Bolts on El cap


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john hansen

Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 10, 2006 - 10:42pm PT
When Bridwell and co did the first ascent of Sea of Dreams they placed 37 bolts. How many bolts are on this route now?

The nose was done with 125. How many now?

With the free routes going up and poeple fixing lines to
'prepare' the route ( skinners extra belay, Jardine traverse ect) How many bolts have been added to those routes.

The dihedral wall, Salathe...?

I have faith Hill didn't place any new ones on the nose. She did have to remove a fixed pin to use the hand hold and she used all the pin scars of course .

Did tommy put in any on the Dihedral or had skinner already done it.

Not being jugdemental,, just trying to get a historical perspective on how the ethics change to fit the times.

Any comments?
jack herer

veneta, or
Sep 10, 2006 - 11:56pm PT
The salathe had only 13 bolts placed on the FA all below pitch 7... now theres probably 50 or more on the route.

Sep 10, 2006 - 11:58pm PT
That's horrendous.
john hansen

Topic Author's Reply - Sep 11, 2006 - 12:00am PT
That is exactly what kind of info I'm looking for.
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Sep 11, 2006 - 12:10am PT
The once-proud Dihedral Wall is a fvckin' disgrace! There are bolts a measured five feet apart only fourteen inches from the aid crack above The Ledge! There is another bolt ladder going up and right around the roof around pitch five, bolts five or six feet apart.

Tommy told me he didn't place them, and I believe him. He said they had been placed by Todd Skinner.

Seriously - it's a fvicking disgrace. Skinner needs to go up and remove those bolts, and fill the holes with a mixture of rock dust and epoxy to render them as invisible as possible.

Skinner needs to take a lesson from the likes of Alex and Thomas Huber and Leo Houlding - those boys have balls, and know how to run it out when they free climb a wall.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Sep 11, 2006 - 12:22am PT
Aggregate statistics like bolt counts originally and now are not that interesting. The Nose, and Salathe' do not seem "horrendously" overbolted to me. Certainly most of the bolts added are at belay/hauling anchors. The Rohrer rappel route down the Nose didn't exist in 1958. But it has been helpful for people bailing off. It's also nice to avoid bringing a hammer and pins to make anchors with, even though that was how it was originally done.

There are even some bolts that have disappeared from the Nose - Harding's old protection bolts on Pancake Flake, for example.

Brooke Sandahl placed some bolts on the free variation to the final pitch and to his attempted free variation on the pitch above Camp 6. This was before Lynn Hill joined him (and earlier, Simon Nadin) in the effort to free the Nose.

There are also bolts lower down on the pitch above Camp 6, specifically just left of the arete which is left of the tight "Houdini Corner" / "Changing Corners" (5.13c or 5.14b depending on who you ask). They weren't there in 1985. When I did it last year, I clipped them, and it made that pitch easier and less scary then when it was just RPs in the tight corner. I could have been more disciplined and not clipped them. I make it a point of not clipping the bolt that was added just above the crux mantle on the DNB, for example.

On the Salathe', Skinner and Piana replaced some aging belay anchors on the lower section (Free Blast). See their article. At around the time when the Free Blast was originally freed (1975), there was a controversy about bolts being added and chopped. I don't remember the details. Perhaps Roger Breedlove does. Skinner and Piana added a belay anchor at the lip of the Roof pitch (start of Headwall), where there is a good stance. It doesn't affect the aid climbing. Higher up on the Headwall, a protection bolt added sometime after it was freed by Skinner/Piana, and before Alex Huber freed it. That added bolt made it less runout, and may affect the aid version similarly. See:

under "crux pitches" and "p30-31".

Skinner and Piana did add bolts on their free variations, such as the Teflon Corner and the knobby face above Long Ledge. Of course these do not affect the aid climbing.

Sep 11, 2006 - 01:05am PT
It sounded like a lot until I remembered how bolts keep getting added to belays. Didn't seem like there were that many when I did the lower pitches in the later 80s.

I hope when these climbs are being retrofitted, that the climbers doing so pay attention to the visual impact and keep the bolt count as low as possible. Honor the historical bolt count. Unfortunately, the desire to make climbing safer generally contributes to the bolt fever that gets in the way of adventure. I find it inspiring that the pioneers were so skilled as to be able to establish this route with so little drilling. The primative tools they had back then and the climbing they did!
john hansen

Topic Author's Reply - Sep 11, 2006 - 01:32am PT
I guess no one does Sea of Dreams any more.

Big Wall climber
hiding in plain sight
Sep 11, 2006 - 07:08am PT
Vroom, Vroom...

If I ever get back to Yosemite, I'm going to make Ken Nichols look like Mother frickin' Teresa.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Sep 11, 2006 - 10:56am PT
Having Bolted Anchors on El Cap, in my opinion, is not a step backward from fixed pin anchors. Be sure to consider that in assessing the "Horror"

"I have faith Hill didn't place any new ones on the nose." If she didn't, it's only because others had established the extra bolts already. The free variations make extensive use of new bolts



Gym climber
Otto, NC
Sep 11, 2006 - 11:21am PT
Clint and Karl, you should know better! The forum is no place for nuanced views. By god, we want a witch hunt and we want it now!
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Sep 11, 2006 - 01:26pm PT
Hi Clint:

I don't have any information about bolts on El Cap. I don't even remember if Allen and I took a bolt kit on the Salathe.

I think that these questions are interesting and the El Cap climbing community would probably be well served to keep track of what was placed when and by whom. However, the why is probably more important given the competing issues of maintaining the original ascent's integrity, maintaining the difficulty of the aid, providing convenience with multiple parties crowding belays, rap routes, all free ascents, and reducing pin scaring.

That is a long list of competing issues with no absolute right answer.

