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Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Apr 18, 2008 - 03:21pm PT
"Growing Up seems really influenced by Trad and Sport, and it's sort of in between those, really. It's like a Sprad climb, really."


Just like ourselves, we're a mix of angel and devil, pragmatist and idealist, traditionalist and innovations.



Social climber
Apr 18, 2008 - 03:32pm PT
New Paradigm
Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, Ca
Apr 18, 2008 - 03:39pm PT
LOL!! That's some funny shít...

Trad climber
Apr 18, 2008 - 05:44pm PT
Thread Reflections

The Discussion – Well Meaning But Edgy And Nearing Eternal

Philo hits it, I think: “Most posters to the Growing Up thread would agree it has been a lively, spirited and valuable exchange. Preferable in every way to the fisticuffs and bolt wars of the past.” Indeed, with only a bit of name calling and put downs, the discussion has been civil. That’s important because:

 the style debate is very long standing
 has been corrosive to camaraderie in the past and is perfectly capable of veering into a nasty tug of war at any time in the future
 has clouded how we assign merit to the route creators; how we feel about reading about latest achievements in magazines, journals, guidebooks and web sites; how we hear from and honor the game leaders; in short, how we enjoy the sport in all its dimensions
 rarely led to specific resolution or agreements between the factions

So while this particular discussion at this particular time and place may be mostly civil, the larger issue worth pondering is how can differences be resolved or at least diminished area by area. Or, are we resigned to the two style camps picking at one another forever? Is Ed Hardouni right, “Passion is good... but we also aren't going to agree in the end?”

Everything Is Fine - Or Is It?

One reaction to the debate is not to take it seriously. If the debate were nothing more than spirited sparring over the merit of differing styles for ones personal satisfaction, it might be fine to do so. Hunters, fishers, skiers, all have their preferences for competing styles and equipment, why can’t climbers? Tarbuster puts it well, “Essentially, I'm saying there should be no resolution here, because climbing is an art form that is evolving, expanding, diverging, and converging. Different viewpoints upheld with a critical vigilance; that's how stuff of substance is made. It's a healthy conflict.”

Of course debate is fine, as long as it is about what styles are more fun or better for the soul. Then, to each his and her own. But when the sport involves a record of ascents in guidebooks, heroes held up, histories written and achievement awards given, all tied to who did what when, then how things were done matters very much. We can judge sprinters, golfers, tennis players, weight lifters and the rest because at the time they compete, the tracks, courses, courts, weights, rules and judges are the same. One can even compare some across time, though not perfectly, as sport technology changes, though not the size of the golf hole, or weight to be lifted or distance run.

So the crux of the issue is that the wide variation in climbing styles makes it at the least tedious, more often confusing and sometimes impossible to place the achievements. Every major new route or “first free” demands its own discussion (1500 posts in some cases!) and scrutiny. How was the protection placed? Top down or bottom up? How many attempts? Were falls or tension involved? How many? What was done after falls? How much if any previewing? Could it have been done differently? Left alone? How does it compare to the route next to it done in different style? Routes of yesterday? And how does it all stack up compared to the achievements and climbers of the past? As the debate goes on, it wears us down, too easily tempting a relativistic view of climbing wherein all means of achievement are suspect, none can be sorted from another and, by implication, history becomes mud. Karl Baba gives us a peek at how this progression unfolds, “Whatever your form of climbing, aid (most destructive and free standards increase all the time) power drilling, hang-dogging, siege climbing, rap bolting, even using chalk, topos or cams. They've all been dissed in the past. It could be argued that any use of a hammer for anything is beating the rock into submission.”

From Preferences To Consequences

As I’ve argued for some time, the style debate starts to get traction when it turns from arguments about what are better styles on personal, moral or ideological grounds toward consequences of styles choices for the climbing community.

