What ever happened to "ground up"?


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Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Nov 29, 2006 - 01:39pm PT

Your use of the "ownership" issue is flat out bogus. It's easy to tell it's bogus because it is simply about whether you have a right to take some action or another. But the real heart of the matter isn't whether you have the right or permission or not - the heart of the matter is WHAT you want to do and WHY you want to do it. Whether you or future generations have a right to do it is a completely secondary if not tertiary argument.

Stop all the distracting discussion about WHO (ownership) and speak honestly for just one post about the WHAT you want to do and WHY you want to do it. You seem entirely unwilling or unable to simply own that you want climbing and climbs to be safe or explain exactly why you feel that way. As far as I'm concerned it's all going to remain a repetitive circle jerk until you do...
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Nov 29, 2006 - 01:42pm PT
I think Bob is just saying that Sport Climbing has contributed to higher standards and accomplishments in Trad climbing as well.

I don't think you're going to find too many examples of folks climbing 5.13 trad or above who haven't honed their abilities sport climbing.

Doesn't matter much. Sport climbing is here and is unlikely to go away. We gotta live with it and establish communication between genres so sport climbing recognizes the difference in values and practices when they take their pumpatude to the trad realms.


Karl "totally sucks at sport climbing and never drilled a sport bolt" Baba

Nov 29, 2006 - 01:56pm PT
Mimi wrote "I think if a climber only knows the gym and sport routes, they miss out on a ton of what climbing has to offer."

I agree with this. And it does sadden me a little when I talk with a climber who seems to be "missing out" on so much. However, I have no problem with anyone focusing on one particular part of climbing. Part of what I love about climbing is how diverse it is, how you can get sucked into so many different aspects of it.

I think it's fine for someone to stick to one thing. I become irritated/angry/combative when this same person tries to apply the lessons they've learned in one limited context to other facets of climbing.


Trad climber
Boston, MA
Nov 29, 2006 - 01:59pm PT
Wes, what you're saying is not only insulting to the last generation, but to the next, too. Like Broken, I'm not a stuck-in-the-mud oldster. I started climbing in the gym. I learned to climb first by reading John Long how-to books. It took a few years from that humble beginning before I understood the value of putting routes up with minimal fixed gear. Fortunately, I had folks around me who respected the past, and that gave me the time to come to my own conclusions.

Your vision is shortsighted. It suggests that every generation should impose their will on the work of the last generation. Not only does that reverse the progression of what climbers have always tried to do - to do the climbs of their elders in ever-better style, (while putting up new routes in the style of their choice). But even worse, if you change those older climbs to suit today's taste, it robs new climbers of the chance to commune with the older climbs - to learn how they fit in the world through experienceing what's been done before. And that sense of continuity, of belonging to a community, of seeing oneself as a climber within a history of climbing - that is a perspective that you seem not to care for one whit.

In essence, you're adovocating smashing flat a whole line of protection leading from the past to the present to the future.

That, sir, I have no respect for.


Social climber
Ventura, California
Nov 29, 2006 - 02:07pm PT
That was well said

Nov 29, 2006 - 02:08pm PT
It sure was.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Nov 29, 2006 - 02:20pm PT
Wes - "Good thing Bachar didn't bolt everything, cuz most everyone would be hard pressed to develop the talent to climb anything."

an interesting statement, there are climbs in Tuolumne Meadows, say the west side of Fairview Dome, which at "X" rated and have no bolts. They were done solo, onsight. So even when no bolts were placed, there are routes that are respected and left in the condition that they were climbed.

Would I climb the route? not likely, but I would be one of the first to go and chop bolts placed over the line.


Because these climbs represent an important evolution of the sport in the early '80s, the idea of that committment is the most important aspect of climbing. That is a depricated idea, but the fact that it is no long fashionable to talk about committment doesn't make it invalid. I would advocate keeping those lines free of bolts simply because there are climbers who are bold enough to actually go and do them; in the past, the present and the future. And they should have the opportunity.

