Manufactured climbs....what to think? A dialogue.


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Sonoma County
Feb 13, 2018 - 11:36am PT
locker: I have been a long time reader of Supertopo but never posted before. I have been following the manufactured thread since it started and have been concerned about it's one sidedness so wanted to throw out my differing viewpoints. Calling me Chickenshet isn't really very constructive but I've notice most of your post aren't very constructive IMHO.

but... then what is YOUR viewpoint?

from what I can tell you have a very rigid ground up ethic and don't want to see any fixed gear placed ever. Or is that just a statement about an absolute climbing ethic?

Then you compare/equate a protection bolt at a crux that someone could A0 with installing a plastic hold. Yes you're still drilling a hole into the rock, but this is a silly debate, IMO.
life is a bivouac

Trad climber
Feb 13, 2018 - 03:24pm PT
Hi, here's my take...

I started climbing in 1959 at Stoney Point in So. Cal., when there were about thirty or forty climber in all of Southern Cal. Most were Sierra Club Mountaineers and maybe twenty were Rock climbers... Yes, back in the day...

Stoney seemed a limitless hill filled with boulders and cliffs, virtually untouched at that time...

Around 1962/3 a hand hold was chopped into a blank slopping section on one of the front boulders, Rock #1, to make a new passage up the "smooth featureless face". There came an outrage and the hold was filled with concrete... subsequently cleaned out and filled again until the whole area was as pocked as my adolescent forehead...
We knew who the "perp" was, a well known climber with years of hard stuff to his credit. Was it just a foray to expand the potential of bouldering this face?

Since then, calling up my limited memory, there are at least three new "routes" that go up through that same three or four foot area pretty much independent of the old indentations.
(This of course calls up, Reinhold's: Murder of the Impossible...) As all rocks are, Stoney is a limited resource, and it's being pounded by hundreds of climbers now. No doubt others has added their own forays in the old sandstone...
Does one chip it or bolt on a hold because you want it now? Is it the urge for exploration or simple Ego?
I ask you to check out the blog pertaining to: "The fantasy of infinite growth on a finite planet". In my mind, these rocks we climb, are a treasure. Thanks

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Feb 13, 2018 - 04:27pm PT
Other cultures have different ideas than we do. If the Chinese had settled California, maybe we would have some narrow, bolted wooden slats zig-zaging up El Cap., with little Chinese kids walking up it to get to their school on top of the cliff..........then if we came to visit from some other Country we wouldn't think twice about it......
the Fet

Feb 13, 2018 - 11:48pm PT
It's not about protecting the rock, which is an inanimate object, it's about respecting your fellow climbers.

It's good to separate out style vs ethics in these debates.

Style is how you do a route, which doesn't affect other climbers. BITD hangdoging was considered bad form, but you can't dictate to someone else they can't do it, since it doesn't really impact them. So people started doing it and standards went way up. Yes that was progress.

Ethics impact other climbers. Such as Chipping a hold or bolting a hold on changes that route for all other climbers. Examples above show people brought a climb down to their level and then future climbers showed they could do the route without the modification to what nature presented. There may be some situations where there is a blank spot on a climb that is otherwise consistently 5.X and the modified hold made a consistent climb, but who makes that call? What if that move naturally was much harder, but it was a really cool move. I think it's best to not chip or add holds as a general rule because once you start saying it's okay then you'll see it more and more and cool natural problems/moves will eventually be lost. It's okay to have an A0 move in the middle of an otherwise lower rated climb. East buttress of middle cathedral comes to mind. You can A0 the short bolt ladder, but as standards got higher people started free climbing it. Imagine if that had been chipped on the FA, that fun 5.10 section would have been lost forever.

Progress isn't throwing out the old style and ethics guidelines to improve ratings standards. It's when a consensus occurs figuring out where standards can be raised without degrading the ethics which protects the rock for future climbers. Progress was moving from pitons which degrade the rock to nuts which didn't. And that actually made climbing more difficult in some ways.

Sport climbing became legitimate IMO because it allowed new types of climbs to be done that couldn't be done in a traditional ground up way. Yes ground up is a better style to climb but if it's a choice of a rap bolted overhanging climb or no climb at all in that location, I'll take the sport climb.

As I said earlier if I had a crag on my property I'd bolt holds all over it. I own it. I'm not worried about "hurting" the rock. And when someone buys the property from me they can patch the holes or leave the holds up. But on public land where we all "own" the rock I prefer to err on the side of caution and leave the rock as nature created, because someday someone may be able to climb it.

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Feb 14, 2018 - 10:40am PT
Maybe when the old, set in their ways, diehards like Jay Smith and Jim Donini are no longer around, the more progressive minds will take over and different things will happen. If you look at the progression of climbing you will see that change for the better is inevitable in climbing.

"progressive minds" - hmmm. Over the last thirty years that has mainly resulted in dumbing what climbing even is to most people down to the lowest common denominator of the demographic.

Big Wall climber
Feb 16, 2018 - 11:07am PT
Sense someone mentioned the lowest commen denominators, I think the late Steve dieckhoff deserves a mention. he was outspoken in boulder against some of the crazy manufacturered climbs and grid bolting happening in Colorado. Some of his comics relate perfectly to this thread.
Off White

Tenino, WA
Feb 16, 2018 - 11:51am PT
I haven't been following this lately, but the quote in JHealy's post (from someone else) about Donini being an old set in his ways diehard seems funny, Jim seems really well rounded and tolerant, and not particularly rigid. I think he's about as current as an old guy can get.

Social climber
Feb 16, 2018 - 01:19pm PT
you must admit,
they made a mess of clear creek...

Big Wall climber
Denver, CO
Feb 16, 2018 - 01:30pm PT
Great cartoons! I love the line: " they made routes the right way." Delicious sarcasm.
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