At first blush, it appears style choices are merely personal. Ksolem points out how first ascent style affects his pleasure of a route, “I don't decide whether or not to try a route based simply on how it was first done. But, I do get something extra out of doing routes which have a proud history. I love climbing up to some wicked thin stance and imagining what so and so went through to get a bolt drilled there, or doing a runout (which could have been bolted from above) and getting to re live the first person's experience to some degree because they chose to do it as a lead.” Eddie takes the opposite view, “I won't climb a crappy climb just because the first ascent team had an epic on it but continued in good style and managed to finish it. But I WILL climb a fun/adventurous climb that was put up in poor style. Or even poor ethics...” So, if an area has both sport and trad routes, Ksolem and Eddie and the many others posting feelings like theirs can choose their climbs accordingly and go home happy. Isn’t that the end of it?

Yes and no. Where an area offers plenty of room for both styles, each can find climbs suiting their own preference and consequences for others are less likely. The problem comes when routes grow in an area along with competition for best cliffs. Then, because previewing, top down protection on tension, maybe rehearsed moves and hanging after falls, if they are part of it, all give an advantage for gaining the coveted first compared especially to old trad where previewing was by binoculars, all pro went in on lead without rope tension or hooks, falls resulted in lowering off to stances or the ground for retry, and rapelling to high points or jumaring there for long working sessions and numerous falls was not the custom. That’s why trads squirm, the older trads the most. And that is why the south face of half dome raises the thermometer – it’s a big and beautiful prize and at least one nearby route demonstrates it might have been doable with trad technique. Fears arise too about other big possible prizes. As, Adventurous worries, “… what sort of future impacts are we going to see from writing an article about it in such an influential medium as Rock and Ice. Someday are our revered big walls going to look like a local grid bolted sport crag? I am sure this is not the, well meaning, intention of the fa team. However, for a climbing community this is a well needed thread topic.” Such worry is not misplaced: there is only so much good game in an area to divide up for those with bows and arrows and those with guns.

There is another reason style choices are not just personal. Sport style makes bolting faster and easier and more likely to draw the attention of land managers and regulators. For example, in the Flatirons and Eldorado, (city and state land respectively), officials require permits for new bolted routes. At Joshua Tree, the National Park Service prohibits bolting in wilderness areas and power drilling altogether. Placements in non-wilderness areas require a permit. Devils Tower National Monument bans new fixed anchors. A proposal to ban fixed anchors in wilderness areas of all national forests is under consideration by the US Forest Service. At Hueco Tanks, Texas, new bolting is prohibited and many areas are closed to climbing. Official “tour guides” must accompany limited numbers of climbers to permitted areas. Of course, bolts placed on lead by hand in trad style also can draw attention, e.g. near public trails or on cliffs with wildlife protections; but it is hard to argue rap bolting, especially motorized, is not the far more risky method for drawing the attention of regulators.

A Possible Way Out

Once one realizes the style debate is not just chatter about what’s the better experience, trad or sport; once one sees it has consequences for how we evaluate merit, compose history, hold up or demolish characters on the stage; once we understand it is crucial to how climbers compete for the first ascent prize especially where those prizes grow scarce, once one sees the connection to possible regulation, then one hopes for resolution. Then one hopes Ed Hardouni is wrong about the impossibility of agreements by climbers on how sport and trad styles can co-exist more peacefully.

It’s on the issue of agreement that the Supertopo thread is thin. No wonder. It’s the hard part, given the free spirited nature of climbers. A note posted with the handwritten name “Bachar” appear the only exception, entitled, “Co-existence Rules.” It appears an attempt at gaining signatures on when sport and trad styles can be applied. The proposed rules are less important than the attempt, for it is just such an attempt at voluntary agreements which is the crux of how the style storm can be calmed and managed. I suggest climbers need to organize locally, agree on what is acceptable on particular cliffs and disseminate written resolutions through guidebooks, signs, web sites and regular meetings.

Are there any models for such action? Not many, but some inklings about how it might go. In Pinnacles, NE and Colorado, meetings, forums and committees (voluntary or otherwise) are beginning vehicles for developing and revising bolting agreements, and staving off unreasonable restrictions. In the NE, for example, one respected local, Al Hospers, indicates periodic meetings of climbers are necessary and needed for maintaining consensus (“Valley” has become the traditional area and “Rumney” the sport area). In Britain, informal bolting agreements govern Stanage and Raven Tor. “No fixed anchors on grit. Then a few miles away, there’s a cliff sporting bolts … almost anything goes. Such a balance should be revered,” says Kevin Thaw in Summit #35.

