Super Chicken on Medlicott : add bolts to third pitch?


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Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jun 20, 2012 - 01:15pm PT
young guys become old guys, with a little luck...

style debates might not seem very relevant... but taken as a true debate, they help to review history, intention and temperament, and lead to acceptable solutions to community issues

the FA/FFA team are a part of that community, the community has grown, expanded and diversified over time and some of these debates are worth engaging in

there was a thread (I'll try to find it later) about when the FA/FFA "rights" end and the community becomes the determining factor in route modification, obviously routes pass into "public domain" at some point, popular routes do this earlier than obscure routes, most people don't have a strong opinion about Super Chicken because they haven't done it

as some point, the community opinion may outweigh the FA/FFA team opinion

my feeling is that we leave it as it is.

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Jun 20, 2012 - 01:17pm PT
jaaan, for the anger from me whatsoever. I appreciate the opinions opined here.

I certainly have mine.

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Jun 20, 2012 - 01:29pm PT
I refer to my first two posts on this thread....

I just returned from the Valley a few hours ago with Flanders. As we were heading out, passing below the Captain, I commented about the spirit of the Valley, that I know ALL of us feel.

I mentioned (and Doug agreed) that one of the privildges of climbing there is to know the history, and be able to pass over the same stone that the giants of our sport had done all those years ago, on FA'S.

In talking with many of today's generation of climbers, I am amazed at how few of them have any clue as to the history of the routes and styles many of us have grown to hold dear. If these youngs guns are not willing to read about it, the only way they will experience a glimpse of what we grew up with, is to climb those lines the way they were put up in the first place.

The flavor of routes in the Valley and the Meadows is, IMHO, what makes these places precious. Climbing in the bootprints of those we revere allows us to honor them all the more, and, perhaps, get a glimpse into the pulse and adrenaline flow that might have been coursing through them all those years ago.

For us, and for the history of our great sport, please let these classics stand for all their original form.


What makes a climber accomplished is good decision making. The mindset of 'go or no-go'.

There are climbs out there that are NOT for everyone. To bolt climbs so that EVERY climber out there can get on it, is to re-write Shakespeare so that EVERYONE can understand it.

Leaving these routes as they were put up should give climbers whose skills are not ready for it a goal to shoot for, and work up to. I recall hiking to the base of The Vampire MANY times in the 70's, only to realize that my skills needed work before launching. When I finally did the route in 79, I had the mindset and skills in place, and fired the thing.

And this discussion isn't just about Super Chicken. It's about a precedent that could be ushered in that goes against everything that Tuolumne is about. There are PLENTY of routes in the Meadows that can keep you occupied for a lifetime, without the risks that are inherent on Super Chicken. Play on those, and work your way up to the skills of the mind required on the 3rd pitch of SC. Or not. It may just be that this not for you. And you know what? That's ok. The world will still turn, the sun will still rise.

It's only a climbing route. Life will go on for you.

Just make good decisions. It has been said: "There are old climbers, and there are bold climbers, but there are very few old, bold climbers."
the Fet

Jun 20, 2012 - 02:01pm PT
I still think the 'rule' that the FA decides the nature of the route is the baseline and a good one at that.

I think there is a little controversy in Tuolumne due to the era in which many of the climbs were put up. You have some of the best climbers in the world, honed in Yosemite Valley, putting up routes on moderate lines with cruxes below their ability so there are more run out climbs than in many other places. It's part of what makes Tuolumne climbing special, but it also means there are a higher percentage of routes that appeal to a limited number of climbers.

From the 1992 Falcon guide I have about:

26 climbs no rating
1 G rated
33 PG
17 PG/R
37 R
6 R/X
8 X

There are a limited number of climbs. And there are lots of climbers. So you do see crowds on popular, well protected climbs, and few ascents on many run out climbs.

