Museum climbs?


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Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Sep 11, 2007 - 02:24pm PT
Well, as long as we're not talking about museum CLIMBERS, if you know what I mean. Not that anyone on SuperTopo is quite museum quality, yet...

I suspect few have any difficulty with climbers replacing old bolts with new, one for one, in the same location. Even adjusting the location (but not number) slightly, if there's clear community consensus, it's ok with the land manager, and those who did the first ascent are agreeable, assuming they're alive and can be located. If the replacement is done en rappel, few would have problems - it's really up to the personal choice of the replacers. If they plan to climb the restored route, then the purest thing would be to not preview. Climbers can get someone else to do the replacing, and not provide beta - perhaps "You fix up the route I want to do, and I'll fix up the route you want to do". Or alternate, with the climber who's belaying a given pitch being the replacer for that pitch. Or the Mike G approach - blindfold. (Don't tell YOSAR.)

Adding fixed anchors, whether at belays or for runners, is a far more complex subject. Best if there's solid community consensus, it's well communicated (in advance), and those who did the first ascent agree.

A lot of climbs are possible, even if poorly protected. The amount of rock is finite. If we allow everything to be gridbolted, we're simply stealing from following generations of climbers. The Alps are overrun by via ferratas and guides, and many European rock climbing areas are entirely bolted (often retro-bolted), despite natural anchors. The English and Scandinavians are very protective of their rocks and mountains - they don't have a lot, it's under great pressure, so they simply don't allow some activities.

The Grand Wall bolt ladder at Squamish is protected as a heritage artefact - even though it's one of the longer pre-1980s ones in the world, and was the subject of some debate.

We also have to think of how outsiders look at climbing. If we're seen to be responsible, and looking after our heritage and the environment, it always helps. Indiscriminate bolting, and squabbling about same, do the opposite.

Ultimately, we don't own the environments in which we play, despite all the adolescent male territorial behaviour - and we have to look after them.

Trad climber
new york, NY
Sep 11, 2007 - 02:33pm PT
i think people should be climbing these old school scaries with a swami, hemp rope, and hob nails.
keepin' it real!

Sep 11, 2007 - 02:33pm PT
(Anders types faster than I so he wins! Good show Anders.)

The discussion on Needle’s Eye broke into two discussions, only one part of which is treated here. The full question is:
1. Are we willing to have a policy for rock climbing routes, and how is it to be enforced?
2. What shall that policy be?

Please note, there are climbing areas where these decisions have not been made by us and so they have had to be made for us.

If they are to be made by us the only mechanism presently visible on the horizon is the Climber’s Coalition concept. I believe the first such coalition may have been the one in Dresden formed around a century ago. If we do go that route we need to realize the good thoughts already expressed here deal only with Yosemite.

That said, since I am not a Yosemite climber anything I might say is probably irrelevant to the policy you should have in Yosemite. Nearly forty years ago and in another galaxy far away I became quite disturbed when I realized I could and in fact often was putting in new routes anytime I touched the rock. One or two of them were quite nice I thought but now that I had done them they were not half as nice as they were before I found them. I realized I was actually not “creating” a route. I was only “changing” a route. Today, possibly because I can no longer get around as fast with my cane, I think even when young I did not need to have 10,000 “routes” in every area.

I would urge you to follow the land management plans to which most governments have adhered. A diversity in use has to be maintained, including the concept of wilderness. You need to have areas with no routes. You need to have areas with no bolts. You need to have areas with no preplaced protection at all. You need to have areas with no chalk marks.

I would echo one of the thoughts already expressed. When we are out climbing and full of the spirit, we also need to think about leaving something for the kids. And for that matter leaving something for ourselves.

It would not be hard to do this. Think about what it must have been like at Cloggy in the forties and fifties before all the "facts" were nailed down on paper and the mystery killed once and for all for everyone. Rumors swirling everywhere about what may or not have been done. Did anyone see where Joe and Don were climbing last weekend?