For agreements to stick as new climbers enter the game, there is need to go beyond occasional meetings and forums around flare ups. Worth considering are ongoing local committees formed through nominations and election processes used by the AAC or Access. As Dave Turnbull, British Mountain Council CEO states, “If complacency rules, then climbers will take the path of least resistance or a minority will take matters into their own hands. The results will be random and out of our control” (“Big Issues, The State of British Climbing,” Summit 35). Democracy isn’t easy and free spirited climbers will find many reasons to oppose organization and agreements, but a bit of democracy is better than persistent hullabaloo and ripe for consideration after many, many years of dogged consternation here and abroad.

Once such committees are formed and meeting regularly, they may strive for constructive agreements serving the interests of both traditional and sport climbers. Certainly bolting will figure high on the agenda. Agreements about bolt versus natural anchors, retro-bolting of traditional routes and bolts near cracks may be the easiest places to start. More generally, agreements might center on “trad zones” where the rock will be left completely alone for those preferring to do ground up routes and attempts, with or without bolts. Of course “trad” will have to be defined as operationally as possible. Probably it will include no protection from above or previewing or rehearsing, but what about hooks on lead to get bolts in? As discussion shows on this thread, some old trads and maybe some new feel this is closer to sport than trad. And what about falls, rests on tension or lowering and number of repeat attempts? All the particular styles have to be clearly defined and enumerated and then agreed upon as to if and where they can be employed. Perhaps attention also will focus on walls to be left for the future – no climb zones where environmental or public safety concerns dominate. Each area will decide for itself what style definitions and agreements are workable and acceptable. After agreements are stuck, they need to be added to guidebook introductions, noticed on signs and brochures for an area and posted regularly on web sites.

Depending on local preference, severity of differences and threat of regulation, committees might address a few particular issues, e.g. bolting, or an array of issues comprehensively. Limited agreements might start on protection and anchor bolting. A more comprehensive approach might include setting standards for ascents to be included in area guidebooks and histories. Where cliffs are packed with routes, remaining opportunities scarce, tensions high between sportsters and trads, and land mangers hovering with regulation threats, committees might agree to stringent standards; elsewhere, less stringency might apply.

Agreements centered on style for guidebook credit could effectively curtail squabbling about best first ascents deserving and undeserving of recording; or ambiguous, strained attempts at comparing the achievements of those climbing in different or unknown styles over time. As well, the associated problems of “grid” bolting, trails to everywhere, scrubbing and the like also are diminished with lowered incentives to climb everywhere by any means. However, the point is not whether particular suggestions here are too restrictive, far fetched or unacceptable. Each area can decide all the variables for themselves. The key point is the entire spectrum of style issues - first ascent credit, first ascent opportunities for a range of stylists, clear history, route preservation, environmental impacts and staving off regulation - can be tackled by organization and agreements.

In Sum

In sum, climbers deserve better than they are getting in the clash of styles, both for their own enjoyment and camaraderie and for the long term history and interpretation of the sport. Much needed is attention to stable, standing, area climbing organizations agreeing on bolting, areas open and closed to varying styles and how first ascents in varying styles will or won’t be included in guidebooks and associated histories.

A watershed flare up on differing styles occurred in Tuolumne Meadows, California nearly 30 years ago. Perhaps it will take another thirty years to tell us whether Ed Hardouni is right about climbers never coming to agreement on styles. I hope not, for agreements, not wrangling, are our best hope for easing if not resolving the conflict of styles.

Tom Higgins
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Apr 18, 2008 - 07:02pm PT

Thanks for your thoughts on this.

I agree the worst conflict occurs when trad vs. rap styles are competing for FAs close to each other. And in particular when somebody wants to rap bolt an existing project that was started ground up. There is no stable answer to this last conflict, although at a minimum the person starting the project should be given time to finish it (but there is no natural answer on how long that time might be - 6 months? 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?; exceptions for time lost due to injuries, etc.).

Yosemite has large amounts of rock for FAs, and a fair amount of turnover in who is doing FAs. So conflicts may not come up too often. Group meetings/agreements seem unlikely to work, given turnover, and also the lack of incentive to attend a meeting for people who don't want to change their style [Edit: unless someone is threatening to remove their route or block access to doing future FAs, say].