The Meadows is big enough to support bolted lines similar to these in other places... no need to force your ethic there, just go elsewhere.
bob d'antonio

Trad climber
Taos, NM
Nov 29, 2006 - 02:28pm PT
Mimi wrote: I think if a climber only knows the gym and sport routes, they miss out on a ton of what climbing has to offer.

That's an opinion and one that I agree with. But what I think doesn't mean that others should think or do the same.

Karl wrote: think Bob is just saying that Sport Climbing has contributed to higher standards and accomplishments in Trad climbing as well.

I don't think you're going to find too many examples of folks climbing 5.13 trad or above who haven't honed their abilities sport climbing.


Greg Barnes

Nov 29, 2006 - 02:38pm PT
I agree with you Ed, but just to play devil's advocate, what do you think about the fact that a few years ago Alan Nelson invited anyone to go "retrobolt-into-sport-climbs" his old Tuolumne free solos (which include several on the right side of Fairview)?

Nov 29, 2006 - 02:40pm PT
Ed mentioned earlier the notion of climbing the B-Y safely. There were no further comments on this.

But I think it is one of the central aspects of this issue.

People who have logged countless hours in the gym or on difficult sport routes / boulder problems do not understand the concept of climbing dangerous routes safely. They seem to think that it is all a matter of climbing "below your level" (i.e. a 5.13 climber on a run-out 5.11, such as the B-Y).

This is not necessarily the case.

Run-out climbing is something you have to train for as well. People are frustrated when they have 5.12 strength but can't do a "dangerous" 5.9 because protection is sparse. So what do they do? They claim that the route was put up in poor style - or was some sort of ego demonstration. Or that it is just stupid.

Rather, I think their unwillingness to prepare adequately for the route - and their unwillingness to see other value systems - speaks to their own ego and their own hypocrisy.

"Bold" climbing did not come naturally to me. I was not one who could just haphazardly jump on something and confront big falls on questionable gear. I don't think there are many who can do this (just as there are not many who can climb 5.13 right out of the box).

But you can work up to it. 5.10R is not all that dangerous with the proper preparation and the proper approach.

Actual risk brings mental challenges far different than just hanging on for the sake of "the send." Why should we remove these from climbing?


Hey, if you want to do it like the FA did it, just don't grab that jug I chiseled into the crux...

Nov 29, 2006 - 03:18pm PT
Wes, maybe if you were more articulate, we could have a better discussion on this board. Your irrational entertainment doesn't seem to be entertaining the people trying to reason with you. And I think I'm safe in saying that we're all still climbing. Most folks on here are still active and passionate about climbing. We've stuck it out here in this jerkfest despite your ridicule and obvious lack of respect and reading comprehension skills.

Ponder for a moment why the legions of gymspawn whose flag you proudly wave seem noticeably absent in this discussion. It's you and frac. Does that not raise a flag that your position is generally untenable?

How dark and smelly does the view have to get before you realize that your head might be in the wrong place?

Nov 29, 2006 - 03:29pm PT
Hedge, that's an entertaining analysis.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Nov 29, 2006 - 03:52pm PT
Wes wrote:

I presented my ideas:

"1) the rock does not belong to the FA party.
2) the style of the FA party should not dictate how that section of the rock gets treated for future generation unless it is currently valued by the community.
3) this includes overbolted sport climbs as well as routes with potentially great climbing that consistently get passed over due to the way the FA team put them up, for whatever reason."

Which is pretty much the way things are,

except that "potentially great climbing that consistently get passed over due to the way the FA team put them up" is presently "currently valued by the community"

Almost by definition, if the community in an area changes it's values, the situation will change, whether we like it or not. Thus the value of communication about where those values come from.

I still think Wes's confrontational writing has made folks angry enough to put words in his mouth, too bad. My contributions to this thread were in spite of the emotional writing on both sides, not because of them.

