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Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Sep 9, 2013 - 09:10pm PT
Where does that sort of logic come from?
I first saw it described in:
Basic Rockcraft, by Royal Robbins, 1971, p.62

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.

Trad climber
The land of Fruits & Nuts!
Sep 9, 2013 - 09:15pm PT
It's matter of respect.

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

State of Mine
Sep 9, 2013 - 09:17pm PT
I first saw it described in:
Basic Rockcraft, by Royal Robbins, 1971, p.62
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.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Sep 9, 2013 - 09:24pm 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.

Boulder climber
Sep 9, 2013 - 11:59pm 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

ol pueblo, az
Sep 10, 2013 - 12:06am 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 10, 2013 - 12:20am 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.

Sep 10, 2013 - 02:56am 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.


Mountain climber
The Deep Woods
Sep 10, 2013 - 01:03pm 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?

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Sep 10, 2013 - 01:39pm 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.


Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Sep 10, 2013 - 02:12pm PT
The Man has a way with words.
Greg Barnes

Sep 10, 2013 - 03:00pm 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.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Sep 10, 2013 - 03:02pm 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.

patrick compton

Trad climber
Sep 10, 2013 - 03:14pm PT
Ahhh ye ol 'if you want more protection ye are a lilly-livered chicken sh#t , need too grow a pair' argument.

well, kids these days.... they don't care.

Sasha D was a sissy sport climber til she flashed 14 then went to the Dolomites and flashes 13 on threads, old pins, and the odd cam.

She didn't go through the ranks of suffering on run-out museum climbs in the valley, praising the Stondedmasters and worshiping the gods of ST.

She just ignored all that and surpassed ye ol trads of yore.. their own stupid game.

Mountain climber
The Deep Woods
Sep 10, 2013 - 03:33pm PT
Fact is the runout routes are a step above, not below, the run of the mill bolted lines.

Th Bachar-Yerian is famous for the runouts. The quality of the climbing is just a bonus. same route with bolts every 5 feet would be just another boring knob hop with no character and nothing famous left to it.

Trad climber
Sep 10, 2013 - 03:34pm PT
Largo writes well...stating the obvious

I learned in a place with cracks and sport routes(TheGrotto) and had worked my way climbing what I could and there were some that were too hard, so should I have chipped them to my liking? I do not understand the make everything safe mentality. If that is your thinking, drive less and become a vegetarian for starters, both make for a safer living environment for all, not just climbers.

What attracted me the most to climbing was learning to physically and mentally bring myself up to a task. Knowing well I wouldn't get all I was after but after all, isn't it about the journey?

The magazine athletes of today want everything easy, fast, now and do not want to crinkle a nail in the know like the models in their REI catalogs!! Plus, how do you blog on the internet about non-attempts?

Seriously, this is about an endeavor of bringing oneself up; not doing everything but, to just get up.

My opinion.

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Sep 10, 2013 - 04:19pm PT
Partick, routes like Twilight Zone and the DNB were done long before I ever arrived in the Valley and they will never be "museum climbs." Saying that people young or old should try and live up to the standards of the route reaches back to Chuck Wilts and the first free ascent of Piton Pooper, and before that even. When Sasha does her magic in the Dolomites, she's simply carrying on the flag Chuck and others first hoisted.

None of this is a knock on the younger generation. ANY generation or any climber, young or old, is doing climbing history a disservice by permanently imposing their owe standards on an existing route. The purpose of maintaining standards is not to glorify us old farts - who cares, really - but to keep the flame burning.


Santa Barbara, CA
Sep 10, 2013 - 04:35pm PT
As a fairly new climber (just over 3 years), I love the tradition of the respect of the FA. While it may mean I won't be on a route without a rope-gun, I would rather it lead to inaccessible routes for some vs access for all (the general 'public' fvcks everything up eventually).

Related and relevant with the thread on Gerughty, at the end of this season I felt like I could finally handle the Dike Route on the sharp end - we didn't get on it, but I will save it for next summer and it will still take me a while to warm up to that thought. Yeah, its only 5.9, but it gives me something to strive for (and seems like a much better accomplishment than redpointing 5.12).

Anyways, its not like this is a new subject on Supertopo or like we're going to hear any new arguments. I really enjoyed the SuperChicken rebolt thread and even more so enjoyed leading the crack on it, looking up the next pitch and rapping the fvck off this summer!
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Sep 10, 2013 - 05:28pm PT
SurfStar's pick of the Dike Route on Pywiack Dome in this discussion is telling.

For those who have not climbed the route, it is a low angle, glacier polished slab with micro edges, intersected by a small dike. It does not have many bolts for protection on the hard pitch, and as far as I remember, there is no natural protection. It was first climbed in 1966 by Tom Gerughty and was the first route on Pywiack.

The Dike Route is fine route and is about as classic as it gets. One of the elements of its classic status is that there are so few bolts, and the reason there are so few bolts is because Tom was too scared to stop and drill.

Here is Tom Higgis' take:

Tom Gerughty was perhaps the first to climb and protect a large, crackless expanse of Tuolumne rock. He demonstrated that bolts could be placed while free climbing, but not without difficulty. In 1966, Tom began climbing the lovely crystal dikes on the northwest face of Pywiack Dome. But Tom had an aversion to bolts and had little experience placing in them. Once in Yosemite, Tom stepped on a bolt in the presence of Sacherer. Frank yanked the rope so hard Tom nearly fell off the wall. Perhaps Tom learned the lesson too well. He trembled up and up on the dikes of Pywiack, unable or unwilling to stop, the drill dangling uselessly from his side. Dave Meeks and Roger Evja, his partners, waited for the 200 foot, slab splashing fall. Somehow, it never came. Tom captured the aesthetic plum, The Dike Route, on Pywiack, as well as the respect of numerous climbers who imagine leading the last pitch with two less bolts, since added with Tom's permission.

I cannot image the community of Tuolumne climbers ever agreeing to add any additional bolts--it would ruin the story of the first ascent.

I think this points out that the "law" of preserving the style of the first ascent is not enforced by the FA party; it is enforced by the local climbing community sometimes long after the FA.

Lake Tahoe
Sep 10, 2013 - 06:36pm PT
why is that? Where does that sort of logic come from?

It seems like the FA team gets special respect, and is bestowed ownership of a route, because they got off their asses and went out and did it. Climbers respect that.Anyone who does the route later has an easier time of it, and is therefore weaker in the eyes of the community. Maybe only a tiny bit, but still weaker.

To climb first is to climb without beta, without a trail, without bolts, without knowing that someone else did it once.

Plus, without some rules, the sport would have anarchy. How could anyone measure themselves against others without some sort of rule book?


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