Chipping Caught On Film In New York

I guess when Ivan Greene says on his Edelrid athlete page1 that his occupation is being a “rock climber and artist” he really meant it.  With an emphasis on the artist part.

Back story on the video is here.

Sick, and not in a cool way.

Update - Statement from Edelrid:

We would like to state unequivocally that EDELRID does not support the practice of chipping. It is our belief that the challenge, and the pleasure of climbing, lies in rock formations, as they occur naturally.

With this in mind we can state that we find the recent behaviour of Ivan Greene to be completely unacceptable, and we would like to take this opportunity to clarify that he is no longer an EDELRID sponsored athlete, and in actuality has not been supported by the brand for over 12 months.

We will be removing all references to Ivan Greene from the EDELRID website with immediate effect.

  1.  Why Edelrid would sponsor him in the first place is beyond me

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71 Responses to Chipping Caught On Film In New York

  1. Dan February 20, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    Well, this will certainly open a can of worms.

    A few thoughts:

    1. Why did these people not confront him while he was doing this?

    2. It looks like what he was doing was breaking off flakes, but ensuring that a usable hold was left behind. To me, this crosses the line into chipping. I’m sure that this guy, and anyone else caught doing the same thing, will insist that it is not.

    3. It’s pretty funny that he actually stashed his chisels at the boulders.

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    • Narc February 20, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

      I don’t know that it was made as clear as it could have been in the article, but the antics of this chipper have been going on for many years. I’m sure he has been confronted at other times.

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  2. texasclimber February 20, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

    yea that went a little beyond “removing loose rock” and leaving solid rock behind…

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  3. Douglas Hunter February 20, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    Are you sure that this video is on the up and up? A couple of things strike me as odd, not impossible but odd. Several times the chipper looks in the direction of the camera person who is not that far away but somehow the chipper is unable to see the camera person? Possible, but unlikely. Also who stashes such a small amount of gear like that? Why didn’t the video shooter announce himself and stop the chipping while it was going on? Only needed a few seconds of video to prove that this individual was chipping. Continuing to shoot while the chipping is going on just makes the videographer an accomplice to the chipping.

    Questions about the video aside I lived in New Paltz and climbed in the Gunks from 1986 – 1991 Chipping did occur at that time, and not just at Kingston quarry. At hemlock ledges I got the FA of route that another climber had chipped by removing a large T-shaped bit of rock that was formed by the intersection of several seams. Thus creating a hold where there had been none before. The climber who did it was known as old school so it was pretty strange to me that he did it. When I asked him why he did it, he said because it wouldn’t have gone without chipping. Kind of an strange answer I thought. Particularly when Kingston was a mere 20 minutes away and he could have created a route there without any problem.

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    • Dan February 20, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

      These are all good questions. It’s tough to think of a motive for faking this video, though.

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      • Douglas Hunter February 20, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

        You’re right it is hard to imagine why someone would want to stage such a thing; I don’t know, but the entire thing strikes me as a little squampus.

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    • 1111 February 21, 2013 at 3:39 am #

      Did you not read the story and comments, it’s all explained there.

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      • Douglas Hunter February 21, 2013 at 10:01 am #

        The discussion in the comments started prior to Narc adding the update.

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    • Narc February 21, 2013 at 6:08 am #

      I talked a couple of locals up there and they vouched for the veracity of the film, but I agree that the whole thing does come off a bit odd. Maybe it’s because the subject matter is just so unfamiliar a thing to see or maybe it’s something else?

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      • FYI February 21, 2013 at 10:11 am #

        Just wanted to point out that although this post is titled “Chipping Caught On Film In The Gunks,” I’m pretty sure it’s not in the Gunks, but most likely somewhere else in NY or possibly Connecticut. Between the video and the photos that match on Ivan’s FB page, the rock is pretty clearly not Gunks rock.

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        • Narc February 21, 2013 at 10:14 am #

          Good call. I’ll change the title.

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        • RB February 21, 2013 at 11:26 am #

          It is most definitely in the Gunks. The Mohonk Preserve is larger than the Trapps. Shhhhhh….

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          • FYI February 21, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

            You’re right, there’s a lot more Gunks climbing than what’s in the Trapps (or the preserve for that matter), but when you look at the closeups at the end of the video it’s pretty clear that the rock is some kind of gneiss and not quartz conglomerate. It’s probably down in Putnam county, or thereabouts.
            But in the end, it really doesn’t matter where it is. It’s unacceptable to do this anywhere, under any circumstances – that’s the bottom line.