More unfortunate, in my opinion, there is not much willingness to try to figure it out--we all just mostly stake out our home turf and insult the other sides. Everyone rides motorcycles.

I was surprised, Clint, that you say that there is a bolt above the crux mantle on DNB. My memory is sort of sketchy, but I thought that there was a move above the ledge to the mantle, the mantle, and then the bolt and the bolt had always been there.

Best, Roger


Trad climber
Somewhere, CA
Sep 11, 2006 - 02:52pm PT
Why don't we ask the first ascent party...

Dear Warren Harding, What do you think of more bolts at belays on the Nose?

I'm guessing the reply would involve 'hammer away', and 'where's your jug of wine'?

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Sep 11, 2006 - 03:51pm PT
Karl made a good point that bolts were added for free variations by others before Hill freed it. I mentioned Brooke Sandahl for a couple of variations up high, but I forgot about Ray Jardine's variations down low, like the p7 traverse to the Dolt Hole corner and the traverse right out below the Dolt Hole. Interestingly, the traverse out right there avoids Harding's bolt ladder above the Dolt Hole, so it's less bolts that way....

Roger wrote:
> I was surprised, Clint, that you say that there is a bolt above the crux mantle on DNB. My memory is sort of sketchy, but I thought that there was a move above the ledge to the mantle, the mantle, and then the bolt and the bolt had always been there.

Your memory is good - the original bolt at the mantle is shown in the Meyers 1982 topo, for example. That bolt is about 6" above the crux big sloping mantle hold. There was also a second bolt out to the right at that ledge. The added bolt was placed sometime in the early 90s, and it is about 4' above the sloping mantle hold. It's a Petzl Longlife, so it would be difficult to chop. Here's a photo which shows the added bolt (I was not able to find a photo which shows both at the same time) - my partner is standing on the sloping mantle hold at this point, and the added bolt is between her hands. The original bolt is not visible, near her right ankle.

Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Sep 11, 2006 - 05:18pm PT
Thanks for the picture, Clint. I am guessing that you can clip the new bolt before committing to putting your foot under your hand on the mantle. If this is the case, I am impressed that you chose not to clip it--I would have. Maybe that is 20/20 hindsight. I popped off that hold with my toe under my hand and crunched my ankle on the ledge below. Took me out for about a month.

Mr_T, Harding probably wouldn't have cared so much about added bolts on the Nose. But Bridwell has let it be know that he cares about added bolts on his routes and so did (does?) Robbins. Either one of those guys has lots more new footage on the Captain that Warren's two routes.

In any case, in my opinion, Robbins’ take on preserving the first ascents methods is only one of several 'rules' that need to be addressed. Bridwell and others of his generation avoided holes at all costs, even (I think) making head placements with chisels. In the WoS thread on 'Ethics' John Mittendorf laid out the logic for drilling in any placement that would not otherwise support multiple ascents and against 'manfuctured' difficulty. The world changed and John and his generation moderated the old rules. They still climbed hard and proud. Chouinard was very public about efforts to avoid pin scarring, as was Robbins. There is a very good chance that any of those early guys would wonder what the difference is between clipping fixed pins and heads versus bolts. And early generations who climbed with only scant evidence of pin scarring are taken aback by it, even if there is a recognition that it sort of depends on your frame of reference.

There is no denying that the adventure and game is different now. The rules can be different now too.

Sorry for hijacking your thread, John Hansen. I am off my soap box.

I wonder if anyone has tried to keep track of all the added and replaced bolts on The Captain?

john hansen

Topic Author's Reply - Sep 11, 2006 - 10:58pm PT
Roger , no need to apologize, this is exactly the type of discusion I was looking for. Time keeps moving on , we don't live in a static world.

Im just interested in the history and how the routes evolved.
Caldwell and Hill seem honest and reputable in thier reporting but I have heard things about skinner and his gang. He seems to not care. I read they rap bolted a big cliff in Mali and were criticized for not even talking to the local african climbers about the local ethics. The Hubers, are they getting out of line by bringing in a huge camera crew and fixing lines everywhere?

Still wondering about bolts added to Sea of Dreams,, or would the Bird track down the culprit and kill them.

Thanks for all your input. Keep em coming,,Thanx

Bishop, California
Sep 12, 2006 - 10:49am PT
I guess I've been in this cowtown too long. When I first glanced at this:

"I have faith Hill didn't place any new ones on the nose."

This first thing that came to mind was "What does Faith Hill have to do with bolts on El Cap?"
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Sep 12, 2006 - 09:40pm PT
"Caldwell and Hill seem honest and reputable in thier reporting "

Again, I like Caldwell and he is an awesome climber and inspriation,

But other folks did the work drilling on Lurking Fear, Dihedral and the Muir before he freed them. Why diss the ones that had the vision and put in the hard labor and give a free pass to the guy who has the skills to go clip somebody elses bolts? Or did he skip some?

I guess he he went and pioneered a free El Cap route, we could judge his reporting and work.

Now the Hubers are bold, no doubt, and I did the Triple Direct when they were working the Nose and their fixed lines were coiled up at the bivies instead of hanging down. There were tick marks everywhere but that's not the end of the world. It didn't give me the confidence to free extra moves, let me tell you!

I'm not sure super bold is a virtue all the time anyway. It really limits who can follow in your footsteps, and boldness finally bit a Huber in the butt this year.



Sep 13, 2006 - 01:52am PT

Doctored ment how you described it in your post above. When you guys first pulled RR's bolts it created a nightmare for a while for mortals to pass through there.

Sep 13, 2006 - 02:02am PT
Great story Kevin.

Werner, are you talking about the thank god face hold at the end of the thin roof on the second pitch that seemed like it had been chipped out of a crystal dike? It sure is good and in exactly the right place.
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