It takes balls to use nuts...

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Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Nov 20, 2006 - 10:01am PT
Healy,
it was precisely BECAUSE cams made what were formerly runout test pieces far more reasonable that Jim Bridwell and Scott Fischer were initially against the use of cams at all.
But they soon realized the futility of their position and learned to embrace the new technology and use it to their advantage.

We are simply doomed to be unable to appreciate the skill and boldness of climbers on who's shoulders we stand, and more's the pity.
Cracko

Trad climber
Quartz Hill, California
Nov 20, 2006 - 11:50am PT
Healyje,

I totally agree. We have reached consensus !! But I must disagree with Ron's "We are simply doomed to be unable to appreciate the skill and boldness of climbers on who's shoulders we stand, and more's the pity." I fully appreciate the skill and boldness of climbers who put up all the routes I climb with less gear than what I use. In fact, I appreciate it so much that I strive to do these routes as close to the original style as I possibly can. An "all clean" ascent of a trade wall route is something I am very proud of, as is an "all nut" ascent of a free route. And, I can maintain this full appreciation even more when I slam a cam into a crack, where others before me protected with a stopper, knowing full well that I will never rise to their level of skill or boldness! But, at least I got to experience where they have been and that is why I climb.

Cracko
Jello

Social climber
No Ut
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 20, 2006 - 12:25pm PT
The OP wasn't meant to contrast using nuts with using cams. It was meant to document a time when there was a major change from using tried and true, but destructive, pitons, to clean and non-destructive artificial chockstones. It was a bigger psychological difference than cams vs nuts, and represented a committment to preserving the rock, even if it meant accepting greater personal risk. It was a leap of the spirit, rather than a technological advance. Ironically, it turned out that many climbs were better protected, and could be climbed easier and faster, using nuts. As a result, it was a win-win development.
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Nov 20, 2006 - 12:45pm PT
Jeff, your last post reflects my experience. I think by 1972, we were pretty much using hexs and stoppers, although I fixed pins if I though they were required (mostly thin LAs and knifeblades, as I recall).

Climbing with nuts was lots better than pins: faster, easier on the second, quiet, and, in the age before quick draws, easier on the rope drag. (Remember when double biners attached to a pin would sometimes twist and release the rope—yikes)

I never climbed with cams, so I cannot speak to their use. However when I have watched folks place them, I am surprised by either how easy they are to place, or the mindless stupidity of the leader trusting them. I guess that I was that way about nuts in the beginning--checking, tugging, inspecting, …procrastinating. However, after a while you could spot the best placement and the right size in one glance, slip it in, clip and go. At which point procrastination had to stand on its own.

Roger
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Nov 20, 2006 - 12:47pm PT
Jeff,

win-win is over simplified. Some routes at the time WERE harder to protect clean, but overall it was favorable, with the stylistic aesthetic overwhelming those minor instances.



Cracko,
there are always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part pioneers are underappreciated, if only from the practical application of updated technology.
Jello

Social climber
No Ut
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 20, 2006 - 01:07pm PT
Ron- Roger emphasises my point, but I agree there were times it was more difficult to protect with nuts, so you're right, as well.

Do you remember the days in Eldo when the ethic on even FA's was to start on the ground with a rack of nuts and do the climb in one go, on-sight. Any hanging, frigging or fall was considered a "taint", as in , if you do any of those things, it "taint" a real free climb - ala Erickson? I was absolutely committed to that style. When there was no natural pro available, we either retreated, or sucked it up and climbed on. My best memories of those Eldo days include huge runouts on Inner Space, Three Old Farts (since retro-bolted), Fool's Journ (with Warbler), Sunday Comix, etc.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Nov 20, 2006 - 01:27pm PT
As you know I'm well familiar with the Erickson ethic (see FA the Unsaid), but not all of us employed it. It was merely the goal to strive for.
I never was very good on Eldo sandstone. Weird stuff, slippery and at times deceptive.


It was kind of funny years later in '76 when Jim was in the valley with Art working on Half Dome, and he finally showed a crack in his ethical wall and decided to preplace a pro bolt.
He went casting about C4 to secure the needed hardware, saw me, and said, "Ron, I know YOU'LL have a bolt!"

Sure enough, if that 1/4" Rawl buttonhead with a leeper hanger is still up there, it came from my kit.
Patrick Sawyer

climber
Originally California now Ireland
Nov 20, 2006 - 01:39pm PT
As far as I am concerned, having to put a pin in a crack (and hoping it would stay there) while hanging on a hold, and then start nailing was much trickier than placing a nut. It was a pain. Thank the heavens for nuts/chocks.
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Nov 20, 2006 - 01:59pm PT
Hey Jeff, I never climbed in Eldo, but the ethic of ground-up, all free, all clean, pretty much single try ascents was also the goal in Yosemite at about the same time. I don't know how often it was achieved in practice--most of the time, I would guess. We included bolting in our definition of all clean on face routes. Did you guys?

