Wings of Steel Part III

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madbolter1

Big Wall climber
Walla Walla, WA
Apr 27, 2006 - 04:52pm PT
Wellll... even without the original topo, we do know the hole count. As it says in the back of the book, there were 165 holes to do the route, including both starts AND the bat hook holes on the 13th pitch across to Aquarian.

"The deal" with the two starts is pretty simple. We originally did a much harder start to the route, choosing that rather than the second start (what we called "bogus" start) because we wanted to see from the ground up if the route would have enough hookable flakes to be viable (all this is explained in the book, btw). We found that the route was viable, but then that start was chopped. At that point we went up the much easier "bogus" start to reach our second anchor again, finished the route, and then ascended the "bogus" start again to rap-replace the original pitches as they were before the chopping.

I must say that I enjoy the irony of the fact that now some of the same people who originally complained that the route was a "bolt ladder" are now complaining that BECAUSE we didn't enhance the hooks ENOUGH, they won't know if they are still on route!

However, in fact, there are certainly enough rivets and bolts to keep you on route. Just use the best flakes you can find, climbing in more or less straight up fashion between the rivets and bolts.

Perhaps the problem here is that because the tendency on the FA of the famous "hooking" routes is to drill full-on holes anywhere in the vicinity of a flake or bulge, and then call that a "hook" placement, the fact that our FEW enhancements are not circled with magic marker makes our route not a climb-by-the-numbers route. There are a lot of flakes up there, so you can choose the ones that seem best to you! It seems now more like people are asking us to point out to them WHICH flakes actually held us, so that they can avoid the untested ones!

I might add that Slater seemed to have no trouble "finding his way" up to the fifth anchor. So, this whole debate about our "enhancements" seems to be a tempest in a teapot. If you want to count our "enhancements" as "holes," well fine. If you can find them, go ahead and count them. There are a few, and I mean a FEW, so if that ups the "hole count" enough to invalidate the route in your mind, well ok.

The flakes are there, and it's up to the climbers to decide upon which ones they want to use. If all the flakes pull off in a some sections, then new holes will have to be added. So be it. But, there should be at least one tasty fall for each new hole. Right?

As I've said, the debate about whether or not this route is "repeatable" in "good style" is quite ironic, because it appears that the critics now have the OPPOSITE thing to complain about than they did before. I mean, after all, a "bolt ladder" is eminently "repeatable."

It seems that some people will think that the route is invalid for SOME reason, no matter what, even if the current reason is the opposite of whatever their original reason might be. Oh well.

As far as the ethical discussion Fet and I had just started, I will post again later today. I've gotta run right now, and that discussion is worthy of more attention.
madbolter1

Big Wall climber
Walla Walla, WA
Apr 27, 2006 - 06:38pm PT
Now to an ethical discussion....

I agree, Fet, that in some sense repeatable seems to be more valuable. The problem is that there is an extreme tension between conflicting values. On the one hand, as I noted in my last post, the most repeatable route is a bolt ladder; yet such a "route" has effectively NO value as a "climbing" route. One might as well just lean a giant wooden ladder against the rock, because one is not really climbing the rock at all. Such "climbing" seems more like "hiking." (This point is related to the idea that difficulty and risk are also associated with value in climbing.)

On the other hand, the most difficult routes (all other things being equal, the more respectable and valuable routes) just are those that use incipient, marginal features of the rock. Such features break down, peel off, are beaten out over time, and thus generally quickly change. Thus, holes are added, and the character of the route changes.

This tendency has been observed on every hard big wall, from P.O. Wall on (and I'm sure from before P.O.).

So, I wonder what the connection actually is between value and repeatability. "Value" is a very slippery concept anyway, since it relies upon subjective perceptions of the "Good," which is an even more slippery concept. But that's speaking as though we're after some objectively valid definition, when really we're just after consensus.

Maybe the idea here is that a route has to be repeatable by at least a few qualified parties, in style closely-approximating that of the FA party, before the route breaks down enough to force stylistic changes.

