What Is Trad ?????????


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right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 30, 2013 - 07:38pm PT
Ya'll figured it out yet?
Just 10 more minutes and your order will be ready sir ...
We've been having issues with the deep fryer. Tarness has his head stuck in it!

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 30, 2013 - 07:52pm PT
Let me see if I can come at what you are projecting here for the sake of others, which I presume is your tack. I don't really have a problem with that; it's happened a few times in the last thousand posts. I just can't do it rapidfire much longer because as you may know I use a voice assist typing program which requires a lot of editing.

Along with my informal polling of younger experienced climbers I've been also dipping into a pool of people who don't know as much.

For instance: I asked my massage therapist, whose husband was a climber.
"Can you tell me what trad means?". Her answer: "Isn't trad where you place gear and sport where you clip bolts?".

Believe me I know from the outside it takes time. Even from the inside it takes time apparently! 1000 posts worth; not the least of which is because the definition has changed roughly over the last 15 years, making it even more confusing.

Did you get the piece written by Tommy Caldwell which I linked wherein he referred to these atrociously run out ground up routes in Switzerland as sport climbs? I was floored that he would miss such a thing and Warbler thinks he was tongue-in-cheek.

I do know however that most people just getting into climbing need things to be about that simple. And believe me I'm not castigating them for this position of susceptibility to confusion.

I just got off the phone with a friend who I climb with quite a lot and he told me that everybody he knew getting into climbing in the last 10 or 15 years simply thought: trad = gear and sport = bolts.

So yes, I can see where understanding how bolts fit into trad is confusing for some.


right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 30, 2013 - 08:08pm PT
And no Dingus: I do not equate the Jardine traverse with its chipped holds to the bolts that protect a myriad of slab climbs the world over.

That The Nose goes free on the Jardine traverse is something of a travesty and I'm sure it's been covered ad nauseum right here on supertopo.
The Warbler

the edge of America
Apr 30, 2013 - 08:10pm PT
I'm gonna help Roy out and answer some of Dingus' questions about The Nose from the perspective of my definition of trad.

First of all, The Nose done with aid is not a trad route, because the term applies to free climbing on rock - I explained why I believe that earlier in the thread. Basically trad is a term introduced into climbers' lingo to distinguish sport climbing from old style free climbing -FREE climbing. By that definition The Nose is an aid route or a big wall or a wall route, not a trad route. The few free ascents it has had, aside from Jardine's handiwork, used siege tactics, toproping, rehearsal, and I'm guessing protection placed from aid before success was had. All that shit's not trad, so I would say The Nose is not a trad route, even though it's been done free.

Just because it's almost all cracks and gear climbing, I don't believe that alone makes it a trad route.

It could have a trad ascent though - ground up, no aid, no rehearsal, no use of gear placed with aid. After such an ascent, I would say The Nose has been done trad style, once, by so and so, until it receives another comparable ascent.

As far as pin scars go, unless they're a product of deliberate effort to create a free route, I think, as Roy said, we have to include FFA's of old aid routes as trad ascents IF the other elements of trad style are followed when the route's free climbed.

Just because a route's a trad route, and you get up the thing, it doesn't mean you did a trad ascent if you didn't do it trad style. Basically, in the case of using aid on a route that has been done trad style by others, you failed to free the route by trad standards. No trad badge.

Try again later.

And if you spend too much time working the moves and hangdogging, I think you spoil your opportunity to ever do the route trad style.


right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 30, 2013 - 08:15pm PT

Convience anchors are not specifically in the spirit of trad. But all of the short free climbs in Yosemite Valley and in The Canyonlands require them unless the climber desires to down aid the more difficult cracks to the ground so that they may go home. They are convenient to that degree, yes.

Other kinds of convenience anchors which may have been avoidable were frowned upon for the same reason that Robbins, Kamps, Higgins, et al. realized bolting in general should be minimized.

The current interpretation of the word trad, at least as defined by Patrick Compton and some of the young climbers in the Boulder area apparently, are trying to make some distinction about said things; to my mind this may make it even more confusing ... who's to say. Maybe the whole lexicon is trending toward overhaul for exactly these reasons. I've granted that throughout this thread. Let me know how you feel about it in the morning.