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      • Douglas Hunter February 21, 2013 at 10:39 am #

        Thanks Narc.

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    • Jordan February 21, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

      Doug ,I did the FA of Tr****re and named it after the chipper.!! Is that the route you are referencing?

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      • Douglas Hunter February 21, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

        Jordan, If memory serves me correctly you got it on TR; but I led it the same day I place the top anchors on it, so that was the first lead ascent of the route. But hey it’s 22-23 years ago so I doubt either of us has any documentation. I know I don’t have a journal or anything from that time, so no biggie either way.

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        • Jordan February 21, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

          Doug,
          Thanks for jarring my memory.The Zone was also destroyed forever during that time. No worries just trying to cause a ruckus.

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          • douglashunter February 21, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

            Good on ya man! :-)

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  4. really? February 20, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

    You’re really trying to understand a chipper’s mentality? I’m sure he was just posing for the cam… crazy is as crazy does.

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  5. DerekJf February 20, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

    From his bio – literally depicts the ‘long standing’ v13 boulder project the guy in the dpm rundown spoke of……
    “GOALS
    Most immediately I am consumed with want to climb 3 projects here in my home climbing area the Gunks. It is fall here and the days are perfect. There is one line in particular that has seemed almost impossible for most of my climbing life up until about a month ago. Now it is very close to becoming a reality.”

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  6. Carlos Lugo February 21, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    FREE IVAN

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  7. WAR CHILD February 21, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    WAR CHILD!!!!!!!

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  8. Ethical Climber February 21, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    Hmmmm. Climbing at the gunks, where trespassing and vandalism have become the norm. It makes for a sad commentary on climbers.

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  9. Jamie Emerson February 21, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    Can someone explain to me why it seems that most climbers find these kinds of action abhorrent in the context of bouldering, but totally acceptable in extremely popular sport climbing areas like Margalef?

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    • rajiv February 21, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

      Whoa there! That’s a question whose premise I don’t think many would agree with. Bill Ramsey’s article in R&I made a good case for why chipping is a spectrum, and why it is difficult to argue that “all chipping is always unethical.” However the actions in the video are clearly way past what most climbers consider debatable.

      Please clarify what you mean by “these kinds of action[s]” – are you considering all chipping equivalent to what’s shown on the video? Also, please clarify why you think most climbers find this “totally acceptable” in popular sport areas.

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      • Bill Ramsey February 21, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

        Because I have actually written in defense of a limited form of chipping, many people have asked me what I think about this video. So here are my thoughts.
        One of the main points I tried to make in my earlier essay is this: most climbers think there is a morally significant difference between the removal of loose rock/vegetation to make something climbable, and the removable of solid rock to make something climbable. And my main point was that I don’t see a sound justification for treating these two things as ethically different. There are not different from the standpoint of ecology or environmental concerns. A principled environmentalism would make no distinction between, on the one hand, scrubbing off lichen, weeds, flaky or crumbly rock, prying off a loose block with a crowbar, or removing rocks or bushes or even trees to improve a landing on the one hand, and chipping a hold to make something climbable on the other hand. If anything, a serious environmentalist might frown more on the former because it includes the killing of a living part of nature. So I find it bizarre that many climbers strongly condemn the latter activity and yet often actually praise the former activity, all the while insisting on a strong commitment to environmentalism.

        Now since climbing is akin to a sport, climbers can make up whatever ethical rules they want. The can decree that it is unethical to do a FA on a Tuesday, but OK to do one on a Wednesday. They can stipulate that it is wrong to scrub off bat guano, bur acceptable to scrub off pigeon guano. And they can stipulate that it is wrong it chip a hold, but OK to significantly modify the natural terrain in a lot of other ways to make something go. That is up to us. My point was simply that the last case is similar to the former cases in that there does not seem to be a sound reason for making such a normative distinction.

        Having said that, I think there are a whole bunch of legitimate reasons to think that what is going on in the video may be quite wrong. For example, if an area has rules put in place by land managers that stipulate rocks, vegetation and other aspects of the natural terrain should not be altered, then those rules should be followed. But notice that adherence to such rules would preclude scrubbing off lichen and loose rock. There was also somewhere the suggestion that some of the chipping involved altering established problems. If something is an established climb, there are a lot of very good reasons to leave it exactly as it is, and not modify it in any way. Also, in my earlier essay I argued that a natural climb is generally far superior to a manufactured climb, and so I restricted my defense of chipping to sections of rock that are literally impossible in their current form (no matter how good future climbers are). Now if what is being chipped in the video is doable (even if doable in the V-19 range) then I think it should be left alone for that future climber.