The all free, all clean (with bolts) ethic stuck. But yo-yoing became more common--with lowering to the last good rest and pulling the ropes. I think 'Separate Reality' a mind blowing route at the time, was done that way. (Mike, comments?)

Then Ray started 'working' his routes, wiring them, and then returning to do a 'ground up' ascent. I was reporting for Mountain at the time (Mid-1970s) and asked Kauk and Bachar about Ray's routes. When they reported that they were 'desperate,' Ken and I decided to report them as straight up ascents. The modern world had arrived.

Roger
Irisharehere

Trad climber
Gunks
Nov 20, 2006 - 03:01pm PT
I was actually responsible for the removal of the chockstone in the Baby offwidth - accidentally.

Had a hand on it, leaning back to scope out how far it was to the ledge, and whatever way I stretched, it dislodged the chockstone, which popped out, crushed my pinky, and went to the ground, landing next to my rather surprised belayer.

My only lead fall to date!

Irish
deuce4

Big Wall climber
the Southwest
Nov 20, 2006 - 03:08pm PT
Contrary to what many believe, I came up with the ball and grooved wedge design originally. I have written about this before, but it looks like a good time to throw it out there again.

I was living in Flagstaff, starting A5 and helping in the Wired Bliss shop from time to time, and worked on prototypes of my design in Steve's shop. I shared the idea with him, he took the split-ball idea and ran with it, and he even later patented the concepts of the three-part design which I favored. At the time, it was quite a burn. I got signed letters from witnesses who worked there who knew it was my idea, in case I ever wanted to take it to court, but I never did that.

Here's some of my original drawings:



The first two sketches predate Steve working on the design. He started making prototypes of the two-part design in late 1987 and early 1988.

The three-part Monkey Paw is a stellar design, I only made about 20 prototypes and a dozen or so finished models (in three sizes), most of which were strength tested to failure (they were full cable strength). I never went into production after the Wired Bliss burn, but now there are no patents protecting the idea, and it would be a great open-source project for a good machinist. I have detailed plans if anyone is interested. Working out the best angle of the groove was the key, discovered only after the many rounds of prototypes.

cheers
John Middendorf
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Nov 20, 2006 - 03:39pm PT
I thought you invented the piton, John.
WBraun

climber
Nov 20, 2006 - 03:45pm PT
So true John

I remember when you made these ball things. I think you gave me a prototype that I still have and used. I must look in my huge pile of gear.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Nov 20, 2006 - 04:13pm PT
In truth John loaned me a prototype once.


edit; not to be confusing, it was a prototype soloist.
The instructions for threading were written in marker on the unfinished aluminum. I used it on the FA of Iron Messiah and as the climb progressed my sweaty hands rubbed out these critical instructions.

I now believe that I free soloed several pitches with rope drag, thinking I was belaying myself...


Curiously, when I returned the device with a report of the climb he then published a significantly erroneous and disparaging version in R&I and then became quite reticent on the subject.
It is significant enough to bring up in THIS thread because my climb used only 5 nut placements for aid.

Deuce had me creating unneccesary bolt ladders.
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Nov 20, 2006 - 04:29pm PT
Hey Ron, the story I heard is that John invented 'balls.'

Seems plausible.
Jello

Social climber
No Ut
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 20, 2006 - 04:52pm PT
Thanks for that info, Deuce. It's always good to get the record straight. The ball and wedge concept offers so much. Hopefully, someone will take it further.

Cheers,
Jeff
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Nov 20, 2006 - 04:55pm PT
Actually Jeff I prefer to use the "wedge" and balls.
stich

Trad climber
Denver, Colorado
Nov 20, 2006 - 06:10pm PT
Hey deuce, it's really cool to see you interested in the whole open source idea now after those earlier days of patents and friends stealing your designs. Maybe you should write a book called "Steal This Book...and the Machine Designs in it.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Nov 20, 2006 - 06:21pm PT
"We are simply doomed to be unable to appreciate the skill and boldness of climbers on who's shoulders we stand, and more's the pity. "

Ron, I have to agree with Cracko on this one. Any climber today can still rack up a set of nuts, a set of hexs, and go hit any of the hard classics that were put up passive at any of the big climbing areas. They'll still have the advantage of lighter pro and ropes. But you never hear of any such reenactments though. But then again, I personally don't particularly fancy the idea of stacking stoppers and hexs in pegmatite gashes again for old times sake either.

People are often quick to comment on how the standards have moved on, but there is definitely an impedance mismatch when they ignore what was accomplished on passive pro alone.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Nov 20, 2006 - 06:27pm PT
Malcolm - I know you've been looking for a way to drive your Ball Nut machinists even crazier then they are - this could be your grand opportunity. Make the Monkey!!!

John, thanks for being so generous with your insights and all this historic material.
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