An End to Bolt Wars


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Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 1, 2007 - 12:40pm PT

Chico posted an idea in the bolting ethics thread that I think could end this forty year long debacle. What he suggested was for us to use the internet to allow people generally to take part in the discussion as to what happens with bolt protection on climbs. Or at least become knowledgeable as to the tradeoffs in these tough decisions. In that thread I suggested an easy way for us to go ahead and make it happen. Those interested should go to that thread to get the story directly.

Despite there being the usual large number of posts, trolling posts, and all other such in the interim, there has been no interest in Chico’s idea. I see two possible explanations. It being a bad idea is not one of the possibilities. If it were seen as bad we would have gotten lots of good input to that effect. So what are the two remaining possible explanations?

1. We are lazy. It would simply take too much work to make good things happen.
2. We just like to fight and feel superior to each other. I have seen sites where arrested development is indeed a factor.

So there it is. We have bolt wars either because we like them or because they don’t particularly inconvenience us. Frankly I am embarrassed it took forty years for me to come to that conclusion. Optimism led me astray once again.

B loop site 15
Jun 1, 2007 - 12:52pm PT
1. arrested development is a terrible group

2. People want different things from climbing

Trad climber
Knob Central
Jun 1, 2007 - 03:04pm PT
Uh, it could be that the thread disappeared off the first page.

It could be that those of us with points to make felt like those points had been made and quit reading the thread.

So perhaps he should start a new thread with an appropriate title if he really wants something discussed.

Trad climber
San Francisco, Ca
Jun 1, 2007 - 03:12pm PT
I thought the whole bolt war thing ended back in the 80s.

Trad climber
Jun 1, 2007 - 03:25pm PT
That is happening already... unfortunately it rarely comes to a consensus....

URL Here is the Wasach version of this idea...


Trad climber
Jun 1, 2007 - 03:34pm PT

i think that climbing has reached a point in which the idea of "a community" is pretty hopeless even in the u.s. it does seem pretty functional to run these discussions in much smaller groups (there are tons of them), and my sense is that happens on some of the boards. st though is pretty sprawling and it would take a truly capacious definition of "climber" to fit in at least some of the folks who post here.

ive been writing on the mauerhakenstreit of 1911 over the use of pitons and other "artificial aids" and the striking thing--aside from the essential continuity of the original arguments with those we hear today--is the way that the fight didn't resolve so much as become one of the key elements of what it meant to be a climber.

ok-- im off to the dolomites-- i'll take a pic of cortina for you to compare against your memory!


John Vawter

Social climber
San Diego
Jun 1, 2007 - 03:43pm PT
Ditto to Dingus. It does happen from time to time on local forums, and on the subforums on I’ve seen some spirited but civil discussions about this from time to time. Someone proposed adding bolts to the tops of some boulders at Woodson in the recent past, and that idea was shot down by popular demand. I also seem to remember that some bolts were added to the Jaws boulder, without discussion, and promptly removed out of deference to tradition and the presence of an excellent anchor crack. On the thread that spawned this one I mentioned that bolts were removed on the Pan Am to the relief of the community. In general, local communities seem to deal pretty well with added (not replaced) bolts. Some are left alone, others promptly removed, depending on relative merit, tradition, etc.

But it’s a little different when the actor is removing instead of adding bolts. Online discussion doesn't do much good when the bolt chopper believes he is justified, and is deaf to the overwhelming community consensus.;search_string=el%20cajon%20mtn;#1263734

Trad climber
Knob Central
Jun 1, 2007 - 05:26pm PT
Recently a bunch of anchor bolts were added at the Stoney Point bouldering area in SoCal by a very famous soloer. There was some discussion amongst the regulars and the bolts were promptly removed, the holes filled, and the offender reprimanded that he ought to be setting a GOOD example and should be lifting the sport up now that he is the worlds best free soloer. There were some feelings hurt but the offending bolts have not been replaced. :p

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jun 1, 2007 - 07:43pm PT
I would say the best use of the Internet in this respect is the management of fixed pro in Eldo ( ). The difference there is the focus is on preserving the 'character' of the climbing there which is heavily biased towards trad. Without such a bias I suspect Eldo would have been the scene of any number of bolt wars by now.

Ice climber
canyon country,CA
Jun 1, 2007 - 07:53pm PT
G_Gnome, haven't been to stoney in a while or I missed them. Where were they?

Trad climber
berkeley, ca
Jun 1, 2007 - 08:18pm PT
Bolt wars are a lot like Cicadas: every few years they're born underground, and then make a racket all summer long.