        Suppose that what was in fact being chipped was not possible, ever. Then what may result from the chipping is a (probably) crappy little boulder problem. But there are lots of crappy little boulder problems around the country that people nonetheless get some enjoyment out of doing. What is odd is the following: Suppose the video showed someone doing a lot of the “legitimate” work that often goes into establishing a problem – someone scrubbing lichen, prying off loose blocks with a crowbar, scraping off dirt and flaky rock, excavating underlying boulders to make a better landing and so on. And suppose the video was presented as a tribute to all the hard work that sometimes goes into a making a quality boulder problem. Then people would actually be celebrating the person in the video, thanking him for his diligence in “doing what it takes” to make a great boulder problem others can enjoy. What is interesting is that such a video might actually depict a much greater modification of the natural terrain than what is shown in the DPM video. If it makes sense to treat that acceptable sort of alteration as praiseworthy and wonderful, then it really doesn’t make sense to treat the chipping as absolutely monstrous. It certainly doesn’t make sense to do so on purely environmental grounds, which is what seems to driving a lot of the anger.

        Comically, I just noticed in the November Climbing magazine, on the very first page there is an ad for some alliance between Jeep and the Access Fund, featuring something called the “Conservation Team”. It shows two individuals engaged in what appears to be some significant alteration of a rocky landscape, using a giant pry-bar. Apparently these are the Good Guys, promoting conservation and environmental awareness! Am I the only one who finds all of this a little odd?

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        • JCM February 22, 2013 at 12:17 am #

          Whether I agree with you or not, this is one of the more well-reasoned and intelligent posts I’ve seen made to a climbing website in a while. Good work, sir.

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          • Bill Ramsey February 22, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

            Thanks JCM. One further point – a number of people like Jamie have wondered why boulders might be treated differently than sport routes with regard to chipping. Here is one possibility: it seems to me that one of the strongest justifications for chipping involves a situation where you have lengthy sections of quality natural climbing that are separated by short unclimbable sections. To produce one continuous and enjoyable (though admittedly flawed) long pitch, a few holds are manufactured that link the natural sections. It strikes me that this is the typical sort of modification that occurs in sport climbing. But because boulder problems are much shorter, this type of justification is much less likely to apply in bouldering. That is, a stronger case can be made for linking two 30-move sections with manufactured holds than for linking two 2-move sections. So there may well be a good reason for thinking that justifiable chipping is far less likely to occur in bouldering than in sport climbing. Just a thought.

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        • BR February 22, 2013 at 1:50 am #

          Access Fund Conservation Team chipping boulders: http://vimeo.com/44003507

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          • Jamie Emerson February 23, 2013 at 11:01 am #

            Bill, great comment and thanks for addressing my concern!

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        • J February 22, 2013 at 6:35 am #

          The environmentalist, nature-loving condemnation of hold creation/modification seems very difficult to maintain with consistency. Strict reliance upon to the environmental “ethic” likely results in the casting a such a wide net that climber actions that serve to make the activity even possible would need to be similarly condemned (drilling holes for bolts, cleaning, vegetation damage due to crash pads, etc., etc). A chip or five cannot be worse than a bolt hole or five filled in with a shiny piece of steel, from this perspective alone.

          So as Ramsey notes, we are left with the “future generations” considerations, in which case more information about the exact nature of the particular “challenge” of this boulder (mere difficulty or impossibility) would need to be determined. Also, we would need to judge whether or not this person was in some sense “qualified” to make a reliable assessment of such maters in this particular case.

          I think I saw something (either here or in the DP comment thread) about Graham stating that what may be okay (in a limited fashion) in sport climbing is simply not so in bouldering; the “rule” is boulders can’t be chipped. I’m not too confident this is a promising inroad to critique this matter; seems at least as problematic as the Nature Loving tactic. It just strikes me as arbitrary that different rules would hold sway over different sizes of rock. Well, I guess if there are no OTHER constraints on the situation (e.g., land use policies, etc.), then as Ramsey mentioned, climbers COULD just stipulate that chipping boulders is simply against the rules. The problem here is that without any external criteria to appeal to, we could just as easily rule in favor of an opposing view: All sizes of rock are fair game for creation of routes where routes could not exist without such intervention.

