What is Trad?


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Chicken Skinner

Trad climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 23, 2007 - 04:02am PT
Is it all natural gear? Or is it ground up? What is sport climbing and how many bolts do you place to make it a sport climb? I agree that routes should be ground-up to give subsequent ascents the same feel as the first ascencionists (sp) and "Ground Up" will give the routes personality and the first leaders an incredible experience. I am curious and definitely not the best mentor but, I can see this question being important in future access issues. By the way, I am all for being safe and respect others that push the limits. When does Trad become Sport?


Sep 23, 2007 - 08:50am PT
Tough question.....

Trad climber
mt. hood /baja
Sep 23, 2007 - 11:40am PT
Trad= gound up, natural pro, bolts on lead, usually more runout due to the nature of the climbing.

Sport= usually more closely spaced bolts placed on rap, with seemingly shorter pitch length.


Gym climber
Sep 23, 2007 - 11:45am PT
After pondering the question, for years, I've come up with this:
Trad Climbing is starting from the ground and going to the top with the intent of never weighting your gear. Every lead is an onsight, flash, or red-point attempt. That's the Trad mindset.

Sport climbing has a more nebulous definition. While onsight, flash, and red-point attempts are all part of Sport, the emphasis is on hard moves and shorter climbs. In general, you shouldn't have to worry about gear, or the falls you might take, when you're really Sport Climbing. Also, all you need is one rope ;-)

Trad climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Sep 23, 2007 - 12:10pm PT
Traditional climbing means ground up, on-sight (without having been there before), first ascensionism - whether it is free, aid, or mixed. Trad routes can be repeated but the style of the first "ascent" determines if it is trad or not.

In my opinion....blah, blah....jb

right here, right now
Sep 23, 2007 - 12:16pm PT
In traditional climbing, we meet the natural environment on its own terms in order to test our resourcefulness and responsiveness and to perform a style of physical expression whose primary thrust is improvisational: the nature of the engagement is complementary to the medium and the secrets are unfolded simultaneously with the action. In music the analog would be improvisational jazz.

In sport climbing, we study and reorganize the natural environment such that we create an apparatus upon which to practice a complex and sustained routine; the primary thrust is the containment of the variables in pursuit of an optimized athletic and kinesthetic experience. In music the analog would be a highly scripted symphonic arrangement.

Big Wall climber
Satan's testicles
Sep 23, 2007 - 12:25pm PT
If you own a power drill, it's sport.

If you are wearing shoes that have been out of production for more than a decade, it is trad.

If your car is less than 5 years old, it is sport.

If duct tape is a fundamental component of your car, it is trad.

If you are on the FA thinking what you are going to name it, it is DEFINATELY sport.
If you are on the FA thinking what you are going to name the child you have when you quit climbing, because you think you are going to die in the next five minutes and realize you wanted to do more with your life, well, then THAT is TRAD!!!


Trad climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Sep 23, 2007 - 12:26pm PT

Sep 23, 2007 - 12:53pm PT
My definition is considerably looser than many of those above. Ive always felt that traditional climbs were put up with the use of natural protection in mind. If an 80' climb has 5 bolts to protect the face moves but no artificial protection where natural placements are possible, than that is trad. That being said, most traditionalists adhere to a ground-up ethic and would choose FAs with lots of natural pro.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Sep 23, 2007 - 01:04pm PT
I like these definitions!

Here's how I think about it, though it is limited in it's applicability...

A sport climb is intentionally created to remove the concern of protection from the climb.

A trad climb is intentionally created to require the concern of protection on the climb.

This is a generalization of my own experience on sports climbs, when I realized that a lot of what I usually think about on trad climbs is about protecting the climb.

Trad climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Sep 23, 2007 - 01:32pm PT
As far as I can remember, the term "traditional" climbing first appeared after the inception of "rappel bolting" in order to distinguish the two from each other. Before rappel bolting, "trad" climbing was merely called "climbing" and meant that one climbed or ascended starting at the bottom of the cliff.

Maybe it would be better to use the terms "ground-up" and "top-down" ?

Monument Manor
Sep 23, 2007 - 02:38pm PT
John, didn't you propose the original " M " (mixed) grade for FAs to address that grey area? The old Tuolumne book used to denote such taints in an appendix.....what happened?

The Souf
Sep 23, 2007 - 05:04pm PT
I would delineate as follows:

Trad: Ground up, clean protection if possible, runouts if not, and bolting only under the following circumstances:

1) No other pro available
2) Done on lead
3) By hand
4) Only to prevent a death fall (NOT an injury fall)

even then, consider the level of climbing. If the moves through this unprotectable section are moderate, then rate it 5.7X or whatever and leave it to the bold.

Make the climber use their judgement to be safe - don't pepper the cliff with fixed gear so the stupid can survive. They annoy the rest of us.

Sport: Bolted on rap, cleaned, often prior route inspection. Routes tend to be short, steep, and in many cases contrived and stupid (had to get a shot in! I do sport climb from time to time and enjoy it!).

Done for the masses. Weekend warrior climbers who don't want to bother with judgement, route finding, committment, or understanding safety systems and equipment usage. Good physical training for trad/wall climbers and mountaineers...aka actual climbers...to work on their rock technique.

h'ok, I think I've offended enough people under 35 for the day. Let the flames begin!

Big Wall climber
Satan's testicles
Sep 23, 2007 - 05:11pm PT
For free climbs my rule is simple, if there is a bolt on it, anywhere, it is sport. Period, end of sentence.

And yes, I'm over 35.

The Souf
Sep 23, 2007 - 05:15pm PT

So, hypothetical situation:

You have a 600 foot granite slab route, goes around 5.9

There are only two places to place protection, one on the 2nd pitch, one on the fourth. The rest of the pitches have no protection/belays.

Can you bolt it on lead, by hand, with 40-60 foot runouts and still call it a trad route, or nay?

I'm just wondering, because per your prior statement, we'd have to have left this gem to the soloists.

Big Wall climber
Satan's testicles
Sep 23, 2007 - 05:21pm PT
Do what you want, have fun with your life.
But don't drill a bolt and say it's trad, for with that lie you murder some part of the world.

You put up a sport route. What is the shame in that, that you have to call it trad because you defaced the rock on lead?

Yeah, B.Y. - sport route. A damn bold one, but that doesn't make it trad.


The Souf
Sep 23, 2007 - 05:24pm PT
Oh, don't get me wrong - I didn't put it up. But it was a damn fun route, and it's considered trad round here because it was bolted ground up, by hand, on lead the whole way (including the belay stations which are all you get for the 3rd, 5th, and 6th pitch - no pro whatsoever but easy climbing).

(when I said "we'd have to have left this gem to the soloists" I was referring to the local community, not myself/partner as the FA team - we weren't)

Just clarifying your perspective a bit. I myself don't really see the harm in removing the death fall from certain routes through the use of hand drilled, on lead, on sight bolts when there is no other option.

But, not everyone agrees with me, and I understand that.

The Souf
Sep 23, 2007 - 05:32pm PT

God I love the confidence boost from a good slung gecko.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Sep 23, 2007 - 05:42pm PT
I can't define it, but I know it when I lead it.......

Trad climber
Sep 23, 2007 - 06:32pm PT
What about free climbs done with pins for protection in super thin cracks that won't take other gear? The FA's used them and removed them and there is no other pro that will work.

On another note, what specifically is 'ground up'? What spectrum of style follows?
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