Instead of group meetings/agreements, people or groups can simply make statements. For example, say a route was rap bolted from top to bottom of the Apron. A statement could be made: "I don't like that, but I will leave it alone for now. However, if another such route appears, I will chop it."

So it seems the best that can be done is to track the FA styles in guidebooks (including online sites) and have people draw their own conclusion about what route stories are inspirational, which are merely expedient, and which are in between. Similarly, such FA records are helpful for generating feedback - if we did not know who did the FAs, there would be no way for people to tell them whether their routes are good, bad, indifferent, etc.

Boulder climber
Alamo, CA
Apr 18, 2008 - 07:17pm PT
i wanna do 'black karma (direct)'


Boulder climber
Alamo, CA
Apr 18, 2008 - 07:34pm PT
hey, I just put up a NEW route on halfdome today while I was sitting on my computer here, check it out, i bolted it though, only 10,000 bolts and its the hardest rating ever of a trad bolted climb, weighs in at a hefty .16d


Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Apr 18, 2008 - 07:36pm PT
Clint wrote... A statement could be made: "I don't like that, but I will leave it alone for now. However, if another such route appears, I will chop it."

Spot on Clint. Statements that either deter or promote the precedential value depending on the style preference.

But I can't help feeling that strict statements, rather than threats of action i.e. chop, are not normative statements, which is what potentially hardliners would want.



Gym climber
Apr 18, 2008 - 07:51pm PT
Just out of curiosity, what do you call a rap bolted line? It's certainly not a trad line.

If it's not trad, it doesn't mean it's sport by defaut.
I know lots of "sport" climbs that went up "trad" style.

The terms Trad and Sport are ill-defined terms that convey different types of climbing and mindsets. Growing Up proves that top-down does not equal "sport climbing."
Ed Bannister

Mountain climber
Riverside, CA
Apr 18, 2008 - 07:57pm PT
I know Eddie (if it is whom I am thinking of)and Kris,
I actually think they would enjoy each other's company on a climb.

Trad climber
Apr 18, 2008 - 09:06pm PT

Thanks for looking over the tome and giving your thoughts.

I agree when an area is large like Yosemite and still open to many new route possibilities, when there are few regulars (really true?) and no regulators hovering, the incentive to organize and agree is not strong. And, typically, organizing sporadically or via standing groups has occurred in smaller areas such as NE, Pinnacles, Eldorado and only after big flare ups. However, making statements in cyberspace as you suggest seems more often to fan flames than bring any consensus on what to do. And, for better or worse, the examples of climbers organized in certain areas, whether strictly on their own or prodded along by regulators, shows what is possible when the time is ripe. As well, I referenced AAC and Access as two models where climbers have found ways to organize, meet, develop consensus and action plans. So, maybe a stretch, but even the free spirited climbers of big Yosemite might yet consider agreements when things get hot enough.

I also wonder how fast Yosemite will seem much smaller than it is if and when FAs via rap bolting alone or in combination with ground up work gets going. Imagine a few more such routes on some high profile features, say, Quarter Domes, Liberty Cap, Lost Arrow, Apron and, of course, El Cap. Then might organization and agreements along the lines I'm suggesting seem so far fetched? Time will tell.

Thanks for your consideration.

Tom Higgins

Gym climber
Apr 18, 2008 - 09:13pm PT
One interesting, unbroached topic is one that considers how the FA team decided
on where to place the bolts. We are all speculating on what is up there, based
upon descriptions. Most of us here are phoning in our reports of the climb,
yet we're all in the lobby unable to see the real show.

I'm not asking for a description, and I don't think the FA team is in any way
responsible for supplying one. No matter the descriptions, the pitches will
tell their own stories. That's the tale I'd like to hear.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Apr 18, 2008 - 09:13pm PT
I'm off to the Valley to look at new routes... I'll reply at length when I return.

My statement was not only a prediction, but a statement of historic fact, the stylistic differences of the 70's were never really resolved. But an understanding between various proponents was reached, or at least, people realized that nothing was to be gained by exchanging blows, be they fists or hammered hangers.