We need to relish mystery. Hey, that is why we do first ascents isn't it? This mystery is mine,mine,mine,mine. Now that I have done it, no one else shall have it

Gym climber
Sep 11, 2007 - 02:41pm PT
"If they plan to climb the restored route, then the purest thing would be to not preview. Climbers can get someone else to do the replacing, and not provide beta - perhaps 'You fix up the route I want to do, and I'll fix up the route you want to do'."

Good way to solve the problem.

With old buildings, we respect their heritage by restoring them before they crumble. If we neglect them, they become abandoned and anybody can do with them what they please.

If we want to show others that we respect our older climbs, we need to restore them before they deteriorate into worthless (unclimbable) routes. When we don't maintain older routes, we in a sense abandon them. Who's to say someone doesn't have the "right" to go out and make them climbable.

In another 10-15 years, no sane person would trust the bolts on Space Babble to hold the falls that are possible on that route. If nobody's cared enough to restore it, what difference does it make if somebody goes and releads it, placing bolts wherever they may?

How long does a route need to stand unrepeated before it goes back into the public domain?

Social climber
The West
Sep 11, 2007 - 02:53pm PT
A lot of good thoughts here. I especially appreciate the distinction steel minky (Peter Sellers' voice) made.

Trad climber
San Francisco, Ca
Sep 11, 2007 - 03:03pm PT
How about this (taken from old english property law):

"No interest is good unless it must vest, if at all, not
later than 21 years after some life in being at the creation of
the interest."

The rule precludes dead hand control of property. So, no repeats of a route during the FA parties' lifetime or for 21 years following their death means the route returns to the public domain.
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Sep 11, 2007 - 03:21pm PT
Ah, the Rule Against Perpetuities. Either you're a lawyer or like to read really boring, arcane subject matter. I could follow up on that but I swore after law school that I would never deal with that again.

Anyways, I'm assuming that if the first ascentionist could have put in bomber gear with the tools then available and in an ethical manner, such as drilling on lead, they would have. Think about it, if they could have slammed in a bomber bolt on lead rather than some spinner button head, they would have. Unfortunately, the technology then available only permitted what often amounted to mank gear.

Unlike some folks though, I do believe that some routes should stand as a monument to what our predecessors did accomplish, rather than bringing it down to what the current standard is. I don't think everyone has a right to climb whatever they want with fixed gear established at the intervals they feel is appropriate. Climbing isn't about appealing to the lowest common denominator. It's about rising to the occasion. If you can't do it on a bold climb, there are lots of other routes to climb.

Happy and Healthy climber
the Gunks end of the country
Sep 11, 2007 - 04:09pm PT
Let's see. Most of the routes we are discussing are on land not owned by the FA. In other words, he was just a visitor, presumably a legal one.

So when he bolted or pinned the climb, the work has about the same legal status as graffiti (FA = first artist). He was there legally, but the status of what he left behind is far less clear. Apparently he may think of it as a monument to himself, or just his "Kilroy was here." Regardless, that is his own personal opinion. There is no reason to expect others to agree or keep their own hands off.

Now I suppose if one were to purchase the land, or had it granted, a'la the railroads, as owner one could choose to do what one might.

Sorry, but I am not buying the monument / museum / glory proposition.

A land steward/owner has the right to determine the rules independent of previous trespasses or visits. He also has the right to impose the rules upon future visits, including the right to prohibit them. I think we should work together with him to set the rules. If the visitors "paying the freight" want bolts, bolt. If they want the slate to stay blank, then the steward can go with that.

Gym climber
Sep 11, 2007 - 04:30pm PT
OK Joe, I'm thinkin' real hard here. I don't want to be in denial or anything.
Let me see...the bolts on Space Babble have fallen into disrepair because...

Because you haven't gotten your sorry ass out there to replace them.

Whew, now I feel better.