Again I go back to the FA prerogative rule. If it was my FA I would probably add a few bolts:
*I think there are plenty of run out climbs in Tuolumne and not enough well protected moderates
*I would want to maximize the star rating for the climb
*I would want the last pitch to follow the character of the rest of the climb. I think run outs should typically occur on terrain about 3 or 4 number grades lower than the crux, so for example a 5.9 climb has 5.6 runouts

*Shagedelic is nearby and it's similar and has more protection
*As mentioned Tuolumne's history is run out climbs
*You lose that challenge for people that want that testpiece

I think an argument can be made either way, but it's Rick's decision and I'm happy he thought it through and asked for input.
Todd Townsend

Social climber
Bishop, CA
Jun 20, 2012 - 03:00pm PT
There's been a lot of debate about keeping the route within the character of the meadows. Here's an honest question: How many routes in Tuolumne have entire pitches with absolutely no pro at only 2 grades below the crux pitch?

Having recently climbed South Crack I'd agree that it's an all time classic, in part because of the runout 4th pitch. How classic would it be if that pitch wasn't relatively short (90 ft) and didn't have pro halfway through? Would it still be as great a climb if the majority of climbers rapped off at the end of the crack?

(edited for spelling and clarity)

Trad climber
Jun 20, 2012 - 04:47pm PT
Having recently climbed South Crack I'd agree that it's an all time classic, in part because of the runout 4th pitch. How classic would it be if that pitch wasn't relatively short (90 ft) and didn't have the pro halfway through? Would it still be as great a climb if the majority of clibmers rapped off at the end of the crack?

The last pitch of south crack is just part of the decent. Wandering around on 5.4 terrain does nothing to improve the climb. It's the same basic thing as the top of travelers buttress and the other main wall climbs at the leap.

If there were a bolt up there somewhere I probably wouldn't even find it, I seem to take a different path to the top every time a climb deteriorates into steep hiking.
Todd Townsend

Social climber
Bishop, CA
Jun 20, 2012 - 07:54pm PT
It sounds like you're thinking of a different pitch than I am. I mean the 5.7R pitch where you cut left at the top of the crack and end up in the scoop belay. From there, there's still 2 more pitches to the top.
The user formerly known as stzzo

Sneaking up behind you
Jun 20, 2012 - 08:21pm PT
^^ By my calculations, that's the 3rd "regular" pitch.

For me, it's the second pitch.

Trad climber
Jun 20, 2012 - 09:28pm PT
Your choice. It is your route.

BITD as a weekend warrior, on a low gravity day I could thrutch my way up routes in the low 10s, but mostly led 8s and 9s. I had an issue with the hardmen running it out on the easier grades because it was so far below their skill level. Such were the ethics of the day and I had neither the skill or cajones to take the risk. I could deal with moderate R climbs but stayed away from the Xs and hard Rs. I missed some really nice climbing due to the FA team's climbing below their grade and not puting in some pro for lesser climbers.

In my mind test pieces should remain pure, but for moderate grade, high quality routes that are just fun stuff and have sweet climbing, what is the harm? That said, I definitely am in the camp that retro bolting should only be done by the FA party or with their consent.

Merced, CA
Jun 20, 2012 - 10:06pm PT
I don't understand the argument for adding just a bolt or two, to make it R instead of R/X. What's the difference between a 50ft runout and a 100ft runout? When you're feeling shaky up there on those crumbling knobs are you really going to look down and think "ah, it's cool, I got a bolt 40ft below me"...?

Bolts every six, no five, every five feet! I'm not a pussy, I just got a wife and kids to think about, unlike you reckless dirtbags with nothing to live for.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jun 20, 2012 - 10:31pm PT
Harlequin Route 5.7

last pitch, 5.6, is runout for ever... I ended up sitting in a divot giving a hip belay on top... sounds familiar...

you wouldn't want to fall leading that last pitch, but you're probably not going to

of course, it probably isn't a route for a new 5.7 leader, either... but that leader will figure that out on the first pitch, second at most... and rap off

Jun 20, 2012 - 10:33pm PT
you are lawyering with yourself...does quantity stroke your ego, or does quality?
Perhaps, letting go of your professional training will allow you to follow your heart.
Much love


Mountain climber
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Jun 21, 2012 - 01:21am PT
From the 1992 Falcon guide I have about:

26 climbs no rating
1 G rated
33 PG
17 PG/R
37 R
6 R/X
8 X

Wow, the 2006 Falcon is quite an upgrade. It has close to 950 routes by my (somewhat hasty) count.