How's that?

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 30, 2013 - 08:43pm PT
And if you spend too much time working out the moves and hangdogging, I think you spoil your opportunity to ever do the route trad style.

By the old code of Classic Trad this is what "three strikes and you're out" was indicating. The idea of slobbering all over a route way above one's head was bad form, unsafe, especially on nuts ... and not really very good for learning and all kinds of things. The least of which yet most important to the high-end Classic Trad aspirant was that it's just bad style.

There was a point in the early 80s when we tried to do everything on-sight; all the way through the 90s I was climbing 5.11 trad without falling hardly ever. Very rare. That was the mastery to which we aspired. No pedestals, no looking down our noses toward others. We did this for ourselves. It felt right. Control, self-preservation, again: mastery.

Classic Trad, as Kevin just said, doesn't really encompass how Lynn Hill free climbed The Nose. But it does encompass how Yuji climbed the Salathe, which is exactly why I put that pair of ascents on the prior page. The pink pointing was marginal. But we did, when failing, often pull the rope and leave the gear and try to get it within three tries.

Some Modern Trad climbers won't pinkpoint at all: they always want to replace their gear! Good for them, they are extending something here. Obviously on a multi-pitch route this may become a luxury. This is another reason we learned to climb at a high standard without falling: so we could do high order trad ascents of long hard free climbs.

Lynn Hill free climbed The Nose, if by any trad standard, the MODERN one; meaning she used what was once and still is in some circles considered sport climbing tactics.

This whole thing about chipped holds is a completely independent topic and I think it's simply illogical to conflate it with drilling a bolt for protection.

Let's quickly address the post Brave Cowboy made a page ago now: cleaning loose rocks out of cracks or very loose flakes off of faces is not the same as chipping in order to create a hold. Although it may produce a hold it boils down to a matter of intent. I believe that topic has been covered at nauseum on other threads as well.

Thank you Kevin for the help. It was very timely!
Beer 30. Or maybe just a tall glass of water.

Cheers to you Dingus!

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 30, 2013 - 09:30pm PT
Dingus lands the big one:
Here's what I am getting at: those who 'get' trad think its a patently easy and obvious definition.

It was never very difficult for those of us who grew up under the free climbing ethos of the 70s. ... In the absence of sport climbing: and I believe this is key.
Please, consider the importance of that last bit in italics when trying to understand why this is such a hard thing to divine in the present day.

One could write a paper just on this aspect alone. Post # 1051 probably just won't cut it by itself, but it is likely the fulcrum of the struggle!

It certainly appears to have become even more difficult now that the meaning of trad has apparently stretched to include sport climbing tactics.

This is NOT about blaming. But one has to feel as though the veneer of this faceless struggle has just peeled away.
The Warbler

the edge of America
Apr 30, 2013 - 10:10pm PT
I can't think of Serenity Crack as a trad route. Its not just the retrobolts and pin scars either, its sorta the way things get done on it too.


Thanks Dingus for bringing up good points -

I would offer that it is a trad route, by what I consider the definition of trad to be. But if a climber is hanging on gear to get themselves up it, they're doing a trad route in poor style - IOW not doing it trad style. The number of people in the vicinity, and the number of ascents in poor style don't change the status of the route itself as a trad route.

I lived in the Valley for 8 years, and never did the climb because it's a low angle pin scar fest. Text book piton damaged crack. There's too many other great climbs nearby to do, in my mind, and I like to get off the beaten track. It's a tradition for me.

I think you're bringing an emotional yardstick into the discussion of What Is Trad ????????? in the case of Serenity, and it's already hard enough to pin down without introducing the feelings a route gives you.

I share your feeling that routes like that are antithetical to the spirit of freeclimbing, but for the analytical purpose of defining trad - there it is.