PS. Let me know when you get to it, I want to climb that thing!
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Sep 11, 2007 - 04:40pm PT
No denial, at least from me. I'm not good enough to climb them (at least stuff like You Asked For It, etc.) and maybe never was but that doesn't mean that, because sufficient time has elapsed that I've "earned" the right to go and retrofit it. What a pathetic argument.

If the bolts are mank (which they probably are) replace them. That alone with bring the severity of the route way down. If you still aren't capable of climbing it then get better, shut up, or take up bowling.
Inner City

Trad climber
East Bay
Sep 11, 2007 - 04:54pm PT
Like your thoughts here. It seems there is always some misplaced "ownership" aspect to these discussions. First ascensionists don't own anything....

I'm not disparaging their place in history...just seems like a false sense of entitlement as national parks are owned by all the people.
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Sep 11, 2007 - 05:31pm PT
Hey, Bob J., up-thread, you talked about 'Black Bart' on DAFF and the difference in bolt protection on the first pitch and the upper, crux pitch, and your conversation with Ron about adding a bolt on the first pitch to avoid a grounder—if I read you comments correctly.

The route was started by TM and me. I led the first pitch and placed the bolt that you mentioned. My lead was to come in from the right, starting near the rope-up spot for the "Crescent Arch", and then move horizontally to the base of the thin crack that completes the first pitch. There were a lot of loose micro flakes on that traverse and I was skating around and pulling off stuff to find secure holds. I started getting nervous about peeling, and asked TM what he thought about me dinking in a bolt. He begged off an opinion and said I should do what ever I thought was right. We didn’t place bolts willy-nilly, but I put one in, moved over to the crack and finished the pitch.

TM and I were guides at the climbing school and whatever reason we bailed on at the top of the first pitch. When we returned with Ron as our rope gun—I think it was the next year , TM led the first pitch and I followed. As TM was belaying up Ron, I un-roped and took a peek at the next pitch around the corner. When I came back, I didn't tie back in, but stood on one foot on a giant knob chatting with TM.

Mid sentence the whole knob broke off, and I was in the air. I lunged for TM's tie in rope and just managed to get my fingers from one hand on the loop of rope. Just as I reached full extension and had started pulling TM out of his position, he braced himself, and, using his Black Belt speed, slapped his hand on top of my wrist like some sort of sprung trap and caught me, fully extended, legs a-dangling. A one-handed catch.

I was pretty shaken up at my willful disregard for the nature of the mountains to kill off interlopers. So, when Ron got up to the belay, we rapped off. I started back to college that fall, and Ron and TM returned later and finished the route.

I am not sure that I have a valid opinion about the bolt I placed on the first pitch since I didn't finish the route. It might be that folks now reach that crack from a different angle and a ground fall is more likely. I would consult Ron and TM.

I did however have an opportunity this past year to consider the issue of adding a bolt to a not crux pitch on another route in the Meadows (see Ed's thread on 'Peter Peter'). Part of what happens naturally on first ascents is that you don't know what you are getting into or what level of commitment and climbing standard has to be sustained. It is really easy to under-protect the easier parts of a climb as compared to the crux, with the perverse effect that easier pitches are dangerous and the crux pitch is sewed up. I was mostly lazy and for all the times that I told myself that I would go back and fix up a route--add a more logical start or finish, or rearrange the bolt protection or belays, I only recall doing it once, in the Valley. All the other times, I just let it slide. On some ascents, when we were putting more forethought into it, we took the time to fix the issues on the first ascent.

scuffy b

The deck above the 5
Sep 11, 2007 - 06:32pm PT
Joe,I think nobody does these climbs because they're too crowded.
Dingus Milktoast

Sep 11, 2007 - 06:39pm PT
Hey scuffy that is exactly the problem we have in our neck of the woods!

The toscano was excellent btw. Thanks dude.


Boulder climber
Salt Lake, UT
Sep 11, 2007 - 06:42pm PT
The first ascentionist doesn't own the rock, but there are rules to this game. Otherwise hiking around to the top might count for just as much.