Of course, then the problem becomes: what counts as enough parties, and what counts as qualified? Since WoS seems to be less "repeatable" than many routes, it acts as a good example of this problem. Obviously, no matter how otherwise qualified a person is, if he weighs 200+ pounds, he is going to change the character of the route, simply because he weighs too much to hook most of those flakes without peeling them off. So, must a route be "repeatable" to an 800 pound person in order to count as repeatable?

Ahh... the "average" climber. I say again, a 200 pound person should stay off of WoS. Probably a 180 pound person should too. Someone weighing 120 pounds is going to have a much easier time of it! But now we're talking about characteristics of PEOPLE rather than of routes, it seems to me. And it's simply not the case that every person (given their particular physical characteristics) should be able to climb every route.

An example I remember from the old days is this. The story was that John Long did the FFA of the Paisano (spelling?) overhang at Suicide Rock in SoCal (a wide crack through a roof) by wrapping his fists with duct tape until they were wide enough to fist-jam the crack. Now, regardless of whether or not the story is true, it illustrates the point that a small person with narrow fists is going to have a much harder time with that route, or find it impossible (no matter his wonderous off-width tactics). Wrapping one's fists with enough tape to fill the crack seems to me like a form of direct aid, so maybe the FFA wasn't really "free" after all. Is the Paisano overhang really "repeatable" as a free climb, when only people with the right sort of physical characteristics have a decent chance at the thing?

The point is that characteristics of people have ever affected the perceived value of various routes.

I think that there is a continuum of repeatability, ranging from a bolt ladder to a route consisting only of microflakes hookable by somebody weighing 65 pounds or less (or 30 pounds, or wherever your threshold of the absurd is). Obviously, the closer to the microflake end of the continuum your route is, the less valuable it's going to seem to most people (all the people that weigh more than 65 pounds, for example). Does that mean that there is a parallel (and hopefully related) continuum of value? If so, the big question in my mind is: what is the nature of the connection between the two continuums? The answer to that question is going to have to deal with the other point about difficulty and risk, which I why I'm inclined to think that "climbing" is ABOUT difficulty and risk; otherwise it would be "hiking" or "gymnastics" (which is not to denigrate either of those, btw).
Russ Walling

Social climber
Same place as you, man...... (WB)
Apr 27, 2006 - 07:16pm PT
ummm... your analogy is nice but flawed.

One example is a limit of physics and the other is a limit of ingenuity. A midget could use head stacks on Pisano. A known weight (Pete) on an object of known capable load (flake) will never succeed unless you either lighten the load or make the flake stronger.
madbolter1

Big Wall climber
Walla Walla, WA
Apr 27, 2006 - 08:08pm PT
Hmmm... I don't think my analogy falls that easily. I agree that one appears to be an ingenuity limitation, but actually both are physical problems. In the one, the climber must fill a space; in the other the climber must not weigh too much. Ingenuity can solve both problems... but within the limits of style?

Your claim that a midget could use a head stack seems to me to miss the point. The point is that crack can be just the size that a person can't effectively fill it with just his body parts (too small for a head jam, too wide for a fist, etc.). Now, sure, by some means any crack can be free-climbed, but at what rating and in what style? Is the route the same rating (or style, for that matter) for a guy who fist-jams it, compared to the midget who head-jams it? Are both going to VALUE the route the same way? The issue is, after all, about perceived value, which it has been said is a function of repeatability (by some means).

The weight problem can be solved in essentially the same way as taping one's fists to be the right size (so as, I assume, to "level the playing field" rating and value-wise). My idea is simple. Let's say that the "repeatable" weight for WoS is determined to be exactly 155 pounds racked. So, you just weigh yourself racked at the base of the climb and then string up and attach to yourself the appropriate number of helium balloons to make your racked weight exactly 155 pounds. Then, you'll be on a "level playing field" with the FA team members and can do the route in relatively the same style (and hopefully the balloons won't spring a leak).