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Apr 30, 2013 - 10:42pm PT
Climbing ethics define the behavior of climbers in an area that is shared with nonclimbers so that both may enjoy it. Climbing ethics is concerned with actions that alter or destroy the rock. Climbing style (form, behavior, actual manner in which a climb is done) is a different issue, and is left up to the climber. Thus, using pitons which scar the rock is an ethical issue because it encroaches upon other people's potential enjoyment of an area. Sieging and top-roping, however, are examples of poor style which have no ethical significance because the have no effect on others.

A comment about style concerning the definition of free climbing is in order at this point: a climb is free if, and only if, the equipment-nuts, pitons, slings, ropes- is used only to protect falls and is placed as one climbs. Any use of this type of equipment to rest, inspect, practice moves or place protection, is aid. Certainly everyone has the prerogative of doing a climb with aid. However, it is dishonest to claim a free ascent when such practices have been used, and unethical to report a new route as free when done with these techniques. It is unethical because such false claims will lead others into unsuspected and undeserved difficulties, and also will undermine the standards and credibility of the area as a whole.

The Shawangunks is a popular area close to large cities and is subject to great and ever-increasing population pressures. Beginners, hotshots, and every other kind of climber use the cliffs. Each has a right to use them and a corresponding obligation to maintain them in a state for all to enjoy. Thus, it would be just as bad to add protection to a bold climb to make it safe as it would to chop holds or remove protection from an easy climb to make it harder. Both kinds of climbs must be allowed because there are people who like each. Generally, it seems best to leave climbs the way they were found, especially since this is how they have been for years. In most cases, they remain as the first ascent party left them and as people expect to find them. The selfish practice of dragging climbs down to one's own level by destructive means is degrading.

Climbing ethics and what constitutes good form and behavior have been the subject of debate in climbing circles ever since people began to climb. These attitudes and opinions generally tend to focus on equipment and its applications. The prevailing opinion about crucial issues at the time of this writing is discussed under the categories of "Pitons and Bolts, Chalk, Direct Aid, and New Routes."

Pitons and Bolts. There is a strong feeling that pitons and bolts should be used only on new routes (and sparingly at that) and to replace old or worn out ones on established climbs.
Chalk. The practice of using chalk is well entrenched and almost universal. Studies show that it is most effective when used sparingly.
Direct Aid. Direct aid should be used when necessary on new routes and existing aid climbs. There should be no objection to aiding free climbs as long as the technique used does not scar the rock. One should not assume that a route is not free because the local guidebook lists it as an aid climb. One should inquire, as it may now be free.
New Routes. Here it is necessary to consider the future. Greedily snatching up new routes in bad style deprives future climbers of the opportunity to establish them in good style. Of course, it's a good idea to check to be sure that the proposed line hasn't already been done. The idea that climbers have special rights to the routes they have worked on has not held up, although most will respect a claim that is actively being worked on.

The first virtue of a climber is restraint. Nothing said in this section should ever preclude a concern for safety. If the climber cannot maintain the standard of a climb or upgrade it without endangering himself, perhaps he should not do the climb at all. If the climber needs an inordinate number of pitons or must resort to aid on a "free" climb, he might take a clearer look at his own capabilities

The restraint that a climber exercises in self-preservation, or the preservation of the rock, could well be extended to the delicate environment of the cliffs and the surrounding land. Climbing is only one facet of the land and its use, and the climber is a member of a larger community than that of his fellow climbers. Climbing cannot take place in isolation from general ecological concerns.

New growth and even major vegetation may easily be destroyed by the careless climber on his way to or from a climb--talus should be used when possible. Many of the more remote cliffs and areas of the Shawangunks harbor birds and other wildlife, and care must be excercised so as not to disturb them or frighten them away from their homes and nesting areas. Quiet behavior is desirable. Indiscriminate camping can only lead to further deterioration of the land, and all campers near the cliffs should restrict themselves to designated areas. The Mohonk and Minnewaska camping restrictions are determined by necessities imposed by conservation and forest fire dangers and should be duly respected. While the may be an imposition on some, it is a sacrifice that all those using the land must make. Quite obviously the alternatives are either increased regimentation or the closing of the area to climbers.