          If there is one “moral’ here is that pictures and movies can tend to set off purely emotional triggers that wholly determine our judgement of a situation. A little calm reflection on the matter can often show us that it’s at least a bit muddier than would appear at first glance. .

          However,why anyone would even WANT to randomly carve little chips into a boulder and then climb it doesn’t quite compute with me . . .I guess it might save on gas money?

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          • cgrosh February 22, 2013 at 7:29 am #

            I think it is the spirit of the “natural challenge” that is being undermined here and is what is causing the aggravation that we see on all the forums (although, people are maybe acting on this fundamental affront to their ethical code more implicitly than under the banner of environmental stewardship).

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          • Nick February 24, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

            Hey Socrates – big orange gashes out of our local boulders is ugly and destroys beautiful natural lines. That is all. No need to write a dissertation. If someone took a crap on your doorstep it doesn’t take a debate to figure out your not psyched with whoever did it.

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        • FYI February 22, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

          Dr. Ramsey, while I respect your expertise in philosophy, I’m not sure that practical ethics is the best tool for the job here (no pun intended). Maybe a better lens to think through the issue of chipping is a sociological or anthropological one. Take your ‘principled environmentalist’ argument for instance: the problem is that the principled environmentalist is not part of the culture of climbing and they don’t understand it’s values or world-views. The reason they wouldn’t make the same distinction between scrubbing lichen and chipping holds that a climber does, is because they haven’t been socialized into the climbing communities rules, norms, and values. There is no universal ethical Truth in this scenario, social groups decide what’s right and wrong and behave accordingly, or they get ostracized. Cultures are not rational ethical machines, and the culture of climbing is no different. You are spot on when you say that “climbers can make up whatever ethical rules they want” – this is precisely what cultures do, and when it comes to chipping, there has been a resounding “NO!” shouted by climbers around the world. The climbing community as a social group has formed a taboo against chipping. You may find it irrational (many taboos are), but it doesn’t stop it from being salient to the people who hold it to be true. This taboo may stronger in some areas than others, but let me tell you, in New York it is NOT OK.

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          • Bill Ramsey February 22, 2013 at 11:01 pm #

            FYI: You may well be right. It may indeed be the case that the strong condemnation of chipping is driven simply by the fact that people are pissed that widely accepted but purely climbing-specific rules are being violated. People might not think there is some deeper motivation for those rules, or that they are grounded in some deeper commitment to the environment. They may just think rules are rules and, as you note, since these are the commonly accepted rules of climbing culture, they ought to be followed. It just struck me that, given the level of hostility and repeated references to environmentalism in the comments, people do not think this is wrong simply because they think it violates a climbing cultural norm. My hunch (but it is only a hunch) is that people are angry because they believe that route/boulder development should not substantially alter the rock or natural terrain, and they think this attitude is warranted by a deeper and more general commitment to environmentalism. They do not think that their opposition to chipping is like, say, their opposition to stacking pads up to make a sit start easier or to watching video of a climb before an on-sight attempt.

            For what it’s worth, history provides some support for your position. I remember in the early and mid-80s there was a raging debate about “hand-dogging” – about whether after falling on a route, it was acceptable to hang around and inspect the holds, work out moves, and so on. There were many who regarded hang-dogging as terrible and that you should immediately lower to the ground after falling. This was transparently a debate about a made-up climbing norm – about a rule that had no independent justification. The no hang-dogging rule was just as arbitrary and climbing-culture dependent as a no-FAs-on-Tuesdays rule. Nevertheless, even though today it all seems very silly, things got very heated, cars were vandalized, and violators (like Watts and Skinner) were demonized. So insofar as I’m suggesting people wouldn’t be this upset about chipping unless they thought chipping violated some deeper, non-culture-specific norm (like concern for nature), the history of the sport at least hints I may be wrong.