BTW Ed, I'm not sure something like Bachar's "Solitary Confinement" has had many ascent's but I wouldn't glorify it. He told me once that during his first ascent, he found himself in the middle of a committing move depending on a key hold that showed signs of cracking and breaking at any moment. Even a big stud could go on the ride of his life.

Some of this discussion winds up sounding extreme when the reality everywhere is just a little different. Kinda like "abstinence only" education.

Daughter: "Dad, can we talk about sex?"

Dad: "Uh..Yeah.....Of course.."

Daughter: "Cause I was thinking, now that I'm 18 and all, that once I'm in a committed relationship of say, 8 dates, that maybe oral sex is safe enough to engage in with my new boyfriend."

Dad: "Err..Honey, let me tell you about trad climbing values, bolting ethics, and the we we do things in Tuolumne Meadows..."



Boulder climber
Gilbert, AZ
Nov 29, 2006 - 05:24pm PT
In view of the fact that we already lost the war, I'm not sure it makes sense to keep fighting the battles.


Nov 29, 2006 - 05:56pm PT
This is exactly the discussion I heard thirty years ago. There has been no change whatsoever. What would I consider to be a change?

1. People uniformly treat each other in a civil manner. If agreement is reached, the people to whom you are now talking may one day be belaying you.
2. People ask each other questions - and listen to the answer.
3. People express opinions that are consistent from one moment to the next.

I am sure there are other excellent candidates for this list and perhaps some will be offered. In my opinion, we are going nowhere people.


Trad climber
Butte, America
Nov 29, 2006 - 06:47pm PT
My meaningless opinion is up in the wind, but I do know this--my rap-bolted FAs here in Montana are unemotional to me, and I am far more excited when somebody repeats them; however, my GU trad FAs are memorable and accomplishments which I am inwardly proud of. Typical response to a query over TD FAs, "Pretty anticlimatic, man, I had it wired when I red-pointed it." Typical response on a GU FA, "It was hairy, but fun and I actually pulled it off--great climb, etc..." Y'all be the judge and put yourself in the FA's shoes--justification for an action never exceeds the criticsm it brought about.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Nov 29, 2006 - 07:21pm PT
Kinda ironic.

The older generation preserved the boldness of the faces but created heavy damage on the walls and cracks using pins because they didn't have better gear, didn't have better vision, and couldn't wait. Later they suggest others wait until they have the skills to climb the bold stuff or leave it alone forever.

The old school also polluted the whole world, wasted resources at a wildly unsustainable rate and racked up huge debt as a nation.

The kids will have different set of challenges. Climb walls cleaner or trench heads for miles? Burn up the coal and screw up their own kid's world as the oil runs short or live leaner and more sustainably? Retrobolt something, everything or nothing?

Time will tell. The bar is high in some places and low in other. On the financial/resource/environmental level, We've left em with quite a lead out to begin with.

Not trying to make a particular point, Just some food for thought



Social climber
kennewick, wa
Nov 29, 2006 - 08:17pm PT
Damn! Wes, that was your best post this whole thread!

Although I certainly hate the idea of retro-bolting, having a committee decide about new and existing routes, etc...I realize we have come to that in some places.

mojede, My meaningless opinion is up in the wind, but I do know this--my rap-bolted FAs here in Montana are unemotional to me, and I am far more excited when somebody repeats them; however, my GU trad FAs are memorable and accomplishments which I am inwardly proud of. Typical response to a query over TD FAs, "Pretty anticlimatic, man, I had it wired when I red-pointed it." Typical response on a GU FA, "It was hairy, but fun and I actually pulled it off--great climb, etc..." Y'all be the judge and put yourself in the FA's shoes--justification for an action never exceeds the criticsm it brought about.

I thought this was worth repeating and I totally agree.

Climbing does represent many different extremes and it is totally necessary that the extremes of boldness be preserved. Maybe that does not mean all routes should stay that way but so far, nobody has come out and said they wanted route X at crag Y retro bolted.

Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Nov 29, 2006 - 09:58pm PT
"We are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than they, and things at a greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness on sight on our part, or any physical distinction, but because we are carried high and raised up by their giant size."
John of Salisbury, 12th century

As AF noted, Sir Isaac Newton in the 17th century: "If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." (I visited his birthplace a few weeks ago. OT trivia.)

"Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"
Robert Browning, 19th century

Wes: Whose shoulders are you standing on, and what are your dreams?

It's risky to disagree with the philosophers and poets. And if we forget where we came from, it'll be harder to work out where we're going.

Freud, who had views on the need of sons to "murder" their fathers, may have had some interesting thoughts on this thread. As we're a rather heterogenous bunch, it'd be risky to say more.

My preference is GU routes, but I've climbed if not created most kinds. I don't think anyone, even those who create a respected FA, "owns" the rock or mountains. We share them. With each other, and with the public and the natural environment. We feel at home in them, but they're not "our" territory. A lot of climbing behaviour is explained by adolescent male sociology, especially to do with territory, control, peer groups, and challenge.

Those who create a FA, especially one of substance, should be accorded respect - a new route is often a work of art, even poetry. (I refuse to use "develop" when it comes to creating new routes - it demeans the experience. Although sometimes I wonder.) It also means I don't have any more - or less - right to behave as I want on the rock than anyone else. Living or yet to be born. We often in our selfishness forget the long perspective.

I think jstan hit the nail on the head. These are all old issues, thrashed to death, but we're in a time of change. We need to talk about and work out these things. Even though it's sometimes like the death of 1,000 cuts.


1. Climbers form a community. One full of strong-willed individuals. Being in a community means responsibility - especially to each other. Tolerance, open communication, honesty, and all that kindergarten stuff. It also means working together, something we could do better. Ken Yager and his ilk deserve many gold stars for their work on herding cats.

2. Climbing is inclusive, not exclusive. We're not special, or entitled to special treatment, just because we're climbers, or climb. The diversity of ST illustrates this - we even tolerate honorary climbers, e.g. LEB. Sort of, anyway.

3. Whenever we can, we have to work out our issues, real or perceived, ourselves. Else we're inviting others to do so for us. And perceptions count as much as reality - this is politics.

4. We're not on an unlimited frontier any more. There are boundaries, and they're mostly not going away. (The British and Norwegians largely refuse to countenance bolting, let alone rap-bolting, as they're acutely aware that they have a limited resource. Climbers in other parts of Europe often haven't been so forward thinking.)

5. Climbing always involves risk. It may be modest, as is often the case with bouldering and bolt-protected ("sport") climbing. But there's risk, and it's real. As is well illustrated by the number hurt in gyms, or bouldering. (The American Safe Climbing Association, for all its great efforts, should be charged with oxymoronism. Safer, maybe. Safe, never.)

6. Climbing also always involves challenge, usually physical, mental and moral. And it almost always requires real effort, and inconvenience. The greater the effort, often the greater the reward.

7. We may be in the last golden age of climbing. That is, pending environmental, economic, and other challenges may mean that the opportunities we have may not recur. For example, the days of easily undertaken road trips or foreign climbs may quickly end - if gas were US$5 gallon, unemployment 12%, and there was increased foreign tension and internal social problems. Environmental impacts, real, perceived, and imagined, may lead to much greater limitations on what we do and how we do it. Not out of the question. The next generations may not need to worry about climbing's next challenges - if they're too busy surviving, and can't afford to get to them.

8. Climbing ground up was in part due to the evolution of our odd avocation (climbing isn't a "sport" - that demeans it), in part due to limitations of equipment, and in part due to conscious choices. It isn't necessarily "right" or "wrong", but is how most climbers climbed in the 1950s - 1980s, and even now is often the style used for new routes. It happens to be a style which ensures that there is a challenge, and maximizes it. Desirable goals, in my view.

