Super Chicken on Medlicott : add bolts to third pitch?


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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.

Gym climber
the secret topout on the Chockstone Chimney
Jul 9, 2012 - 11:51am PT
Ed, this is the internet. Informed opinions are not welcome here.

Trad climber
Bolinas, CA
Jul 10, 2012 - 04:17am PT
Ed...Very interested in the thread about where the FFA rights end and the community takes over. Hope you can find it. Sounds interesting. Thanks for the TR up the Chicken. I had similar thoughts along what Paola said as well and how it related to what ontheedgeandscaredtodeath said. There were but a handful doing their thing at that time and place, unknown and obscure. And as ED says, history and intention are important. I also gather from your input Ed that you do care what happens to these routes, even after you've done them. As you point out, Super Chicken is not unique in having run out, unprotected pitches at the top nor are those pitches ones (perhaps the "community") want to seem to climb. In any case, other climbs have been retro bolted to make them safer with FA consent and there doesn't seem to be a rush to do the same on other climbs as some fear, especially on pitches not regarded as "classic". Most "classic" climbs are fiercely protected and it is rare (although unfortunate cases like Poker Face in the valley are there)to have retro bolts placed on them without comment from the "community". And as to raymond phule's and others comment about not being impressed about 5.12-5.13 climbers running out 5.7's Your modern day point of reference doesn't apply. If you talk to those FAist's they didn't think of themselves as 12 or 13 climbers simply because those ratings didn't exist. They were the ones who created the base line and reference point. You'd be hard pressed to find most of those 70's and into the 80's slab climbs rated any harder then 11.c. And in talking to some of the FAists, they seem to concur that run-outs were, for the most part, done out of convenience more then ego or worrying about future generations. Of course some started to sand bag and climb for the ego, but only after the initial reference was set from which to sand bag from. Regardless of style, as Ed said, history and intent are important to maintain for reasoned debate and discussion. At any rate, I don't think adding a bolt to Super Chicken is going to cause a rush to change the face of those old, bold slab climbs in Tuolumne, especially when you factor in those keepers of the flame. The rogues who don't really care about the consensus of the "community"

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Jul 10, 2012 - 08:08am PT
+1 for Hartouni!!!!!!!!!

I knew if more would just go climb the thing, they'd get it.
Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 10, 2012 - 11:01am PT
Well done, Ed! Great to get a perspective from the sharp end.

Your account perfectly illustrates what is sacrificed when we eliminate risk from the climbing game. I doubt you would have scared your partner with that exuberant yelp when you reached the belay, if there had there been a string of bolts on that pitch. As Grossman puts it, there is a “deeper game” available to those who desire to play it (even at relatively easy levels of difficulty). This opportunity to engage in this game seems to have value for our community.

As I mentioned up thread, the no anchor belay incident that Jim referred to probably occurred higher, near the top of the crag, and on much easier terrain. I do seem to recall placing the bolts at the top of the third pitch and there is no other explanation for how the original quarter inch bolts got there.

You may have missed it, but I cast my vote on the retro-bolting issue up thread and hope the pitch will be left as is. Your opinion on this is in accord with mine.

By the way, did you take the far left option on the first pitch? I don’t remember any loose rock on that when I was up there last summer.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jul 10, 2012 - 11:42am PT
Rick, I missed your post since at some point I had hatched the plan to "just go and do it" before posting anymore.

Having that pitch correctly rated "5.7X" should inform anyone who would go up there that the protection is absent, though tying off some knobs is a possibility, the real business up high is unprotectable.

Sometimes I'm a weenie and sometimes I'm a hero, and in my old age I'm well served by recognizing which of these two climbers I am on a certain day... the fraction of time spent as a weenie has been going up, but there are moments....

The "inner game" of climbing has always been the bigger game for me, certainly strength, training, etc, all play their part, but when one is mentally strong it seems that physical difficulties are overcome. That's the way it is with me... so climbing p3 of Super Chicken was one of assessing my mental "strength" on that day. And it was fun after the fact, during the act of climbing one just has to lock the concentration in and climb as if you could not fall.

My guess is that few will want to go up there and experience p3 because of the "X" but those who do will have a unique experience, and even understand a bit of what you experienced the first time...

...and though that pitch is now well documented, it might be harder for a current leader to go up and climb it than you faced on the FA, since you had the option to stop and put in a bolt if you wanted. The contemporary leader has no such option... and knows of the runout.

While it is hard to predict what the consequences of a fall would be, the 3 bolt anchor at the top of p2 is bomber, and the pitch length of 100' would give you about a 240 foot fall, with 40% stretch, you wouldn't hit the ground but you'd be pretty banged up... not something that is really an option. You wouldn't pull your buddy off the anchor either, it would likely be a soft force factor 2 fall.

All the same, it was a very fulfilling pitch, there is no doubt had there been bolts on the pitch I would have clipped them, it is what we do, limiting risk wherever we can. On that pitch as it is now, the way to limit risk is to be totally solid, and just go for it. The difficulty isn't the technical rating, it's the mental rating... for which we have no metric.