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          • J February 23, 2013 at 2:09 am #

            A well worded questionnaire with a large sample of climber respondents would obviously give us more reliable insight into just why people dislike chipping than our speculations and intuitions. We would certainly end up with a variety of reasons. cgrosh has a point as well. Certainly some folks hate chipping because it robs them of the idea that they are partaking in some “natural challenge” and human intervention somehow lessens or eliminates this sentiment/thrill (of course, the location/number of bolts on a sport climb similarly alters the “natural” challenge but for whatever reason, what is acceptable for safety purposes isn’t accepted for things that aid upward progression)

            Funny, because when we look at this a bit more, it becomes a Man versus Nature idea, which is quite the opposite of the environmental steward idea being tossed around. The tourist who thinks all climbers are setting out on a quest to “conquer some mountain” may not be quite as naïve as we think. Think of many of the terms sport climbers use as approval of climbing prowess: “Crushed,” “sent,” “pulled down” . . . there is certainly no shortage of machismo inherent in how we look at the whole process of “hard” bouldering and climbing. It’s not just Ondra . . . sport climbers routinely screech, scream, and swear when they are thus engaged in their activity, all the while situated smack in the middle of the Great Outdoors; hardly the behavior of a John Muir type (really, can you think of any other outdoor sport where screaming “fuuuck” at the top of one’s lungs is pretty much acceptable–or at least not shocking–behavior?). Not sure who mentioned it to me first, something about the idea that the behavior of the prolific and/or obsessive sport route establisher is analogous to a dog marking her territory. Similar psychological mechanisms may be at work for “sending” routes as well. I think the idea that a route was chipped may enact some sort of psychological sabotage to these sentiments. At the risk of my speculations becoming just plain goofy, it may even occur at some subconscious level.

            Anyhow, yeah, for WHATEVER reason(s) the “community” generally abhors chipping—especially in bouldering contexts—and this should certainly hold some sway in the abstract debate, as well as in individual behavior.

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        • Derek Gardner February 24, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

          I won’t much address the counters here, but the strong commitment to environmentalism obscures the more common reasoning for which we can find a normative basis, at the very least in overlapping consensus in climbing circles and beyond. Namely, vegetation, whether it is lichen and moss removed or the carving of trails to the actual problem, is far less permanent an alteration than any made to the rock. We can responsibly clean problems, create trails and landing zones that don’t have such long lasting effects that future generations are significantly impacted by those activities; manufacturing of holds does not share in the same temporal limitations. Refraining from hold manufacture for the sake of future generations also does not arguably place an undue burden (currently) on our own ends any more than future generations are deprived by our responsible trail creation, cleaning, etc. Like a lot of folks, I’ve wondered far afield of established problems to find forgotten problems, the rock recovered in moss, the trail to the boulder gone—the chipped holds still remain.

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  10. Ethical Climber February 21, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

    If by most climbers you mean most sport climbers, you have a point. Most trad climbers find them abhorrent everywhere.

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    • rajiv February 21, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

      Ethical Climber: That’s a ridiculous statement. Most sport climbers also find chipping abhorrent.

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      • Narc February 21, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

        Perhaps so, but I think many sport climbers are also naive to the amount of gray area work (brushing, cleaning, crow barring, hammering, outright chipping) that goes into establishing sport routes.

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        • rajiv February 21, 2013 at 11:24 pm #

          Very true. Gluing is another gray area.

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  11. Ethical Climber February 21, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    Raj. Yeah. You’re right. My bad, and cheers to my sport climbing friends.

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  12. crimpy February 21, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    word is its a sterling forest boulder.

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  13. guidoprincess February 21, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    Trad climbers find chipping unacceptable? How can you say that when there are,many places on El Cap, and on trad climbs all over the world that its acceptable to go up and hammer the rock into submission. Please dont argue for the purity of trad climbing when historically and maybe today, its the discipline that alters rock the most. Shit like this makes Ivan’s escapades look like pure child’s play:

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    • Dan February 21, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

      It is certainly not acceptable to go chip routes on El Cap right now. It was done in the past, before free climbing was really a thing that people focused on.

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      • guidoprincess February 21, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

        Actually, you are wrong. It is still very acceptable to go up and hammer pitons on El Cap. Here is a thread saying many people go up and hammer pitons into the Zodiac in 2008, 5 years after it was free climbed by Alex Huber: http://www.supertopo.com/rock-climbing/beta/Yosemite-Valley-El-Capitan-Zodiac

        Do your research son.

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        • Dan February 21, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

          You are talking about aid climbers hammering pitons. That’s not really chipping in the sense that is relevant to this article, and also not what most people mean when they say trad climbers.