9. Stylistic differences are important, but not always substantive. As long as climbers minimize their impacts on the human and natural environments, respect the culture (traditions, history...) of the area they're climbing in, and are utterly honest with themselves and others about what and how they've climbed, it often doesn't matter. Bolts often have little impact in and of themselves - but the message they can convey to land managers is of a dispute (needing to be externally decided), environmental impacts (cleaning, increased use), and public attitudes (noisy thoughtless idiots). If you're perceived as a problem, that's probably how you'll be addressed.

Apologies for long-windedness. There does seem to be something besides smoke and heat on this thread.


Trad climber
Nov 29, 2006 - 10:00pm PT
Some time back, Supertopo posters discussed retrobolting of Hair Raiser Buttress (East Side of Sierra) and hit upon some of the same issues on this thread. Search for "retrobolting" or "Hair Raiser" if interested. Here are some possibly relevant bits from a past post of mine on HB:

1. On the issue of scant protection on some old routes and resulting frustration and/or retreat:

"Posters should know they are not alone in their disappointment at turning back from nice walls like HB because the protection/mix is problematic. I certainly have passed on great looking climbs due to a protection/difficulty balance beyond me. See my previous posts about turning back from certain climbs, for example a long sought prize - Super Pin in SD. Closer to home, I was disappointed at turning back from the Bachar Yerian and You Asked For It (sidebar: attempting them with a solo self belay system was stupid). The point is, depending on our abilities and the protection, all of us face climbs too difficult or dangerous for the day. I never thought to ask Bachar to add bolts to insure my safety. Being humbled is part of the game, especially early on when pushing and hungry. Overall, I believe the best response is to alter our own behavior (get sane or better) not the climbs."

2. On why some older routes have minimal bolt protection:

"Some posts also express quandary at why I kept the number of bolts to a minimum on HB, or certain other first ascents. My motive was not to create death defying or "manly" routes (a poster asks, 'You want a bold route that other climbers will aspire to do in the same manly style you did?' See Tricksters and Traditionalists post, Dec. 1). Under clean climbing standards and ground up rules I grew up with (see previous T&T post about strong role of my mentor), bolts were the last resort. Minimizing their number was not to create mind games for others but leave the rock marked with as few bolts as possible. I realize my attitude may seem quaint in the era of sport routes, but we are products of our times and mentors, and that was the attitude instilled in me."

3. On why not retrobolt without asking the first ascent party:

"Should bolts be added to routes created under the minimalist bolting ethic so more climbers can enjoy them? After all, couldn't bolts be added, guidebooks still note the original style of the ascent and give credit accordingly, as a poster suggests? Of course there is pleasure being named in a guidebook or history. But to think getting into publications is such a central prize in climbing underestimates the complexity of the game. Preserving original protection is not to insure climbers get scared or first ascent parties get into history as bold. Preservation insures climbers preferring to do the climb in its original style get to do so. Some climbers prefer more risk and complication than many sport routes provide. They deserve their opportunities just as much as sportsters deserve theirs.

But the picture is bigger than preferred risk profiles. Not altering routes insures they remain tributes to the time and mentality around their creation. An important joy of the climbing game comes not just from doing climbs, but viewing, pondering, absorbing (as per this very web site) the full well of experiences, the moving stage of heroes, fools and follies, high and low tales, grand and vain acts. In the drama, the features of routes and associated protection are the underlying choreography, the hand and foot sequences set in stone and passing on through time. Once protection is changed, the original choreography of moves, runs, hardware (and sling) frustrations, resulting pumps and rests, the curses and hoots - the entire emotional passage - is altered. And lost is an assessment of how nuts or noble were the makers, our second guessing of all they felt. In short, there is no tribute to the past, no way to tap the well. It is for all these reasons, barring unusual circumstances, routes should be left to stand as they were first done."

For those interested in other ramblings on climbing style issues, past and present, there is a style discussion section at my (non-commercial) web site: www.tomhiggins.net

Tom Higgins

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