the "law" of the first ascent

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mt10910

climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 9, 2013 - 05:58pm PT
Some folk assume if they did the first reported ascent of a rock climb they "own"
the line they climbed.

why is that? Where does that sort of logic come from?

River runners, pure ice climbers, trail makers, road builders, tree climbers.....
don't follow this line of reason, so why rock climbers?

just a ponder.

For me, I could careless how other folks climb routes I've climbed, because I didn't climb the route with the unborn in mind so this claim of "route ownership" seems very adolescent to me.



Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Sep 9, 2013 - 06:10pm PT
Where does that sort of logic come from?
I first saw it described in:
Basic Rockcraft, by Royal Robbins, 1971, p.62
"THE FIRST ASCENT PRINCIPLE"

But he describes it in a more positive way.

Later, in Advanced Rockcraft, he describes Exceptions to the First Ascent Principle.

I've also heard this principle described as "you leave my route alone, and I'll leave yours alone." But I don't think this was the original intent.

The main idea is there are "uncertain property rights" on public lands, and the FA principle is supposed to provide some stability, instead of having bolts come and go depending on who climbed the route last....

As Hawkeye said, it was not described as "ownership". That is a distorted interpretation of the principle.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 9, 2013 - 06:13pm PT
Ok Mt,,, you wouldnt mind then, if i find your routes, bash the hell out of the cracks with pins, and bolt the rest including some nice new incut chiseled holds.?
Salamanizer

Trad climber
The land of Fruits & Nuts!
Sep 9, 2013 - 06:15pm PT
It's matter of respect.

Respect the rock and respect the route, in that order... respectively.
Hawkeye

climber
State of Mine
Sep 9, 2013 - 06:17pm PT
I first saw it described in:
Basic Rockcraft, by Royal Robbins, 1971, p.62
"THE FIRST ASCENT PRINCIPLE"
But he describes it in a more positive way.


i dont have that book in front of me as i am on travel and i have it at home...

but i am certain the word ownership NEVER came in to it.

i do remember the ideas of minimal impact. i agree with the OP. ownership and always asking the FA team is some kind of sh#t idea.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Sep 9, 2013 - 06:24pm PT
Agreed....the first ascentionists do not own the route. The rating should come from consensus and not be locked into the FA's opinion. Remember a rating is a guide and should be as accurate as possible. Underrating a climb intentionally only makes you look insecure and foolish.The initial style should be respected but only to an extent. If a 5.13 climber puts up a 5.8 route with one bolt....retro bolting is legitimate.....just use the common sense rule.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 9, 2013 - 06:28pm PT
I hear this same SHYT from those that have never put up any routes.

But YES you do have a certain "ownership feeling" about routes. Its perfectly natural and means you actually care.

If we are now NOT TO care, then ill start shytting on every ledge, and use nothing but pins and bolts for pro- feck those expensive cams. Hope you dont show up to do the route behind me, cus all that bashing and drilling will certainly take some time and loosen rock along the way.. But hey,, no one owns it right. And you wont be too pizzed if every finger lock in the crack has a welded pin in it ... No one owns the stinking route anyhoo.




Sound good?


You know,, this whole established respect of others routes was done to help PRESERVE the route intact. Its much like the Constitution of our country. Long ago, SMART men, climbers, decided this was the best way to treat the routes. For the good of the ROCK, and nothing else.

And if you dont feel like thats reasonable, then dont be climbing anywhere near me.
jgill

Boulder climber
Colorado
Sep 9, 2013 - 08:59pm PT
the first ascentionists do not own the route

Of course not, but they do own the experience of climbing it first - going where no one else has. If, by misfortune, it is degraded later they still own the experience (e.g., see memories)
rick d

climber
ol pueblo, az
Sep 9, 2013 - 09:06pm PT
and to add to Gill's comments,

second,third, twenty fourth ascents should try to emulate the first ascent or do it in a better style.