As far as replacing bolts vs. adding bolts -- two completely different things. I'd support the former most of the time, mostly without even getting permission. As long as it's done well, you'r not changing the experience too much.
Adding bolts changes the experience, and while there is no law that requires getting the permission from the FA's, the most common rules of the game accept that.
Pins are more complicated because technology has changed that part of the game and because repeated replacing pins changes the crack. Should be addressed more on a case-by-case basis.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Sep 11, 2007 - 06:51pm PT
It seems reasonable to assume that when the first ascent party did these climbs, they intended that all fixed anchors (bolts) they placed be solid. In the 1970s and early 1980s, that usually meant 1/4" x 1.5" or 2.0" Rawl split shaft contraction bolts. That was state of the art, and considered the gold standard. If 10 mm x 3.0" stainless compression bolts had been available, it's safe to assume they would have been placed instead.

Somehow it seems unlikely that a first ascent party would insist that their now rusty old bolts be replaced by the same kind of bolts, just new ones. Stating that the type of bolt couldn't be upgraded to modern standards would be only slightly less absurd than climbing a route and removing all the bolts (cleanly), so that others could have almost the same experience. (Never completely the same, once you know someone else has climbed it.)

When Hilti drills and 3/8" stainless bolts appeared, in the late 1980s, we were quite lucky at Squamish in that a number of public spirited individuals did a lot of work to simply replace the old bolts. There's at most 5% as many anchors at Squamish as in Yosemite, and they had some corporate support, but it helped a lot. Even though the routes were often beyond the abilities of the replacers, they replaced the bolts anyway, although sometimes they got a little carried away.

Edit: Pins are another and more complicated matter. Of course, once they invent works-anywhere stick-on protection this will all be moot.

Trad climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Sep 11, 2007 - 06:52pm PT
Perhaps another sport?


Trad climber
Lee, NH
Sep 11, 2007 - 07:04pm PT
This all depends so much on which route we're talking about, doesn't it? It's hard to picture a one-rule-fits-all solution, althought the first ascent principle (out of respect, not ownership, as Dingus previously has noted) seems as good as any -- preferable to any "property rights" (of whomever) formulation, IMO.

Regarding my own routes, where I have the strongest opinions -- there are some where we fixed pins on the FA, and it seems just fine to me to replace those with good bolts, one for one. When we hammered in those pins, we knew something about how good they were, but lord knows how good they'll be for other climbers many years later. Seems fair IMO if the fixed pins are later replaced with bolts.

On the other hand, where we found clean protection or anchors, I've been sorry to see new retrobolts drilled in. It's been done for guides' convenience rather than safety. But those climbs were fundamentally changed for everyone, and I think something was lost.

Finally, I can think of one route that's not so safe, because we brought no hammers and couldn't always find protection. It's clearly described as serious in guidebooks and IMO it's fine to leave it that way; nobody has to climb it or will go up there by mistake. There are plenty of well protected routes in that area and no need to "make safe" a few that offer a different kind of experience.

Sport climber
Everywhere, man...
Sep 11, 2007 - 07:09pm PT
'You Asked for It' does in fact have all new bolts. You still won't see me on it.

As for Joe's question, I think the routes got neglected because tastes in routes changed and those of us that kept climbing 'trad' didn't bother to go do maintenance. Now that there are actually new people that would like to do some of these routes, they are in such bad shape that they aren't doable. I firmly believe that once these routes get new protection more people will do them. Now there are still quite a few routes that few will ever do, but then that is as it's supposed to be. There just aren't many people born in each generation with the skillset and mindset to do routes like 'You Asked for It' or 'Guardians of the Galaxy'. But that is a GOOD thing.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Sep 11, 2007 - 07:13pm PT
John: I'm guessing the fellow in the plus fours probably wouldn't shoot any foxes, either.

Edit: I believe John B, and/or Dave Y, have set a good example by returning to the Bachar-Yerian, replacing the bolts with modern ones, and slightly changing the locations of belay bolts for belayer safety.
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