A friends backyard with the neighbors wifi
Jul 10, 2012 - 12:13pm PT
I have climbed in TM a lot over the past several years, I spent all of the previous two summers living and working up there, it was one of the best experiences of my life.

As climbing becomes more popular it seems that more people want safe and sane moderate routes, I can understand that. Fewer people care about and delve into the history behind what they are climbing. TM is a place where this history is essential to the climbing. Each route is about more than just the climb.

To truely climb in TM you have to understand both the era and they style of climbing. No doubt there was a good deal of chest pounding involved, but beyond that many routes are R-rated because of the nature of the climbing. Have you ever tried to drill in stance on hard slab routes? Can you even climb hard slab routes? If you are trying to put up a big route, it would take forever, destroy you and if you drilled it out to the expectation of many people these days, cost a fortune too.

Routes often have bolts where the FA was able to bolt or felt it necessary. Yes, this also means that some moderate routes are sparsely bolted, but if you know how to slab climb and you have invested the time Ito learning to slab climb, you likely won't find it to be so bad.

Many people, weekend warriors and new comers rush to TM expecting To jump onto the same grades they climb everywhere. Well, good luck doing that in TM, if you don't learn how to climb here, learn the technique required on this type of climbing you might get hurt.

Climbing isn't always as safe as you might want it to be. Put in the time, learn how to climb in TM. Maybe that means it isn't a good place for some weekend warriors or new climbers, tough luck, (there are a lot of weekend warriors that have it mastered though) seek out the routes that are safe and same until you are prepared to venture beyond.

The climbing in TM is a dying art, but there are guys (and gals) out there that are still mastering this incredible form of climbing (Bob J and Mikey S come to mind among others). We work at it over years, slab climbing is like learning to master a dance and when it comes together it is one of the most incredible types of climbing I have ever done or watched. I have invested a lot of time into this specific type of climbing to get good at it, I'm not as good at other types of climbing because of that...

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.

To those people, I would recommend finding the moderates and learning the skill, put the grades aside, if your a gym climber or moderate climber you wouldnt jump on 5.11 crack climbing test pieces, dont think you can do it on slab routes either just because they have bolts and are on a 'face'. maybe you climb 5.12 at the gym, but up there you might not even climb 5.9. Get past the grade ego, learn the art, learn the history, if you don't like it, go elsewhere.

Also, I get frustrated sometimes with the runouts too sometimes, but in the end, it makes me appreciate the masters who came before me even more. If I don't feel 100%, I listen to that intuition and pick my routes accordingly. I get frustrated with the mentality that you should be able to show up at an area and just climb "your" grade right off the bat and if you can't, it should be retro'd.

End of rant against slab hate (one of the most difficult types of climbing out there, exemplified by the microscopic number of people who have mastered it these days, also why Honnold and TC are so damn legendary).

A friends backyard with the neighbors wifi
Jul 10, 2012 - 12:22pm PT
I'm not a pussy, I just got a wife and kids to think about, unlike you reckless dirtbags with nothing to live for.

Byran- that is exactly my above point, I don't think you are a pussy, but have you learned to slab climb? Have you invested the time into it? Could you even go and stance drill on the routes you are arguing should have more bolts? Probably not (not to sound mean, and he'll, maybe you could or maybe you are a master, I appologize if so..)

I have a lot to live for, my friends I climb on these routes with do too. But we have spent time learning the art so that we can go up there and dance the dance, sometimes there is a serious element and a mental game as well. And I love that about the climbing in TM. I you don't like it, seek out routes and locations that offer what you do like. Maybe try hiking.

You must be physically and mentally strong. You have to train body and mind (like a Jedi, oh yeah!)

Jul 10, 2012 - 01:51pm PT
I quote Tyrus Bachar:

"Some people think about all the good things they could have done and feel bad.
I think about all the bad things I could have done and feel good".

tom Carter

Social climber
Jul 10, 2012 - 03:37pm PT
I get to revisit climbing in the Meadows every time I read these posts about Tuolumne. Thanks to all, great memories!

I climbed every summer in the Meadows throughout the 70's. I know those who put up the "test pieces" - at least most of those guys... And yes, there were times when the (FA) leader would be amused at the runouts, loving the freedom of continuous movement, reacting to the rock on his/her own terms.

But I also witnessed deep serious pondering, abject fear and incredible tenacity and fortitude in the face of danger - most of the time prowess and creativity won out. After a summer or three of leading up uncharted rock we all aimed to meet the historic standards, raise the bar and do the best we could on some of the most beautiful rock in the world.

While leading long runout routes most climbers on the sharp end were more affected by the romance, their love of the movement, the stone and the magical place that is Tuolumne than by their egos.

Of course there were exceptions, these often steal the show that is the distinctive undercurrent of Tuolumne's legacy.
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
Nov 15, 2013 - 11:08pm PT
To bolt or not to be
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