Or better yet solo it onsight which is only surpassed by an onsight first ascent-solo (sans rope).


What if a 5.10 climber drills one bolt on a 5.9 route-should it be retrobolted?

but who cares about style anymore?
Magic Ed

Trad climber
Nuevo Leon, Mexico
Sep 9, 2013 - 09:20pm PT
I know I don't "own" the routes I put up, but on Mexican limestone, and especially on the long multi-pitch, I've put in hundreds of hours of hard work climbing, bolting, jumarring hundreds of feet every day to go to work, cleaning the loose rock and vegetation and residual dirt(which requires about 4 or 5 passes per pitch), not to mention the out of pocket expense,etc. so there is a certain sense of "ownership" and a desire to protect from those who would vandalize the route in any way.
Degaine

climber
Sep 9, 2013 - 11:56pm PT
rick d wrote:
second,third, twenty fourth ascents should try to emulate the first ascent or do it in a better style.

Why "should"? I think there is a confusion between the notion of "style" and how a route is protected on a first ascent.

If I choose to pull on gear (cams / nuts) all the way up Nutcracker, why do you care? You and everyone else who follows won't know the difference. That's the "style" I choose to climb (free vs aid), and it affects absolutely no one.

Deciding to add a ton of bolts to an existing route, for example, is another story.

On the style note, whose style was better on the Nose, Harding's or Hill's? Both are worthy of respect.

Cheers.
Oplopanax

Mountain climber
The Deep Woods
Sep 10, 2013 - 10:03am PT
If I'm a 5.8 climber and I, shitting bricks the whole time, put up a 5.8 route that's 50m long with one bolt and no natural pro is it somehow different than if I'm a 5.13 climber and I put up the same route?

What if I'm a 5.8 climber then but I improve and climb 5.13 now?
(Or, more likely, what if i was a 5.11 climber then but I',m a 5.8 climber now?)

Also, why can't the whiners that feel my 5.8X 1-bolt route needs more bolts just go and climb one of the many plentiful well-protected 5.8s nearby instead?
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Sep 10, 2013 - 10:18am PT
Also, why can't the whiners that feel my 5.8X 1-bolt route

We whiners don't agree its your route. If its on public land it is most definitely not yours.

We might respect your death route. We might not. Some of it may depend upon how you talk to and treat us. Tell us how you own the route and we're pussies for wanting to make it safer... tell us we are not worthy of your earlier suicidal impulses... tell us this death route must stand forever more and don't forget the reason: "This is the way I learned and that is that."

Other people learned it differently. Imagine that.

The only common ground we can find is mutual respect.

Give none? Get none, its that simple.

G-day

DMT
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Sep 10, 2013 - 10:39am PT
When we started out, the idea behind repeating a testpiece was that the FA folk has created a certain experience that involved climbing a certain rock a certain way. On straight forward splitter cracks the equation was reduced to simply getting up the thing and what the first ascent party did or did not do had little influence on how you did your business. But once a route started changing cracks, or involved long face bits, or bolts, the first FA party was more creative in engineering the experience in terms of quality and commitment.

The notion was that those that followed were attempting not to simple get up the rock, but to repeat the experience the FA party established on this particular piece of rock. It was a game, or course, and with these rules there was some uniformity to the adventure and climbers had a yardstick for their performance and a mandate to try and live up to a given standard. You had your pride and honor - that you were up to the challenge of repeating whatever experience the FA had sought fit to throw down. You did not reinterpret the experience to fit your own standards, which was nothing short of a chickshit way of giving your self permission to do whatever you pleased with no discipline and no shame and no pride. The person who changes or dumbs down a route is really the person who asserts their imaginary ownership over what others have had the sac and integrity to try and play by the routes own standards.

To grumble about routes done 40 years ago in swami belts with the old shoes and coffin nail bolts is not something to be taken seriously by serious climbers. There's million's or "safe" routes out there. Do those if the scary ones scare you. Pissing in our ear about the FA being zealous owners is a deflection of the real issues of a given team not being up the challenge - and blaming the FA guys, who are probably 55-70 years old. And that's some weak sh#t.

