'Trad' climbing. Or is it?


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Oct 22, 2012 - 04:16pm PT
Recreate the original experience of any point in climbing history by going without guide or topo and with the original equipment


I mean I understand doing it for fun. But BITD they were using state of the art equipment and gathered as much beta as they could before going. That spirit really hasn't changed in modern trad climbing


Trad climber
Chapel Hill, NC
Oct 22, 2012 - 04:29pm PT
"Traditional" climbing as a term only came about in response to sport climbing. Before that it was just climbing. So the term was coined to differentiate "traditional" methods with those used in sport climbing...hangdogging, pre-inspecting, preplaced and or rap-placed protection (bolts), rehearsing etc...as opposed to the traditional style of ground-up (on-sight being the higher standard). Only leading routes that you have wired only after following, hanging, or top-roping (head pointing) puts the ascent closer to the realm of sport tactics IMO. I'm as guilty as the next guy of doing this more than I should. Nothing wrong with that as long as you are honest about things with yourself and others.

Trad climber
Boston, MA
Oct 22, 2012 - 05:09pm PT
I know a few long time climbers who ONLY lead pitches that they top roped, ‘mock led,’ or followed, unless it is at least a few grades bellow their limit. Do you guys think it is still ‘trad’ climbing if you ALWAYS know you can do it? Not sure how to call it, since by definition you are placing clean pro and are going up, but something is missing here…to me ‘trad’ involves some unknown, some risk, some challenge. Any thoughts?

OK, I'll bite.

Not that anyone cares about my opinion, but if the person you were describing was me, then no, I would not call myself a trad climber. To never even try to onsight a climb is to tear out the heart of trad climbing, IMO. It would be like calling yourself a sport climber, and never trying to redpoint, only ever hangdogging routes and then moving on. I mean, that would be fine if that's what you wanted to do, but call a spade a spade.

As for what to call it? Damned if I know. I guess if that were me, I'd call myself... hmmm... first thing that comes to mind is "pussy". Not terribly PC, but can't think of a better term at the moment.


Trad climber
Oct 22, 2012 - 09:13pm PT
Once upon a time when "traditional" and "sport" first began to diverge, here were the key differences in styles of protection and progressing on the rock, in a one page table:


Tom Higgins

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Oct 22, 2012 - 09:38pm PT
I have never met a climber who never led a pitch he hadn't top roped. Is that a local phenomenon back there?
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Oct 22, 2012 - 09:48pm PT
"if your looking for the best "style" of any climb, that would be ground up, on lead everything, first ascents done with CLEAN pro ethics first and foremost. ( naked and barefoot would add mega points)

for further defining trad climbing:^^^^^^^^^^^^^^"

Wow, Ron thanks for the mad props!

BITD we didn't call it trad, it was CLIMBING and we got up a route using our mental/physical abilities and the tools of the trade (swami belts and hip belays) we had available at the time. Until recently I did not know what sport climbing was, that's where you just clip bolts right?LOL
Fossil climber

Trad climber
Atlin, B. C.
Oct 22, 2012 - 11:19pm PT
Seems like Alpamayo has it about right.

bit'er ol' guy

the past
Oct 23, 2012 - 12:16am PT




that's the topic? "what is trad?"

who are you guys?

sorry man, but no one cares about your little climbs!


climb for yourself.

you might like it.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 23, 2012 - 12:17am PT
I have never met a climber who never led a pitch he hadn't top roped. Is that a local phenomenon back there?

They would lead pitches that are way bellow their lead ability without TRing them, but if it gets to their limit, they never try to lead without working it first.
Captain...or Skully

Oct 23, 2012 - 12:21am PT
I mostly just climb. I let you folks worry about its nomenclature.

Gym climber
Oct 23, 2012 - 12:23am PT



Mountain climber
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Oct 23, 2012 - 12:25am PT
trad climbing to me means placing gear for protection on lead, end of discussion, for me at least. some routes are bolted and are sport climbs. some routes have bolts and gear, those are bolts and gear climbs.

traditional style, in my opinion would involve a frighteningly skinny rack by today's standards, no helmet, a 50m rope and some big wool mittens.

Oct 23, 2012 - 12:45am PT
They would lead pitches that are way bellow their lead ability without TRing them, but if it gets to their limit, they never try to lead without working it first.

People do first ascents that turn out to be at their limit quite frequently. (Indeed some look for situations that might be at their limit.) In either case since it has never been done you can't know.

Let's look at a specific case of a route with little protection. I'll ask a question. What portion of the people trying the Bachar Yerian top rope it first? My guess is the answer is as diverse as are the people who try it.

The preemptive quote above seems too strong.

Since it is related I will repeat a practical observation I posted elsewhere. Top roping as a percentage of the total climbing being done today is quite apparently far higher than I have seen over the past forty five years. Top roping to the extent that leading is entirely excluded. This makes a great deal of sense. With our health care system a serious fall can, in minutes, convert a home owning wino into a homeless wino. Based upon this, assuming Obamacare is not reversed, one needs to get their hard climbing finished by the age of twenty six. If it is reversed, I expect the cost of cams will drop substantially.

The purest trad is onsight in the dark.

Testimony from one of William Shockley's climbing partners. After extended bouts at the Brauhouse, the two would solo climb routes in the dark. It is perhaps only by pure chance that you have that keyboard in front of you. I say "perhaps" for a good reason. Bardeen with his two Nobels, was no slouch.


Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Oct 23, 2012 - 12:48am PT
The purest trad is onsight in the dark.

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
Oct 23, 2012 - 12:57am PT
trad is rad

Trad climber
Oct 23, 2012 - 01:43am PT
Let's not forget that there is a whole lot of top roping in trad climbing... Whoever follows a pitch is still trad climbing despite the rope above them.

I mean jeeesus... I'll hand it to anyone who cleanly follows long 5.hard+ routes, and gives a good belay.
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
Oct 23, 2012 - 10:03am PT

There was a climber named Thad
Who thought he was quite rad
Until he decided to go trad
When it got wide it all went bad
That was the end of Thad

OK weak, here's the start for the next:

There was a climber named Jim
Who was often found in the gym
.....any takers?
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Oct 23, 2012 - 10:18am PT
Climbed a trad .10 on a whim
placed a cam when it got thin
it pulled and the result was quite grim?

I know, poetry is not my strength,


Social climber
Oct 23, 2012 - 10:20am PT
I hate the word "trad." Especially when used as a verb.

Trad climber
Philadelphia, PA
Oct 23, 2012 - 10:30am PT
When you on-sight a trad climb, no matter how far below your level, you'll understand. If you don't then, you never will. I'll never climb as hard as 95% of the pos(t)ers here, but on-sighting any trad climb is, for me, infinitely more satisfying than any hangdog pinkpoint redpoint. On the other hand, it's all climbing, and all fun.

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