          If your point is simply that there are non-sport climbers who permanently alter the rock as well, I would agree.

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  14. JCM February 21, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    Aside from being inflamatory, this statement is also untrue. There, is, in fact, a long history of hold manufacuring in traditional climbing, mostly inloving pitons in seams. While much of this was the unintentional byproduct of aid climbing, some “pinning out” of cracks was an intentional effort to allow for free climbing. The second pithc of Outer Limits (Yosemite) is an example.

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  15. Jamie Emerson February 21, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

    I think a number of currently en vogue routes in Spain are heavily manufactured, something the mainstream media has turned a blind eye to. Watch Dosage 5. You can see a lot of glue in a number of places on the wall. And I’ve talked to a number of climbers who say what goes on in Spain is blatant chipping for a desired difficulty. I don’t think the same could be said for en vogue bouldering areas like Rocklands, Font or Colorado. So why is it acceptable?

    In fact this last year I began sport climbing and visited areas like Wild Iris and Sinks Canyon for the first time. I couldn’t find a hard sport route without either a manufactured hold on it or glue. I am not condemning it, I just want to know why that standard seems so much different than in sport climbing.

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    • cgrosh February 21, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

      Agreed Jamie, Dani Andrada (a well respected climber) essentially admits to the necessity of “altering” to preserve the aesthetics and flow of a line, but this has never received the same attention…. http://vimeo.com/36642899 (check out around 5:22 and 17:27). There does seem to be a double standard

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      • Haroun Souirji February 22, 2013 at 1:13 am #

        Hi. I am the director of the video you refer to. While I don’t know exactly how much “altering” Dani did on routes in the past, I just want to make clear that in the video, when he uses the hammer at 5:22, it is to remove old bolts to place new ones. He spends lots of his time replacing very old bolts on routes in Siurana. I don’t see what you are pointing at 17:27.
        All the best,
        Haroun

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        • cgrosh February 22, 2013 at 7:20 am #

          Hi Haroun, first off, I’m not trying to point fingers at anyone and I have a lot of respect for Dani Andrada. He is an inspiration in many ways. I figured he was working on a bolt at 5:22. But it is more about what he talks about, that the ideal is a natural route, but some altering is necessary sometimes. Then a little past 17:27 he compares the damage of trash and traffic at a cliff as more significant than whether a route is natural or not. I only point this out because there seems to be a difference in terms of ethics and what a “clean” or “natural” line entails between sport and bouldering… or maybe Europe and the US. I’m not sure which, but there is a difference of opinion that is interesting and worth discussing. I love the video by the way, and I don’t intend to blame or point fingers, just create conversation.

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          • Haroun Souirji February 22, 2013 at 8:55 am #

            Hi. No problem. You definitely bring interesting questions to the table. I find intertesting that Dani says that people should maybe think about the damage they are doing to an entire area before searching for a “chipping witch” to burn. But this is of course no excuse not to discuss “cleaning holds” ethics.

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    • douglashunter February 21, 2013 at 10:22 pm #

      The climbing medial does not always know that the ascents they are covering have chipped holds. Further, its difficult because chipping has essentially been a part of climbing for a very long time, and anyone who knows something about climbing history is going to see that for better or worse chipping has played a role in the development of the sport. Beyond JCMs totally valid point, chipped climbs have really fired up climber’s imaginations over the years. Who didn’t want to do a “rose move” after seeing photos of the Euros doing that massive cross through? I’m not sure we noticed that the holds were essentially man made. There are many other such examples of inspiration coming from chipped moves and routes. Then there are the climbing areas like Maple Canyon where a distinction between cleaning and chipping is difficult to make at times because the rock quality is so low. Nonetheless, if we acknowledge the role chipping has played, and if we were to say its OK to chip then we’d have a huge mess on our hands. I think its better to take a firm anti-chipping stand in all areans.

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      • JCM February 22, 2013 at 12:44 am #

        Jamie: I think that DH’s point about Maple Canyon, made just above, gets at why manufacturing is more accepted at limestone sport crags, such as in Spain, than at the bouldering areas you mentioned: it is all about the rock quality. Generally speaking, the softness of the ethics follows the softness of the rock. At bouldering areas like Rocklands, or the Gunks, the rock is generally hard and excellent, and development entails simply brushing off the lichen. There is a lot less grey area here; the only way to modify a clean, hard, solid piece of quartzite with with chisel or drill, and we have collectively decided that this is something that we should not do. There is no room for “overly agressive cleaning” when no cleaning has to take place in the first place.