JL
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 10, 2013 - 11:04am PT
Damm if you werent so TOUGH and manly looking id kiss you Largo..But a cyber SALUTE shall do..!
Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Sep 10, 2013 - 11:12am PT
The Man has a way with words.
Chim-Chim

climber
Sep 10, 2013 - 11:25am PT
Well stated, JL
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Sep 10, 2013 - 11:57am PT
We're not all playing the same game.

Its really that simple.

If you want the rules of your game preserved you MUST appeal to those who come after you.

Suggestions:

1. Do not espouse "FA owns the route." You will lose a lot of folks who might otherwise work top preserve some of your legacy, just by being obstinate.

2. Don't tell everyone why your rules should rule. Rather, tell why a particular route is worthy of preservation...

Or don't. It doesn't matter.

DMT
Greg Barnes

climber
Sep 10, 2013 - 12:00pm PT
To grumble about routes done 40 years ago in swami belts with the old shoes and coffin nail bolts is not something to be taken seriously by serious climbers.
The problem is that there are a LOT of climbers out there who are not "serious climbers"...and the number increases every day.

Dingus' point is basic: treat these newcomers with respect. They are learning to lead in gyms where not only are the bolts 5 feet apart (if that), but you're not even allowed to skip a bolt (and employees will remind you of that...or even kick you out of the gym if you don't play by the rules). They go outside for the first time to sport climbing areas, and can't understand why it's so runout (particularly "older" sport climbing areas) - often 15 feet to the first bolt, and if you fall at the second bolt you'll hit the ground! Let alone going someplace like Tuolumne or Valley slabs where it's often tough to even spot the first bolt, and concepts like 3 bolts in 165' just doesn't compute.

Taking the newcomers under your wing, patiently explaining the history and the background to the runout face routes - this is the only way that climbers in the future are going to give a rat's ass about preserving historical climbs. In Europe they sometimes call the wholesale retrobolting of crags "la democratization" of the crags - because runout routes are elitist (and gear routes are elitist as well since you have to have more money to buy gear). No reason to think the same pressures and reasoning won't be applied here over time. Of course, there's a lot of reason to think that the land managers won't allow climbers to turn everything into sport crags (see the latest NPS proposed regulations), and probably good reason to suspect climbing might just get banned if climbers start bolting even more, yet that pressure is there from newer climbers.

It's also a bit of a stretch to say that even the older FA folks are united - from more than one well known FA party, I've heard stuff along the lines of "some routes were meant to be testpieces, and some routes we were just too lazy or cheap to protect well" - particularly easier routes that they just ran up without a second thought. As JL says, "the idea behind repeating a testpiece..." - yet I bet that a large majority of routes that people want to retrobolt is some easy thing that no one ever considered a testpiece.
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Sep 10, 2013 - 12:02pm PT
The person who changes or dumbs down a route is really the person who asserts their imaginary ownership over what others have had the sac and integrity to try and play by the routes own standards.

mt10910 must be bored, since he's already started two likely-trolling threads, but I'm on a break, so I'll bite. Perhaps because I've made a few (obscure) FA's, and am between 55-70 years old, what Largo says rings true to me.

In a way, it's to climbing what Gresham's Law (bad money drives out good) is to monetary policy. Or maybe in climbing, abundant fixed protection is the equivalent of a higher state of entropy.

I think Robbins' articulation of his First Ascent Principle may have reflected, in part, the state of climbing in the early 1970's, when first ascents were merely a trip to the High Sierra, or the west side thereof, away. After 40+ years, though, its basic assumption -- that a climber can find any variety of climb desired relatively easily -- still holds true. The First Ascent Principle preserves that variety. Otherwise, climbing entropy, as I defined it above, would result in every worthwhile climb loaded with fixed protection sooner or later.

John
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