Climbers and campers must also realize that all items left behind--old slings, paper, clothing, cans, bottles, cigarette butts, roaches, toilet paper and related matter (outhouses are provided), nonbiodegradable soaps-- only serve to mar the beauty and attractiveness of the area. Such practices are inexcusable.

from Shawangunk Rock Climbs Richard C. Williams 1980
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Apr 30, 2013 - 10:45pm PT
Sorry for not responding there. Had a long phone call to make, then I had to eat some chips and salsa, and then, well, its nearly 8 O'clock and the sun is setting on another warm day. Oh I took the trash out too, its trash night.

Anyway, I appreciate the give and take. Trad seems to fit that Supreme Court 'I know it when I climb it' sorta thing.

I love your vigorous but gentle defense of trad that is enveloped in an obvious joy for the whole endeavor.

I've seen a crap-ton of your photos Roy, to borrow a leggsism, and Ive detected two obvious qualities of trad:

1. Sharing the love with like mind friends. Your photos positively exude this quality, warm like that orange glow at my kitchen window, right now
2. Cowboy hats.

Am I starting to get it now? :-)


right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 30, 2013 - 11:22pm PT
After all this and you leave out:

3. Fast Women
4. Booze

We need to talk.
Todd Eastman

Bellingham, WA
Apr 30, 2013 - 11:24pm PT
Tarbuster, you are trying to define the fine line between art and sport!

Have fun!!!

The basic answers from folks you asked that simply said placing gear vs clipping bolts are the most useful public answer.

Your quest appears to be something deeper. Find the ring.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Apr 30, 2013 - 11:29pm PT
Tarbuster I know for a fact there are a lot of booze swilling sport climbing sluts out there.

God bless em!


The Warbler

the edge of America
Apr 30, 2013 - 11:36pm PT
That reminds me of a Bill Maher quote ...

In ancient times they sacrificed the virgins. Men were not about to sacrifice the sluts!

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 30, 2013 - 11:39pm PT
Hahhahahahaa! Heh!

Pr'aps eKat needs to pluck the strings of a snappy lil' Haiku for us right about now ???

...er, um ... mebbe, sumpin' more along the lines of a Charles Bukowski
... or ... uh tasty Henry Miller style snacky-pooh...
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
May 1, 2013 - 12:58am PT
I don't have this issue in my collection, perhaps someone does...

"The Aesthetics of Risk" Perspective on Traditional Style, Climbing 137, page 176 by Jeff Jackson

the earliest reference is

"Tricksters & Traditionalists," Feature on climbing styles Climbing 86, page 18 by Tom Higgins
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
May 1, 2013 - 01:34am PT
Tom Higgins wrote in Mountain 53, page 32:

"Yet, many members of the latest climbing generation admit that some of this progress has come by means of modifications of previously acceptable free-climbing styles, and it seems at least some new free styles are here to stay. To cite an example: rightly or wrongly, I chopped the bolts from a free-route in Tuolumne a few years ago, because they were all placed on rappel. My intention was to provide Tuolumne climbers, including myself, with the opportunity to climb the route in traditional style. These bolts were recently replaced, again on rappel. Perhaps the motive was spite, but, just as likely, it derived from a belief that creating routes on rappel is sometimes acceptable. Whatever the case, the lesson is clear: no free-climbing style will forever be held up as acceptable, and some styles once thought to be improper will not always be considered so. I have concluded that the debate about climbing style is therefore essentially useless if its objective is to persuade the majority of climbers to conform with certain free styles."

see the article in it's full: Reflections On Climbing Styles


Trad climber
Bolinas, CA
May 1, 2013 - 02:40am PT
For me Trad means climbing as close to onsite, ground up free soloing with the use of gear (read technology) to achieve that goal. And Warblers definition comes as close as any for me as definition. We seem to keep getting into style debates where there shouldn't be. The definition, as Warbler puts it is pretty straight forward and to get to Dingus' mention of the Bachar/Yerian, the climb is not within that definition. Nor is Lynn Hill's free ascent of the nose. They are something different and for a different thread.