        The situation at a chossy limestone crag is a bit different, and it creates a lot more grey area. To develop a new route at the Wicked Cave, or the Pipe Dream (as DH mentioned), or Santa Linya (as JE alluded to), a ton of work is required to clean and stabilize the chossy rock. When these sorts of routes are developed, one essentially has to hammer and pry off the outer layer of horrifyingly loose junk, to expose the somewhat-less loose layer underneath. This layer is then selectively reinforced with SIKA to stabilize the surface and create a lasting route. All of the recent new routes in the Wicked Cave where unearthed in such a way: aggressive hammering and scrubbing, and then some glue. I imagine Santa Linya is similar. The resulting routes are generally excellent, though, which somewhat justifies the heavy-handed cleaning approach.; these aren’t pristine pieces of rock being defaced, but rather festering chosspiles being polished up a bit.

        Here comes the grey area, though. There is plenty of room for judgement calls with what to clean, making it very easy to direct this cleaning a little bit to shape the features as you want. At what point do you stop hammering? Lets say you bolt and clean a long, sustained route, with one jug in the middle; the jug is a somewhat loose flake. it is a bit loose to leave it as-is. Do you hammer it off, or reinforce it with glue? A big part of this decision is whether you want there to be a jug there or not. Is this chipping? Not exactly; it is still cleaning, but somewhat sequence-creation oriented cleaning. So, I suspect the ”chipped” routes in Spain that Jamie alludes to are not truly chipped, in the way that Mt Charleston and Buoux were outright chipped, but are more in the vein of aggressive cleaning.

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    • Narc February 22, 2013 at 5:22 am #

      Michael Fuselier did catch some flak for blatantly drilling that route in Yangshuo, although this mostly came from American climbers and he clearly has not been ostracized by the community.

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  16. dakotaconcrete February 21, 2013 at 10:08 pm #

    I do not agree with altering the rock in this manner.

    However, I do not feel like the video gives a complete description of the rock before and after the event. People who are familiar with the location, and the condition of this particular rock, would carry far more value than the video, in my opinion.

    Despite the video’s disturbing images, I am more disconcerted by the climbing media’s handling of the incident. It doesn’t sit right with me. The issue, as some have pointed out, is not as black and white as some would like to think it is.

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  17. YorickO February 21, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

    Like what most of the readers say.

    But needless to say, it’s kind of beautiful isn’t it?

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  18. bowser February 22, 2013 at 8:16 am #

    Narc, you seem to have great followers here. I liked that everything discussed was constructive unlike all the DPM comments (although humorous!). While i am glad it was brought to attention about chipping, I don’t know if posting the video was a good idea. Regardless i find any type of chipping to make a route or problem climbable is selfish and unnecessary in this day of super strong climbers.

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    • Cody Jones (@DrJones13) February 22, 2013 at 8:46 am #

      Why was it not a good idea to post the video? Why wouldn’t people want to know about this sort of thing?

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      • bowser February 22, 2013 at 9:04 am #

        Part of me feels it was and part of me feels it could have been handled better (don’t know what way would be better though). Im not saying this guy doesn’t deserve the negative attention. This is the first i have ever seen anything like this in climbing media where this type of thing happened. I just wonder if this will be the start of a trend of trying to catch negative acts and sending them to dpm to have public punishments. I don’t condone negative behavior i just dont want to see climbing media come to this is all

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        • JCM February 22, 2013 at 9:56 am #

          From the sounds of it, various Gunks locals have been hounding the chipper in question for years to cease and desist, but to no avail. I imagine that a variety of more discrete options for asking him to stop have been explored already, and the public shaming via video was a last resort when nothing else would work.

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  19. jon snow February 22, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    i’d be curious to hear what chris sharma has to say about cleaning/altering/chipping routes in spain. he always has a level head, i’d like to hear him weigh in on the subject.

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  20. Jon February 23, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    In Reply to Bill Ramsey,

    I don’t think you quite get it. Chipping is of course a purely in house climbing issue – hardly anyone outside the climbing world could care less about bolts or chipping or most of the rest of climbing ethics. But within the climbing world, these things are important. And the reason that the vast majority of climbers hate chipping has nothing to do with environmentalism or ecology. Most of us hate chipping even when it’s in a man made quarry.

