it's why I climb for the spice and the adventure!).
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Oct 3, 2012 - 06:34pm PT
For the record, the name Suprise came about when Callis wandered up there, expecting to see a blank slab, only to reach up and grab a jug. Surprise.

I have to agree with everyone in favor of chopping the new bolts. The climb has been done safely thousands of times. The only hard part of the pitch (if you can even call it that) is low to the ground, where you can get a stopper in. After that, it's all of, what, 5.4 to the belay. It requires such a basic level of competence that extra bolts really aren't needed, at least if you have any business on the route. Rather than dumbing down routes, we should strive to build technique so we can climb a given route safely. There are routes on Suicide I'll never do because of the runouts, protection, etc., and I'm OK with that.

What's next? Putting extra bolts on Mickey Mantle? It's only 5.8 and we don't want noobs getting hurt on that either, right?

Social climber
An Oil Field
Oct 3, 2012 - 06:54pm PT
We had a big to do here about a 5.2 slab with no pro. You could walk up it with your hands in your pockets, but that was kind of dicey.

Eventually it was decided no bolt, but slabs are notorious for runouts and it is too bad that today's climbers don't do them. So we all agreed on retrobolting a few, and they are insanely popular.

So if you sit down and be logical a certain amount of retrobolting can be agreed upon. With the FA's permission of course, which was no big deal.

Social climber
Oct 3, 2012 - 06:59pm PT

Those bolts will probably not be there after this weekend. The FA team does not "own" a route. I know Clark quite well and will discuss this with him but he does not have the last word. Suicide routes will not get "dumbed" down or "safer" by adding bolts while I'm still breathing.

I think sometimes people see too many issues as black and white. Clark replaces and adjusts a few routes for the betterment of the community - Sword of Damoclese and The Flakes are great examples.

Sometimes these issues are less about the reality of the offense and more about the principle. If you don't climb there regularly, I don't think you have much say. Clark is one of the few, if not the most active, local climber. Has been for a long time. I know a lot of locals who live there, who don't get out too much anymore - that's all good, life has it's changes. I just think it is odd where the pitchforks get got.

There is no slippery slope - deal with each issue. if he asked me in the shop how I felt, I would have agreed (along with Lucas, AKA "the_kid"). Nobody owns Suicide - Clark would be the first to say so. If you add a bolt on Valhalla, that will be a problem.

Again, look at the route and the action, not extrapolate it to El Cap... my .02$. what do I know though, lol
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