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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?


Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Sep 10, 2013 - 06:47pm PT
Despite what some say I have never tried to claim "ownership" of any route I've put up.
I do go with Royal on the FA Principle though.

In the long term, however, I think we all as a community would actually benefit by respecting a well made description of a route by its pioneer(s) as the intellectual property of that party.
It might put a crimp in the rape and run guidebook business, but is that really a bad thing in the end?

Trad climber
San Luis Obispo, CA
Sep 10, 2013 - 06:49pm PT
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.

And if the the local community thinks the style is bullsh#t?
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Sep 10, 2013 - 06:56pm PT
^^^ People 3000 miles away will feel free to criticize you for it!


Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Sep 10, 2013 - 07:40pm PT
And if the the local community thinks the style is bullsh#t?

I think that by definition, the local community can do what they want. And, pretty much only locals get a vote on style issues in their own area.

The other piece that is probably necessary to maintain a strong support for preserving the FA's style is that the FAs style has to be part of the community's style or be seen as a natural progression or at least an arguably acceptable step-out of the community's style.

Gym climber
South of Heaven
Sep 10, 2013 - 07:54pm PT
I follow the same line of reasoning every time I drive on the interstates. I travel at 30 mph and I refuse to wear a seat belt, for the experience.

Trad climber
British Columbia, Canada
Sep 10, 2013 - 08:01pm PT
I'm not going to argue my point for either side but instead provide a brief anecdote to explain my opinion.

I'm a wuss for the most part when it comes to climbing, I prefer good gear when the going gets hard, and bolts where gear can't be found. I like to keep myself safe and off the deck at all costs.

I also have a huge respect for climbing history and greatly admire the stories that accompany the FA of a legendary testpiece.

Just this past weekend I was walking past an old slab testpiece, 3 bolts in 140' sort of thing, I really wanted to try my hand at it to gain some insight into that connection to the past when bold climbers would cast off into a sea of granite looking for a place to stop and drill.

I started up the slab about 30-40 feet before traversing into the first bolt, puckered at the idea of a groundfall, feeling safe to be protected, I quickly passed the next two bolts before staring up to see nothing between me and the anchor far above. I figured the crux was somewhere between me and it, I knew once I took off from this stance there was no place to stop and no turning back, pay the ticket and take the ride.

As I started out from the last bolt, I stared down every step and watched the bolt get further and further away, I looked up and the anchor seemed an eternity away... I wanted out... I wanted security and there was none. I reminded myself that someone did this with a hand drill on lead, and that gave me the confidence to keep moving. As the bolt faded further away, I was filled with an almost zenlike feeling, having already committed to the runout, I was free to focus on the climbing alone... I had to or else.

As the anchor grew near I had to compose myself... don't rush... don't blow it now... small steps... the anchor got closer... 12 feet ... 8 feet... 4 feet... as I spied a small hold below the 2 bolt anchor I made the final steps and reached out to grab it....

My hand smacked that hold and I tell ya, it doesn't matter how bad it could have been, you would have never pried it out of my grip for eternity.

As I clipped the anchors, I felt myself wondering if that was the same way it felt 38 years ago when a brave soul ventured onto that same spot and endured the same experience as me. That kind of a climb changes something inside you as a person, and I don't think those types of routes should ever be taken away. If you never venture out of your comfort zone, you will never know what you are capable of. It is a privilege to be able to feel that emotion and connection to history, more valuable than a million well-protected forgettable routes.

Much respect to the FA parties of such climbs the world over, for creating not only classic routes but an experience for those who make the pilgrimage to share.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Sep 10, 2013 - 08:53pm PT
Community style....ho hum, often leads to stasis and mediocrity.

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Sep 10, 2013 - 09:39pm PT
You can no more apply logic to climbing than you can apply dancing to agriculture. Climbing is illogical, requires risk management and courage and is potentially dangerous. For those who believe this criteria is foolish, and that they are needlessly risking their lives, then they can stick to the ten million of so sport climbs that are out there.

Demanding, in the name of sanity and sober judgement, that every climb be "safe" and that it conforms to your level of appropriate risk, is to retroactively void and totally disrespect the adventure in climbing because that's what you want. Expecting the entire climbing world to go along with what you want, regardless of your rational, is unlikely. But faulting boldness as rash is not a viable argument in adventure sports. They're not for everyone.

Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Sep 10, 2013 - 10:16pm PT
Community style....ho hum, often leads to stasis and mediocrity.

Maybe in some static and mediocre definition of a style, Jim. But I would say that the Valley and the Meadows both have had strong community styles that have evolved and created great styles for many years. Your climbing in the Valley was in great style and very much part of the 70s community style, even if 60s climbers thought we were way too fussy in all-free ascents.
dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Sep 10, 2013 - 11:33pm PT
I don't know anybody that feels they own their FA's.