Another alternative, of course, is to, like Christian Bale for the movie The Machinist, simply lose enough weight to climb the route. Isn't that just a matter of ingenuity too?

Whether the physics problem is "filling a space" or "not weighing too much," climbing is just a game of solving physical problems with ingenuity. The issue of how is strictly a matter of style.

So, I don't think my analogy is so flawed after all.

We invent rules of how to play the game, and somehow those rules get inflated to the level of dogma. Is it any more unreasonable to expect a second ascent team to not weigh too much than to expect people wanting to climb the Pisano overhang to have a physical configuration that makes it reasonable for them to do so (without having to resort to... headjams!!!)?
bringmedeath

climber
la la land
Apr 27, 2006 - 08:11pm PT
WHAT THE F*#K
Russ Walling

Social climber
Same place as you, man...... (WB)
Apr 27, 2006 - 08:14pm PT
Sounds like a job *for* the Pisano midget.... with a cheat stick of course!

My 230 with a wall rack is feeling kinda big for this one. Klaus is like 123lbs and Pete looks pretty skinny. I nominate them. I do like the balloon deal-e-o though.
madbolter1

Big Wall climber
Walla Walla, WA
Apr 27, 2006 - 08:21pm PT
Watch the use of ALL-CAPS, there. I hear that people don't like it! :)
Tom

Big Wall climber
San Luis Obispo CA
Apr 27, 2006 - 08:30pm PT
I don't see the problem with saying that a person's physical characteristics are important to determining if they can or can't do a certain climb.

The third FA of the Nose was a long time in coming, wasn't it?

I heard Little Lynnie is just that, rather petite. And that particular physical characteristic was a key (the key?) to freeing the roof pitch. A taller person would not be able to undercling the thing, or whatever.

And I seem to remember that Birdwell wrote that he specifically wanted Largo to lead the first section of the FANID because his meaty hooks fit right into the Stovelegs.

And Layton Kor is tall, and the bolt ladder at the roof on the South Face of the Column is notoriously reachy, and perhaps impossible for the stature-challenged.

And for that matter, what if some spindly couch potato (like me) goes up onto the Nutcracker and can't pull the mantel near the top? Does that mean the route is no good?
aldude

climber
Monument Manor
Apr 27, 2006 - 08:30pm PT
So a cheater stick is a good example of ingenuity? Please keep reply limited to one paragraph... I'm on dialup
Tom

Big Wall climber
San Luis Obispo CA
Apr 27, 2006 - 08:33pm PT
Cheater sticks for aid are great. The whole aid game is cheating, in a sense.

There was a fifteen foot move (reaching up with a hook to a small edge, no less) on Scorched Earth that otherwise would have required a half dozen rivets.

Throwing a rope around a horn is also very nice. I did that on Son of Heart and saved having to pound a few pitons.


EDIT: Ingenuity on WOS might entail using multiple hooks and equalizing them.
WBraun

climber
Apr 27, 2006 - 08:34pm PT
Madbolter said: "One might as well just lean a giant wooden ladder against the rock, because one is not really climbing the rock at all."

When I was in Borneo there was a bamboo ladder that the natives made and it was hundreds of feet high up a wall. Scariest looking thing you ever saw when you envision climbing that ladder with no pro and rope. Scarier than free soloing. Those natives bare feet and no rope or pro, climb that ladder. Yikes!

And you said: "Such "climbing" seems more like "hiking."

Man, I want to see you do that ladder ......... and see you say that line above again.
bringmedeath

climber
la la land
Apr 27, 2006 - 08:36pm PT
Here is what I see...
-13 pitches... topo shows most rivets/bolts on first 9 pitches except the 13th traverse.
-First 9 look to be like 1000 feet or under???
-Probably at least 120 holes in first 9???
-1000 divided by 120=8.3 feet per hole

Now I can drill a hole on a slab pretty far apart... at least 6 feet. So... umm... how many natural placements in first 9 would you say?

madbolter1

Big Wall climber
Walla Walla, WA
Apr 27, 2006 - 08:42pm PT
The answer is simple. I quote the book: "We used 151 hooks to ascend the route. All but five were Leeper narrows. We placed 205 copperheads, most of which were #0, #1, and #2."

