Tricksters and Traditionalists

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Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Oct 31, 2005 - 12:25am PT
Tricksters and Traditionalists
A Look at Conflicting Climbing Styles

An excerpt from ASCENT 1984
by Tom Higgins


Climbing #86, October 1984

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 31, 2005 - 12:30am PT
once again, many thanks to Steelmnkey
aldude

climber
Oct 31, 2005 - 03:23am PT
Just to set the record straight,John originally rated the Bachar Yerian 5.11a A1. He included the A1 designation because he used aid in the form of skyhooks to place the bolts - a big no-no in Tuolumne at the time. He called it a mixed route and later proposed a letter grade prefix denoting first ascent style. M was for mixed,S was for sport - meaning top down inspection or rappel placed bolts and/or gear and no prefix for a pure ground up affair where the protection or rope were never weighted. This may seem laughable today but there was a time when boldness and style,especially on the all important first ascent,was paramount!
A Dzzl

Trad climber
Praha, Czech Republic
Oct 31, 2005 - 04:37am PT
If the first pitch of the BY is 11a then I am a monkey's uncle.

I think the designation of style was a fine idea, and the author of the above article has a good point about making the style known. For example, if you didn't know that some bolts at sandstone areas here in the CZ were placed on shoulder stands- and you tried to free these routes, thinking they were just bold because they were done so long ago, you could be in a very dangerous position. It would be obvious when you were climbing, but some climbs are such that you could be 15m up with no pro before it is evident.
A Dzzl

Trad climber
Praha, Czech Republic
Oct 31, 2005 - 04:37am PT
If the first pitch of the BY is 11a then I am a monkey's uncle.

I think the designation of style was a fine idea, and the author of the above article has a good point about making the style known. For example, if you didn't know that some bolts at sandstone areas here in the CZ were placed on shoulder stands- and you tried to free these routes, thinking they were just bold because they were done so long ago, you could be in a very dangerous position. It would be obvious when you were climbing, but some climbs are such that you could be 15m up with no pro before it is evident.
James

Social climber
My Subconcious
Oct 31, 2005 - 01:00pm PT

One of the best guidebooks written is the Pinnacle National Monuments guide by David Rubine. It contains highly detailed climbing information. On a route like Mechanic's Delight, a bolt ladder/free climb, Rubine has included exact information.

FA (prusik): Unknown, before 1955. FA (base): Jeff Foott, Steve Roper, 10/60. FFA: Barry Bates, Dave Hampton, 12/70. Bolts: 1/4" and 3/8" Star Dryvin on the ladder.

Rubine, David. "Climber's Guide to Pinnacles Naional Monument" 1995. Globe Pequot Press.

To have all this exact information at your disposal is difficult and time-consuming. It is necessary though to climb in good style. Being provided with this information helps keep the "tricksters" honest.
TradIsGood

Trad climber
Gunks end of country
Oct 31, 2005 - 01:17pm PT
Tricksters and Traditionalists
A Look at Conflicting Climbing Styles

An excerpt from ASCENT 1984

So glad you only excerpted this. LOL.
Usually I like your little gems.
Jaybro

Social climber
The West
Oct 31, 2005 - 05:04pm PT
Though it touches on a lot of pertinent stuff, I don't think this was one of Mr Higgins best.

Too bad this excerpt doesn't include the photos of perepetrators of alleged styles, as defined, that were included in the origianl text.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
one pass away from the big ditch
Oct 31, 2005 - 06:23pm PT
Yes, pics of the "Wanted" desperados. Post em.



somehow I know Ouch! is going to give us what we all want instead. :)
Nate D

Trad climber
San Francisco
Oct 31, 2005 - 08:02pm PT
I'm in agreement with James on the very comprehensive Pinnacles guide. Details galore. Most, I imagine, could care less, but I think it's nice to have all the info.
Jeremy Handren

climber
NV
Oct 31, 2005 - 09:40pm PT
This was a bad article when it was written and is just as bad today. Basically it unnaturally divides first ascent styles into two camps, free on the lead and everything else, good and evil. Easy for a granite slab climber to be so sanctimonious, dealing with low angle naturally clean rock, but for the New England climber dealing with fields of thick lichen and munge, or climbers from Utah and Colorado battling up tottering rockies limestone the situation was not so cut and dry. This article was written in 1984, and Higgens simply didn't seem to understand that climbing was changing, routes were getting much harder and bolder and even the range of media that were considered appropriate for climbing was becoming much more diverse. Climbers were living in an new era, but Higgins didn't understand that setting off up an overhanging potentially protectionless face in the Gunks or North Wales or Montserrat is a totaly differant proposition from some amorphous, climb anywhere granite slab. Furthermore the statement that prior to 1970 all routes were climbed in his so called traditional style is completely ridiculous, as is the notion that there is a shortage of rock available for first ascentionists to apply their trade. Basically when I read the article in 1984 I thought it was parochial in the extreme and displayed a deep lack of appreciation for what was going on in the broader climbing world at the time. The truth of the matter is that, a rappel inspection, a scary hang on a hook to drill a bolt, a quick hangdog, are techniques that allowed guys like Fawcett, Bacher, Yaniro and Berhault to take the climbing world by storm in the early 1980's producing routes that remain benchmarks for difficulty and boldness to this day.
Largo

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Oct 31, 2005 - 10:02pm PT
Jeremy wrote: "This article was written in 1984, and Higgens simply didn't seem to understand that climbing was changing, routes were getting much harder and bolder and even the range of media that were considered appropriate for climbing was becoming much more diverse."