Only god owns them, and I use the term "god" loosely.

If you don't want to lead it, top rope it.

Don't let your inadequacy to lead bring the bold routes down to your level. The next guy or gal may appreciate the FA style and have what it takes to follow through.
rick sumner

Trad climber
reno, nevada/ wasilla alaska
Sep 10, 2013 - 11:56pm PT
Climbing is a physical art form more than any other single description. A route is a work of art,some, more an expression of mastery than others. Those that alter a first ascent, are presumably better artists?

Social climber
Butterfly Town
Sep 11, 2013 - 12:04am PT
I go with Largo on most of this. It's not a "law" or even a "rule." It's partly, at least, about inspiring those who follow in the paths of the FA parties, to have a similar experience to those who first climbed the route. When asked how a FA party "proves' they did the route, I reply that they write up where they went and what equipment is needed and publish it in the AAJ and/or who's ever keeping track of routes in each area. But mostly I emphasize that we do it to share an experience with our friends. Inevitable, we will share it with strangers as well. But whether I know them or not, I do hope they enjoy the climbs as much as or more than I did. And I know that the enjoyment, ultimately, comes from the satisfaction at the top, of completing a climb with the least amount of mechanical support and the greatest amount of personal commitment, NOT from placing a check mark, back at camp, on a tick-list from which I try to convince myself that I am far better than I really am.

I wonder if an artistic metaphor works here: Artists who create unique and inspiring works of art, Da Vince, Michelangelo, Ansel Adams, etc. have a vision that others become inspired by. Someone who later comes and makes a copy cannot have the exact same inspiration, but he/she can very well appreciate the techniques and other qualities that were required of the original artist. So it may be with others who do second and later ascents of climbs.


Edit: Seems like Rick S. and I are thinking along the same lines at the same time...

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Sep 11, 2013 - 12:12am PT
Joe, I think you can never get anywhere at all by examining anyone else's style. The question is: What are we going to do at the bottom of a route? If the route demands this or that from us, how will WE respond, and what is OUR thinking and our motivation for doing what we do. Some of us choose to try and honor the route just as it is. Others, for whatever reason, feel thy have every right to do things just as they please, even alter the route for all time - and never mind what other feel or what history has decreed, good or bad.

I think everyone ultimately has to account to themselves. Justifying what we do by virtue of someone else's behavior is dodgy, I think, because we can find fault with anyone. But the point remains, there are millions of sport routes out there for those not made for big time risk management. It's not for everyone.

The reason we sometimes used to run the rope was to make things exciting, something young people do all the time in various ways. Same for free soloing. I like the rush. Others did not. Tastes differ, but we each do what we do not because of what some other person did, but because we decided to make certain choices. Blaming those choices on others is the very quintessence of so-called alcoholic thinking.


Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
Sep 11, 2013 - 12:13am PT
How do you know when a FA was at a teams limit Hedgy?

Just by the names?

Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Sep 11, 2013 - 12:36am PT
I just go back periodically and chop the retro bolts that have been added to some of the FA's I was a part of.

Sad that there are those out there that need to add bolts to a route in order to bring it down to their level of ability.

Old Steve Petro's thoughts some 20 years ago surely apply here"

"If your shakey at the grade, stay off the route dude!"

The Chief, seriously???? But you defended adding bolts to Hair raiser Buttress!

Social climber
North Vancouver BC
Sep 11, 2013 - 12:45am PT
A lot of talk and examination of why you have tiny balls, mt1910. Some routes are there for climbers to aspire to. Period!

Santa Barbara, CA
Sep 11, 2013 - 01:11am PT
As has been said many times: There are countless sport climbs, safe trad and splitter cracks that are not bold by any means.

Until one has climbed all of these other routes, I don't see why there is a need for this discussion.
the Fet

Sep 11, 2013 - 01:27am PT
A huge part of climbing is the opportunity to face a challenge.

The FAist often makes choices influencing the nature of that challenge. This right is granted by the age old, almost universal 'rule' called first come first served.

Changing the nature of that challenge is usually not only ethically unfair to the FAist but also to everyone else in the future who is denied the original challenge that route presented. E.g. there is a difficult crux move on a particular climb that is physically and mentally challenging and hence very memorable, someone decides to add a bolt there, future climbers now just clip a bolt and that challenging crux move is no more.

Of course it's not a steadfast law or rule. Sometimes bolts do get added and it may be ok it depends on the situation, e.g. a route out of character for the area. What happens is usually a result of community action, bolts get removed or bolts get added and stay. Bolts are much easier and cheaper to remove than to place so things will naturally err on the side of bolts getting removed if they are controversial.
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