As for self regulation, we do that in an informal manner now. I would believe that unless the land managers threaten us with regulation from their quarter, that the character of climbing in Yosemite is quite beyond adopting a NE regional "town meeting" style governance model.

But more thoughts later, I need to read Tom's essay a bit more carefully than I've had time to do.

Apr 18, 2008 - 09:49pm PT

That's what the American Indian said to the white settlers when they came.

Can't white man have respect for the great white spirit and his land.

Well they all wanted a piece of it too and drove them out. There were way too many of them white dudes, and they had all that steel and iron to boot. It was to become the end of an era as we see the results today.

This is the age of Kali Yuga, the iron age, the age of hypocrisy and quarrel.

Your style of climbing will become extinct in the future as the powerful influence the illusionary energy takes more and more hold and drags the soul down into gross materialism.

Numbers and grades will be and mean everything and everyone will be so called bad ass climbing impossible moves protected to the hilt because the future has be eradicated.

There is no next life they will preach as the gospel truth.


Sport climber
Buzzard Point, TN
Apr 18, 2008 - 10:21pm PT
so called bad ass climbing impossible moves protected to the hilt

Not quite accurate When it gets that hard, you actually can't clip...anybody done Headstone arete...ever?

One generation has gotten a little older and toned down, the new just doesn't have the same kind of heart.

Haven't seen E11 yet? Guys are free soloing 5.13 (and even short 14+) on the regular these days!

That's not only heart, that's sac.

Seems some from every generation are desperate to hang on to something...anything. Start pullin'.


Apr 18, 2008 - 10:36pm PT

I said in the future not now. 20,000 years from now they will eat each others flesh over this.

You'll be standing there going, "WTF ????? it's happening!!!!!!"

It really will ......

Trad climber
primordial soup
Apr 18, 2008 - 10:46pm PT
tell ya right now, i'm nabbin the 2K post, biatches!

Sport climber
Buzzard Point, TN
Apr 18, 2008 - 10:47pm PT
hehe, I need clarification...about that Headstone, will it even be upright in 20k?
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Apr 18, 2008 - 11:42pm PT
Here's how things really work.

We're not going to agree.

There is a general feeling of what a true abomination is, they get chopped.

Growing Up falls short of that so the FA folks get a load of grief from the traditionalists instead.

The reception of a load of grief is a deterrent from other's emulating the strategy.

It's either that or "Don't ask, don't tell" like when folks use power drills to fix old anchors. (not that I've seen that for awhile.

It's a social ecosystem of pride and prestige. It takes care of itself except for a few bumps on the road and sometimes tension between styles. We live with it and it beats bureaucracy.

Any time the government gets involved, they'll be regulating physical impacts like bolts or bivies, never style like ground up or rap (although fixed lines for more than 24 hours are technically illegal already)

In the world and in climbing, there's always going to be somebody doing something we don't like




Trad climber
Mountain View, CA
Apr 19, 2008 - 01:29am PT
I want to address several posts.....

Karl Baba... as I recall your man Aaron has developed a number of routes at that quarry in Auburn and at New Jack City. I apologize if I am mistaken, but he has not done any FA's in Yosemite. There are lots of places across the US where rap bolting is rampant and people are not complaining in 1500+ posts. I think the key to this discussion is that the route in question is in Yosemite and it is also on Half Dome which has a history of bold, ground up ascents.

Since Aaron's statement applies to FA's outside the Valley, for me I don't think it is pertinent to this discussion.

Also, you assert that the "popularity" of a route justifies it's existence. I disagree. I have a lot of sport climbing friends and the routes that they like the most are the ones with bolts that are the most closely spaced. What I mean by that is that the climbing can still be "hard", but the bolts are so closely spaced that they are never scared that they are going to fall. If you go to a sport climbing crag the most popular routes are the moderates with the most closely spaced bolts.

For these reasons, I do not think that you can use popularity as the measure of the "worthiness" of the route. Maybe you can for trad routes where you have to place your own gear, but not for routes where bolts are the major source of protection.

Tom Higgins, well said. The only disagreement I would have is that I am willing to allow rampant rap bolting in insignificant climbing areas like the quarry in Auburn. As my pest control guys says, 'we let the termites attack the fences so that they don't go after the house'.

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