Right on all counts but the "boldness" comment. On the main, the serious 2005 climber faces less risk than he or she did 30 years ago. And BTW, Higgins was a pretty good wide crack climber as well. He didn't just fiddle about on slabs. And some of the routes he did 40+ years ago, at Tahquitz, in old hard-soled shoes, still turn people away.

JL
Jeremy Handren

climber
NV
Oct 31, 2005 - 10:43pm PT
I beg to differ Largo, routes such as Masters Edge, The Bells The Bells, or how about your old girlfriends Yellow Crack direct were extremely dangerous climbs with hard moves on steep rock ( with the pump building). I think that the routes of this period represented a high point for really bold climbing. ( Jerry Moffat said as much in several differant interviews), I know myself that the advent of sport climbing was such a relief because climbing just seemed to be getting more and more terrifying when you were pushing boldness as well as difficulty. However in some ways I take your point that thrashing up an off width in stiff soled shoes with a rack of bongs is just as much an excercise in fear. Pete Livesey once said that on british faces you got scared because you never knew what was coming up, but on Yosemite cracks you got scared because you knew exactly what was coming up. And remember we're talking about the early eighties here.
Largo

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Oct 31, 2005 - 11:47pm PT
Actually, Jeremy, I was talking about everything before the clip and go revolution, including the early 80s. The most perilous time in Yosemite was in the early 70s, before the polycentric (only the true hexes back then). Pitons were ruled out and the nuts of that few years were really bad. Some cracks had almost no bomber pro, the same ones you can totally stitch today. And climbing on Middle was grim as well in those old shoes. The difficulty wasn't high but the penalties for a mistake were dire.

JL
golsen

Social climber
kennewick, wa
Nov 1, 2005 - 10:52am PT
I agree that this may not have been Mr. Higgins finest writing. However, this article has been cited for the route of the word traditionalist now used in our sport. If true, then this article is much more important than anyone thought. Personally, these types of writings are now few and far between because few limit themselves to "traditional" as Tom wrote.

I cringe when people ask me if I trad climb. Why? For one it shows my age, and two, the word trad often times leaves out all bolted climbs, including the ones that were done in Tuolumne that Tom wrote about. I have heard many old school slab routes called sport, including Quartz Mtn OK, Dorsal Fin in LCC, Utah, etc.

I agree that in the late 70,s to early 80's, boldness was perhaps the KEY component to many routes of the day. At least it was that way in Utah...
Jeremy Handren

climber
NV
Nov 1, 2005 - 11:14am PT
I understand your point about danger, its the difference between driving around the Red Rocks loop in a Porsche at 140 mph, or tearing around in my old 92 Ford Festiva at 65, both are equaly dodgy. Nevertheless if you give me the option of thrashing up crack of Doom in my vibrams, or trying Masters wall on Cloggy with a rappel inspection, I know which one I'd choose.
Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
Nov 1, 2005 - 11:23am PT
Tom Higgins once wrote:

"In an article on face-climbing styles and standards in the 1982 American Alpine Journal, Bruce Morris reports that many climbers in Tuolumne now subscribe to 'the construction of a line of technical difficulty at almost any price.' He quotes 'notorious local Claude Fiddler,' who asks, 'How can a route be worthwhile unless 'questionable methods' were employed on its first ascent?'"

Please forgive me Claude! I was only kidding. T. Higgins was such a humorless guy he never realized that I meant the comment ironically. Vern & Claude have certainly done some hideous run-outs that would even make Mr. Higgins squirm.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 1, 2005 - 12:02pm PT
I don't think that Higgins and others are demanding boldness...

what they are demanding is an honesty in reporting what we climb, simple integrity. If we FA a route and bolt on hooks, I think they would say that we should mention this, as opposed to doing it ground up, on stance. Similarly, if we hangdog, rehearse, alter the rock , etc., etc., then we should fess up.

I think that is all they are saying. We should have a standard of climbing, and then report how close we adhere to it when we talk about accomplishments.

Simple.
WBraun

climber
Nov 1, 2005 - 12:13pm PT
Nice Dingus, I agree to a lot of what you're trying to say especially the one about boldness.
G_Gnome

Trad climber
Ca
Nov 1, 2005 - 05:37pm PT
I always put routes up in such a way that I would not be afraid to repeat them and that others would also enjoy my routes. As such they are generally quite popular. On the other hand, I also used to enjoy doing routes that were a bit *sportier* and always appreciated that some people were putting these up. Now that I have come to an understanding of my own personal fragility that comes from long heal times as I age, I enjoy more bolts not less. And yes, it seems everyone else does too, as Dingus has so well stated.
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