Safety Trumps Leaving No Trace


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Mark Force

Trad climber
Cave Creek, AZ
Jun 23, 2014 - 11:56am PT
Thank you for articulating the benefits of minimizing our footprint.

Leave no trace is an ideal; minimizing our impact on public lands that we alone don't own out of respect for other climbers and other user groups is a realistic and achievable reality.

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Jun 23, 2014 - 12:24pm PT
Melissa, yes, you are arguing about the absolute nature of my statement and not addressing my point at all. But as far as that statement goes, I'm perfectly willing to concede that there are occasional exceptions, although even in the cases you mention, climbers' environmental motivations are confounded with the concerns about how bodies that control access might respond to climbing, so the idea that those examples demonstrate an extensive desire to leave no trace is questionable.

Add to that the vast amount of impacts caused by and fully accepted by trad climbers, not just erosion impacts, but extensive rappel tat, bolted belay anchors where natural anchors are available, all kinds of rappel routes where longer, more arduous, but arguably less impactful descents are available, and the grotesque and not at all impermanent blight of chalk, and the idea that leave no trace is of serious concern to the vast majority of trad climbers becomes absurd.

This is not to say that there are those who believe in the concept fervently and do what they can to make it more of a reality. But to re-emphasize my point, whether or not trad climbers manage their impacts, leave no trace can hardly be advanced as a foundational principle for trad climbing. It is perhaps a side-effect of the real motivations---after all trad climbing is the only genre that has the potential to leave no trace, even if it doesn't come very near that ideal most of the time. But organizing an argument about trad and sport distinctions around the concept of leave no trace is, I believe, bound to miss the point and lead to irrelevant dichotomies such as the title of this thread.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Jun 23, 2014 - 12:25pm PT
Let's start a new thread.

Safety Trumps Minimizing Your Trace

Once we step away from the more absolute, can we identify a scope of discussion?

fwiw, I'm not sure there is a natural world impact on climbing most of the named arches. It's more of an impact on access issues because they were closed in the first place, no?

Dingus McGee, are you trying identify the principles around which we can determine the scope of when Safety Trumps Minimizing my Traces (STMMT)?

Or are you specifically looking to refute some aspect of minimizing traces?

More commonly I hear the "plaisir" climbing justification as 'I just want a "fun" route.'

A lot of lot of lot people want fun routes! Me too!

I also want some appreciation for risk. That can be way fun too! I want to problem solve that risk. I want to intuit that risk and see what I'm capable of as I climb.

Can that be made into a guiding principle? Not without detail around both taking time to do top down routes (and doing them right!), and detail around what drives ground up approaches.

Scope the conversation!!!

edit, rgold's post just arrived, so I think more are to follow...
The Call Of K2 Lou

Mountain climber
North Shore, BC
Jun 23, 2014 - 12:34pm PT
Should I poop on top of the bear poop rather than bury it to show'em who's boss and decrease the chance of bear attacks?

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Jun 23, 2014 - 01:20pm PT
We have some wrong side of the bed here.

If all people are rational( and value safety above all else) we may conclude no climbers are rational.

When jstan and rgold were leaving their marks on east coast climbing, I would read about their exploits and views with admiration in Berkeley. Now, 45 years later, they again demonstrate their understanding. The real issue is over degrees, not absolutes. If we truly wanted to leave no trace, we would do almost no climbing, even unroped, because of the evidence of our passage on the lichens, the approach, and the oils we leave on the rock.

I feel a need, however, to remind the discussion that not all bolt placing creates sport routes. I did my early climbing at Pinnacles, before I thought I was ready for the real climbing in the Valley. The early bolt-protected climbs there, just like many bolt-protected Meadows routes, differ radically from any accepted definition of a sport route.


A pile of dirt.
Jun 23, 2014 - 03:12pm PT
Great first bolting cracks , now lets leave a trace!!!

Why not be safe and leave no trace? Why must these things be mutually exclusive...Oh, wait someone is riled up because not everyone agrees with his ethics...or cause this was a troll...
Mike Friedrichs

Sport climber
City of Salt
Jun 23, 2014 - 03:27pm PT

Your uninformed opinion grows tiresome. I'm going to Reese in July. How about you come out and check out all the "cracks" yourself and make a statement from knowledge instead of your misguided belief? Let me know. Stop being a dick.

As to leave no trace, it involves a whole lot more than the bolt count. Dennis has insisted that all visitors at Reese do not build a fire so there are no fire rings. He has spent a lot of time on trails so that erosion from braided trails does not exist. He insists that we camp on sand so that the juniper and native plants are not disturbed. Dennis has done work for the Nature Conservancy searching for and cataloging rare plants. What have you ever done? Anchors are painted metal, no ratty slings. Try to expand your mind and realize that bolts are necessary to climb faces with no natural protection and that we can minimize impact with prudent practices.

Trad climber
Here and there
Jun 23, 2014 - 03:45pm PT
Not spragging about routes on the internets and guidebooks would go a long way to leaving no trace...