Ever since I got this guidebook I've wanted to calculate the percentage of R rated climbs that are in it... Well that time has come. Did it this evening.

Here is the short version and it is according to a rather hasty review and a few things need to be taken into consideration....

1. I did not separate out PG/R and R/X, a rating was rounded up, so a PG/R was counted as an R and an R/X is an X. If you were to break these down into the actual individual ratings, it would be skewed a bit more towards the PG end.

2. A handful of areas were not included, mostly "alpine" areas like the stuff past Tioga Pass and Cathedral and Tenaya Peaks proper. What I think this discussion is centered on is the beautiful domes that run basically from Olmstead Point to Lembert Dome.

3. All protection ratings were taken from Rock Climbing Tuolumne Meadows, Reid-Faulkenstein 4th ed, 2006

947 routes

TR = 10 routes = <1%
Other* = 90 routes = 10%
PG = 326 routes = 34%
R = 403 routes = 43%
X = 118 routes = 12%

*Other typically represents routes that were not given a PG, R or X rating with a few aid lines included

Formatting got screwed but if you want the table, let me know...

#Routes TR Other PG R X
Coyote Rocks 6 6
Roadrunner Rock 6 5 1
Moya Wall 4 4
DeGaulle's Nose 4 1 3
Olmstead Cyn. L 4 2 2
Olmstead Cyn. R 25 4 18 3
Osprey Overhang 4 4
Murphy Creek 16 3 4 7 2
Stately Pleas. 58 1 6 10 35 6
Harlequin Dome 12 8 4
Guppie Wall 6 6
The Shark 8 1 2 5
Mtr's Dome 21 1 3 15 2
Circle A Wall 7 3 2 2
Bunny Slopes 12 2 5 5
The Block Area 13 1 5 5 2
Phobos/Demos 18 2 10 6
The Arena 8 1 7
Low Profile D. 22 1 7 9 5
S. Whizz Dome 13 6 1 6
N. Whizz Dome 13 2 5 4 2
Hammer Dome 23 2 5 13 3
River Wall 6 6
Lava Dome 5 2 1 2
Alcatraz Rock 1 1
Dark Side Dome 12 1 4 5 2
Dome Perignon 8 4 4
Doda Dome 2 1 1
Micro Dome 3 3
Cowabunga 8 3 5
Western Front 6 5 1
Daff Dome 41 3 7 27 4
W. Cottage Dome 5 1 3 1
C. Cottage Dome 13 9 4
E. Cottage Dome 9 2 6 1
E. Cott - WF 15 1 7 4 3
E. Cott - NW 7 2 5
Pothole Dome 1 1
Canopy World 17 1 11 4 1
Twin Bridges 58 2 2 38 16
Lembert - NWF 16 7 9
Lembert - WF 14 8 6
Lembert - EW 27 4 11 12
Dog Dome 4 4
Puppy Dome 4 3 1
Marmot Dome 7 1 5 1
Razor Back 3 3
Whale's Back 13 2 7 4
Fairview Dome 42 1 3 27 11
Lamb Dome 30 6 20 4
Drug Dome 14 4 3 7
Mariuolumne D. 25 4 11 10
Lost Wall 8 1 4 3
Islands (Med.) 11 1 6 2 2
Medlicott - SF 5 3 2
Med. - N. End 16 2 6 6 2
Med. - Middle 33 2 9 15 7
Med. West 33 3 20 9 1
Med. Far West 10 1 3 6
Sticks & Stones 6 3 3
Virgin Dome 4 1 3
W. Farthing W. 11 11
Dozier Dome 19 3 7 6 3
Pwiack Dome 30 1 8 15 6
Pennyroyal HW 3 3
Tenaya Pk Walls 10 2 7 1
Skyline/Power 12 11 1
Guns/Prctology 2 2
Dike Dome 15 3 11 1

**Totals 947 10 90 326 403 118
Percentage 1% 10% 34% 43% 12%**

gonzo chemist

Fort Collins, CO
Jun 21, 2012 - 01:32am PT
I'm super tempted to go do this route after all this debate. Ultra classic crack pitch and super runnout moderate knob-climbing? sounds great! Not sure when I'll be in TM next; but this is now on my list. Bolts or no bolts....I'm climbing that damn pitch.