Topic Author's Reply - Jun 1, 2007 - 09:13pm PT
You folks are quite probably right. I would expect that from the good people here. My apologies. The saddest part is all the new people are just normal folks like ourselves. Gym climbing is the equivalent of “American idol” and it is all they know. The real world is so close on either side, but so far. If they prefer a closely structured world, they could become great gymnasts, astonishing us all as have the gymnasts among us already. Or if they like uncertainty, question marks, a sudden need for inventiveness, they could climb on the rock – as nature made it. We live in a faux world with faux wars, faux truth, faux relationships, and faux integrity. Why not? Indeed, why not.

The choice pains me only because I once saw the reason why not. As have all of us whose friends have made dangerous choices solely to get us back to a safe place. As has everyone who goes up on the Captain sure in the knowledge Werner will do absolutely anything in his power to get them down. Jim Madsen did not go up because of community. He went up for family.

It would be so hard to give all of that up.

Trad climber
Mt. Shasta, CA
Jun 1, 2007 - 09:48pm PT
It is probably out of total apathy, and a subconscious recognition of things that people have stated above that I stopped getting worked up over bolt issues (until recently hahaha). It seems like bolting ethics vary from crag to crag, and there is mostly only unwritten history behind crag and route development. That is why I adopted the, "I didn't place it, so I'm not gonna chop it/If I don't like it, I just won't clip it" attitude. I understand the slippery slope arguements about allowing errant bolts (and bolters) to go uncorrected, and I guess deep down, I really do care, and don't want to see our crags turned into pin-cushions. I don't have the time or energy to chronicle questionable bolts, but others out there do, and to them I would say, If you have pics post 'em up. I think that everybody would learn a whole lot. It could be alot of fun, and I think ST is a good forum for discussion. Heck, we just might trick ourselves into desimmenating knowledge and ethics to the up and commers, OMG! I'll post up whenever I can. Cheers~~~~SA
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Jun 1, 2007 - 11:13pm PT
These trolls of yours are fun! I think they are productive. There is, as always with you, a teasing going on in the midst of serious alarm; your sinuous queries should just be statements, expanded a little perhaps, you know. You would just be so much more effective.

The notion that young climbers should be logging on to see what is the situation with bolts on all kinds of routes is merely a great idea while seated at the monitor but is pretty much fantastic considering many of them have no internet presence, are dirt poor, extremely occupied and truly spiritually on the loose while quite young; this idea would require a complete social reformation, John. It is theory and does not relate to what is happening. I see it kind of working in a tight place like Eldorado, but not in the bigger areas.

Climbing, if anything, is a rodeo space, a wild frontier even if tons of it is now being rehearsed. Especially out here in the West. I of course like the idea of your/chico’s comprehensive bolt archives or whatever one would call them, but I know that the concept is likely to wither, like most things that propose to involve living within many constraints while yearning for absolute freedom of expression, not to mention tons of volunteer time. And as we mentioned in earlier threads, the resource, viz. the cliffs, suffers at times, but unsurprisingly like everything else we have touched for eons. And the bolt wars have been going on for more than 40 years, so the subject is certainly not a fresh problem or new development stemming from a “faux world” or any other of the “faux” things you recite. But, it does matter and will always matter.
bob d'antonio

Trad climber
Taos, NM
Jun 1, 2007 - 11:32pm PT
History has and will continue to give merit to good routes...bolted or not bolted.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Jun 4, 2007 - 12:35am PT
Here's a link to some of my First Ascender Registry proposal ideas. It almost got off the ground at RC.Com but the devils in the details.

I would definately suggest this to all the first ascenders of routes covered by supertopo. In the route beta section of supertopo, post a few tibits or a story of your route. How you felt about it, what ethics went into it. Anything. Make the history more alive.

Also, before you get even more senile, write up some stories and tidbits of various routes you created. Doesn't have to be a publishable epic. Just interesting and historical stuff like gets posted on supertopo all the time. Historians will google it later. Also contact Chicken Skinner (Ken Yager) for all historical and hysterical yosemite route info. He's doing a museum and it includes information. I'm exhausted, somebody post his address.

This is a unique sport in that the pioneers are still around. Tell us what you thought and what you think. It's a somewhat unique opportunity in the history of a sport where the myths and realitiies can actually be compared right from the horses mouths.



Topic Author's Reply - Jun 4, 2007 - 02:16am PT
What a surprise! Never expected this to show up on page 1 again. I think I get your point that I should cease explaining why I feel the way I do as no one relates to that. Just an old habit.

Anyway, I posted also because people, especially new people, need to hear “way to go” once in awhile.


Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jun 4, 2007 - 04:37am PT
"Also, before you get even more senile, write up some stories and tidbits of various routes you created."

The stories are always more interesting than the route beta - guidebooks get it assbackwards from that standpoint. The obvious is preserved and the [FA] experience lost.

Topic Author's Reply - Jun 4, 2007 - 01:07pm PT
On the other hand maybe it is merely darkest just before dawn?
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