A lot less people would go to many areas, this would reduce impacts.

Yeah, I know I am a hypocrite.

Trad climber
Reno, NV
Jun 23, 2014 - 04:53pm PT
I feel sorry for the young generations that seem to think safety is the foremost reward of climbing. The dumbing down of youth continues.

Being safer equals dumbing down? So when climbers saw the safety advantages of new climbing technology such as dynamic ropes, cams, etc., they embraced them because they were stupid?

If you saw a guy setting out to do a big route in Yose in hobnail boots, a swami belt, static rope, and some homemade pitons, you'd be like "Wow, now there's a fella with a good head on his shoulder"?

Or would you be like "the dude's cheese done slipped of his cracker"?

Trad climber
Jun 23, 2014 - 05:50pm PT
Blah blah blah nothing ever created more of a 'trace' than a cliff sprayed with bolts

Rationalize it all you want you old coot

Your butt is hurt cause people called you out on your sh#t lol go have a good cry, fire in some more bolts and you'll feel like 'the man' again soon enough

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Jun 23, 2014 - 06:27pm PT
I've only 'sport climbed' in Vegas. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, California
Jun 23, 2014 - 06:50pm PT
I started with French, then Ranch, been going with Thousand Island for a while now.
Dingus McGee

Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 26, 2014 - 05:30am PT

read me more carefully, I never said Jstan was incorrect but that I did not want to use the likes of his type of pedantic analysis, the syllogism. His and your sophomoric analysis gets us no where with safety and risks except the posting of new sub-categories of what fits your limited definition of rational. Or is your definition of rational an absolute standard?

You guys chose that narrow interpretation of rationality and tried to make a statement about my thread. Well here the is definition of rational from Merriam-Webster--

Rationality is the quality or state of being reasonable, based on facts or reason.

I take it that "facts" here can mean empirically gathered evidence.

Your view of my view is quite presumptuous when you say my view [this definition above] of rational poses an absolute standard.

Social climber
Jun 26, 2014 - 09:21am PT
Safety trumps leaving no trace

That’s true but that is not what you are defending. What you are defending is convenience and your personal manifest destiny to bolt whenever and whatever you want.

As for those who try to deconstruct the “leave no trace” meme to some kind Zeno paradox of unattainable and hierarchy and complication it’s not that but just an admonishment to be thoughtful about how you treat public lands. It is a good basis for approaching wilderness to be conservative in the moment so down the road some can take liberties in the future.

Jun 26, 2014 - 09:27am PT
Sophomoric? RGOLD's statement is sophpmoric you say? BS Dingus. The man wrote an in depth approach to answer this and that's what ya got in response?

soph·o·mor·ic - pretentious or juvenile.
adjective: sophomoric

Dingus McGee

Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 26, 2014 - 09:40am PT

you fail to see the sly rhetorical measures used in the Rgold post. In fact the only way to make that syllogism work is to use such a narrow definition of rational --"context free". And when this sopho level puzzle is used it produces no good answers to reducing safety and risk. Study some risk analysis and you will find little or no mention of the Jstan like syllogism. It is merely cheap talk or lip service instead of figuring out real solutions to minimizing risk while we are doing what we are doing.

To say rational must be "context free" is to use the same absolute standard they accuse me of using.

Where as in another post I stated that rational is choosing the best of several less than optimal. How much information do we have on each option?

Goldstone's reasoning can be subjected to same standard measure of scrutiny I would give to your post. It is sophomoric in that once you know how to reduce risk you don't even go to that syllogistic way of explaining the methodology of risk analysis.

Jun 26, 2014 - 10:50am PT
So Dingus, whether or not something is "worth the risk" is determined by a risk/reward computation/comparison of some sort. How does this necessitate that the risk be kept under a certain level? Wouldn't risk analysis posit that a greater risk is worthy only in the face of an adequate reward? Therefore, in terms of risk, a behavior is rational based on the reward compared to the risk, and as a result different levels of risk could be considered rational under different circumstances, depending on the potential reward.

So, how are rgolds comments stupid again? I'm confused. Please explain.
Dingus McGee

Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 26, 2014 - 11:03am PT

The syllogism advanced by Jstan and Rgold is pretentious (couchmaster definition of sophomoric if you will) in that its use does nothing to advance risk analysis--a mere pretension to know something of safety and risk reduction.
Mark Force

Trad climber
Cave Creek, AZ
Jun 26, 2014 - 11:07am PT
Krahmes, very articulate post.

Dingus, respect and civility, please.

And, although I disagree with your ethics regarding bolting, I do need to give you credit for the overall considerate and conservative way you have developed Reese. Kudos to you for that.

Jun 26, 2014 - 11:08am PT

Yes, but you claimed ignorance/acted like that kind of risk analysis was just whack by it's nature. I read them as merely pointing out the critical things you had left off. I would agree it was pretentious in it's long-winded nature, but IMO it was a good contribution to the discussion none the less. Do you disagree? If so, why?
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