Gotta be careful with those averages. Every time we placed two rivets in a row, that adds another natural placement between rivets somewhere else. Yup, there are some rivet ladders. That means there are some long sections of hooking.

Keep in mind also that the hole count includes anchor bolts, the count of which is.... 27 or 28. Also, our pitches were long. We figured right at 1,200 feet of climbing up the slab.

Anyway, if the hole count is being used to suggest a rivet ladder yet again, welll... see the last several hundred posts on these three threads.

Regarding the wooden ladder... point well taken. I was imagining something a bit more, well, substantial. :)
Tom

Big Wall climber
San Luis Obispo CA
Apr 27, 2006 - 08:45pm PT
When I was in Borneo there was a bamboo ladder that the natives made and it was hundreds of feet high up a wall. Scariest looking thing you ever saw when you envision climbing that ladder with no pro and rope. Scarier than free soloing. Those natives bare feet and no rope or pro, climb that ladder. Yikes!


Some cowboy-type did the FA of the Devil's Tower with a ladder made from long wooden pitons/stakes/rungs joined by a vertical rail tied with rope or cord. It was quite the local trade route in its day.


Gotta be careful with those averages.

Exactly. What about subtracting 30-40 right off the bat for the belays?
Elcapinyoazz

Mountain climber
Anchorage, Alaska
Apr 27, 2006 - 08:47pm PT
The damn thing is a contrived piece of swiss cheese. If homeboys are proud of spending an eternity on THE single most contrived POS on the Capt, bully for them. All this wanking is just that. I'm sure there are some difficult and scary hook moves on it, but :

1. It ain't a line, it's a variation.
2. It's absurdly contrived.
3. It was put up at a time when much more natural, compelling lines had yet be done.
4. All the book writing self congratulatory BS for spending half the summer up there is a joke.

Bottom line: I ain't impressed, and will always think it was a bullsh*t, ill advised clownshow by two cats who had the ability to do something great, but squandered it on a steaming pile of dung.

Carry on.
Ammon

Big Wall climber
El Cap
Apr 27, 2006 - 08:48pm PT

OMG!!!


madbolter1

Big Wall climber
Walla Walla, WA
Apr 27, 2006 - 08:49pm PT
Wow! So am I getting this right? Ladders are valuable now too in climbing??? Excellent! Ok, we admit it, now that we can! WoS was all a grand lie! It IS a rivet ladder! So now there's nothing to argue about!!! It IS repeatable, and it IS valid and valuable after all!!! I'm SO excited!

Not
Russ Walling

Social climber
Same place as you, man...... (WB)
Apr 27, 2006 - 08:50pm PT
So Azzz... tell us how you really feel?


{{{{ducking for cover}}}

Ammon: hahahahahaha!!!
Tom

Big Wall climber
San Luis Obispo CA
Apr 27, 2006 - 09:18pm PT
Ladders are valuable now too in climbing

Yes. An aid pitch is a ladder comprising pins, heads, hooks, cams, stoppers and anything else you can get to stick 8-)


My point about the Devil's Tower was just a historical note.

I guess I should mention the steel ladder bolted to the wall near the Royal Arches.


(allow reader to catch breath and recover senses . . . . )


It's in the canyon between the RA and Yosemite Point. Or at least it was there 20 years ago. Maybe someone took it down. As I remember, it was moderate fifth class to bypass it.


Ammon: I stole your cartoon and put it in my computer. Ha-ha.
WBraun

climber
Apr 27, 2006 - 09:22pm PT
That ladder you're talking about Tom was put in by the utility people to access the telephone cable going up Indian Canyon.
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