Santa Barbara, CA
Jun 21, 2012 - 01:33am PT
Wow, 55% are R or X rated. Geez. Those guys were badass.
Todd Townsend

Social climber
Bishop, CA
Jun 21, 2012 - 02:22am PT
^^ By my calculations, that's the 3rd "regular" pitch.

For me, it's the second pitch.

I was just going by the Supertopo pitch count. We actually ran together Supertopo pitches 2 and 3, so it was our pitch 3. YMMV.

It doesn't really matter what number pitch it is, I just think it's a similar kind of route with well protected crack climbing followed by runout face climbing. I kind of doubt that it would have the same classic status if there were no pro at all on that pitch. In fact, my guess is that the alternate Supertopo finish would become the standard finish, which would be too bad because that and the following pitches have great climbing.

Trad climber
San Francisco, Ca
Jun 21, 2012 - 02:38am PT
Reality is that a very small, skilled, local and slab loving population who were extremely comfortable on a type of climbing that lends itself to runouts is being replaced by a relatively large number of weekend climbers who don't understand the point of risking their lives on a pitch of 5.7.

The existing well protected moderates in TM are insanely over impacted. I don't care either way, and don't really give a sh#t about slab climbing in general, but those that care about preserving history should look at how a hard line, no tolerance for change stance has worked out elsewhere.
raymond phule

Jun 21, 2012 - 02:40am PT

Wow, 55% are R or X rated. Geez. Those guys were badass.

They where probably badass but 5.12-5.13 climbers running it out on 5.7-5.9 do not need to be that impressive.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jul 9, 2012 - 12:28am PT
went up today and did the third pitch... figured I needed an informed opinion...

I lead the first pitch to the start of the crack... be careful going up as there are a number of loose blocks there, one quite loose and dangerous for the belayer (and the rope).

Gary got the fantastic second pitch, this is a great crack, I think the best so far in Tuolumne that I've climbed. Fun moves and I didn't think it was a very difficult 5.9 at all.

Then I got the third pitch. I worked up directly above the belay on some "steps" then headed left to scout it out. A sea of knobs went up and sort of over to the arete that drops off on the west (climber's right) side.

Looked good so I went for it. I got a knob tie off, and probably could have gotten another (though more questionable as it was more like a blade, might have broken, might have cut the sling)

The knobs directed me towards the exposed side of the wall, but they kept on coming. At some point they become scarce and you've got to pull a 5.7 slab move or two to head up to the bolted belay station.

I got there and let out a yelp that apparently scared Gary as his new 70 m rope was not out half way... which was the length given in the SuperTopo... 130 ft. Actually, the pitch seems slightly more than 100 ft.

Here is an image of Gary not quite 10' out from the belay.

The pitch was very manageable, you don't want to fall and certainly a 5.7 leader wouldn't be able to keep it together what with the exposure and all.

We elected to rap off and climb something else.... the continuation pitches didn't look all that compelling, and we did what we had wanted to do on this route.

My recommendation is to leave it as it is. The upper pitches are not as classic as the 2nd, so it's not like people are missing out on a 5 or 6 pitch climb because they don't want to do the 3rd pitch.

There are a lot of other climbs that gain this particular summit without X rated pitches, so it's not like you can't find a good route to the top.

Finally, you can completely see Ricky's thinking on this, why he didn't stop to put a bolt in... you are just out there climbing...
...that feeling is worth keeping it as it is.

The part about not putting bolts in for a belay anchor is also quite real when you get up to the bolts, if you learned to belay from a stance. There is both a place to put your butt (on a lower angle slab section above a dike) and a great nob for both feet to be on. Given the low angle of the pitch, the forces of holding a fall would be minimal for most of the pitch, becoming more difficult as the rope distance shortened. Given the time (1974) and the experience of the climbers, I wouldn't count it as out of the question that this was the decision. On the other hand the thought of being roped together with no anchors in that particular setting makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up... perhaps back then it wouldn't have.

Of course, now that I've done it, I don't really care what the final decision is...

El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
Jul 9, 2012 - 12:47am PT
Way to go Ed.
I like your perspective, and first hand no less.
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