As to the hardest trad climb under Warbler's definition I didn't get to put my meaningless two cents in......I'm still amazed by ratings and differences within the definition. 14d crack is a whole lot different then 11c slab apparently.....I keep bringing up Kurt Smith's "Burning down the house" as example but I guess I lack merit in the mention. Cracks are easy to protect and much safer and far less mentally taxing. A more physical exercise if you will. I will repeat again with risk of sounding stupid that I think Burning is the hardest trad climb put up under the Warbler definition. Put up ground up, on-site, no preview with the same rating as the B/Y and unrepeated! Why is it not rated 5.15? How come Honnold or anyone else hasn't climbed it? And who would deny what a grand adventure it would be to cast off on that journey? Is it beyond our grasp to accept it? I'm sure even Dingus would be proud to call the one who repeats that route and clips those bolts to be a flat out tradster. 5.11c/ apparently mentally unfathomable to today's "advanced" climbers.

But I digress.

Tar, there are kids out there who are climbing under the definition as proposed by your great thread.....I climb with them and they appreciate it. Few and far but there out there. It's not an "old guy, young guy" thing, it's simply a form of climbing. Your not old in mind. Fairly advanced I'd say just as some of the climbs from your time on the rock back then still are.

And to Ed's reference to Morals, and Ethics. Here today gone tomorrow. Isn't this thread, at this point simply trying to define a certain style for those who wish to partake? Moving on from debate because there really is no debate unless one keeps rehashing old ground? Good quote. It really is "useless" and Higgins brought it up back then.

Push it forward Tar! No more need to defend. Strike out man!

Trad climber
Fresno CA
May 1, 2013 - 03:19am PT
And to Ed's reference to Morals, and Ethics. Here today gone tomorrow. Isn't this thread, at this point simply trying to define a certain style for those who wish to partake?

Good point. I think the discussion of the last few pages largely concerns style. I share Warbler's expressions on this, but we are products of the same generation of climbers, so I would expect this.

The Dick WIlliams quote from Ed, however, goes to ethics, because it involves preserving the rock resource and the reality that what I do affects what others can do after me.

When the line gets grayer and finer, it also gets more idiosyncratic. To me, B-Y is, now, a trad climb, even though John acknowledged that its first ascent was not. That's because it was no trivial matter to stop, hook and drill. One cannot do that anywhere, and the spacing of the bolts differentiates it from a sport climb, whose only risk is injury to ego. Besides, yo-yoing on B-Y remains a risky proposition.

It's also interesting to observe how technology changes relative terror. When I started climbing in the late 1960's, hard slab climbs scared us less than hard OW's, because the latter were essentially unprotectable. The slabs were runout, but there was some protection, and you slid, so the forces weren't as severe. A fall to a ledge long enough to break an ankle on Coonyard would kill you on Twilight Zone. The bold, bald nature of leading cracks became a relic of the past with modern protection, and I doubt any of us who've lived the evolution of footwear doubt its effect on what we can climb.

All of this is to say that I don't think we can determine what is the hardest "trad" lead, because we cannot compare the technological constraints of yesterday with today. When the ST description of Pratt's lead of Twilight Zone compares it to an on-sight 5.13 with fatal groundfall possibilities, don't laugh. That lead may well have been as close to the edge of possibility then as Burning Down the House was when Kurt did it.

Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
May 1, 2013 - 09:22am PT
We seem to keep getting into style debates where there shouldn't be. The definition, as Warbler puts it is pretty straight forward and to get to Dingus' mention of the Bachar/Yerian, the climb is not within that definition. Nor is Lynn Hill's free ascent of the nose. They are something different and for a different thread.

We're just talking here, westrnclmr. There's no debate. Just some old guys talking about the evolution of a climbing term. Its interesting, from time to time, to pick up a heirloom or some bauble or other, hold it up to the light and examine its various facets even though we might have done so a hundred times before.

I've 'wasted' a lot of time yakking about climbing on the internet. From rec.climbing forward, this thread?

Its unique. A thousand posts, no antagonism, no vitriol, and lots of really cool comments and photos from 'them that were there' too.

So cheers, goddamnit, to you all!

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