    Put simply, a lot of us feel that there’s one fundamental rule in rock climbing:
    “DON’T **** WITH THE HOLDS!!!!”
    ie: the whole point of rock climbing is to try to climb rock using the holds which are available.

    But this isn’t some “arbitrary” rule like lots of the other things in climbing you were talking about. The point is that once a hold has been chipped, there’s usually no going back – the possibility of free climbing that line has gone forever. That’s why people hate it so much.

    Note – the use of bolts pretty much never affects the holds (they’re almost always placed in the blank rock to the side) so the people comparing bolting to chipping haven’t really thought about it. But pegs definitely DO affect the holds – which is why lots of us hate pegs. In particular, I think one of the biggest crimes in climbing is being perpetuated year in year out by people with hammers on El Cap systematically trashing some of the most beautiful rock on the planet. Take a look at pictures of The Shield headwall from a few decades ago. And then look at it now. It’s an utter disgrace. Non clean aid climbing is completely unsustainable and should be condemned in the same way as chipping – because it IS chipping (just delayed a few years…).

    As for the fact that some “classic” lines like The Nose are chipped. Well yeah – it’s terrible. They aren’t classic routes – they are classic lines which have been completely trashed. No one will ever know whether it would ever have gone free. Lynn’s ascent was amazing, but the route itself is forever ruined. Of course, it’s hard to be too critical of the pioneers back in the day who first aided these things. Back then, noone had a clue where climbing was headed. But now we do and there’s no excuse for it continuing. Pegs and chipping are completely unsustainable and are trashing amazing routes for future generations.

    As for trying to defend chipping on what you deem to be “impossible” – it’s entirely unworkable because noone has the faintest idea where the distinction between the possible and impossible will eventually lie. How many perfectly climbable routes and boulders have been trashed by people who are too rubbish to realise that in fact the thing they are chipping would be perfectly climbable to someone who actually knows how to climb… From Cuvier to Margalef, from Buoux to El Cap – it’s all an utter disgrace, incredibly short sighted and utterly selfish.

    As for your final point about linking long sections of quality natural climbing on sport climbs by the occasional chipped hold – well you’re right – some people clearly feel it’s more justified in that situation. But as always, who knows what is “unclimbable”. If someone other than Sharma had bolted 3 Degrees at Ceuse, do you think we’d now have one of the most amazing dynos in the world on a route – or a crappy rockover off a chipped edge (as an aside why do chippers always have so little imagination…) Most people would almost certainly have considered that section of rock to be “impossible”.

    O.k, o.k – things aren’t quite that clear cut in the real world. I know there’s a few grey areas around “cleaning” – particularly on poor quality rock. But the grey areas are VERY narrow, and frankly everyone knows when they’re crossing them. Essentially if what you are doing is for safety reasons (removing loose blocks etc) then it’s o.k, as is reinforcing loose holds. But if you’re deliberately trying to make something either easier or harder, by changing the holds, then you need to take up a different sport or stick to climbing indoors. And if you’re using a drill to “clean” something, you’re so far over the Rubicon you’ve already sacked Rome.

    Let’s leave Ondra’s kids something to climb…

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    • J February 24, 2013 at 3:47 am #

      Jon: Not speaking for Ramsey of course but just a few of my own thoughts on your post . . .

      -The prevalent idea of free climbing is the idea of moving over an expanse of rock using only your own strength and skill (as opposed to aid climbing). However, the idea that this expanse of rock must be one that no human purposely set out to make for easier passage, via improvement or creation of holds, seems tacked on and false. One can surely “free climb” a route with a few drilled pockets, for example. First, one can skip them. Second, even using them does not violate the initial definition. That said, I agree that when such things are done to a expanse of climbable rock (i.e, creation of artificial holds) we feel we are robbed of a very important challenge, which is free climbing an expanse of rock that was not altered by an individual to make for easier passage. Again, I suspect there is a underlying psychological mechanism (Man vs. Nature) that may drive this sentiment. Chipping is cheating because some other Man is intervening in this contest by “weakening” nature’s resistance, giving us an unfair advantage. Plus, I admit, it just feels WAY more cool to climbing up some randomly created expanse of rock than one that some random punter carved up with a chisel or drill.

      Of course (as I continually stress), it strikes me as odd that the fact that we nearly always alter sections of rock to make them SAFER to ascend (via safely spaced bolts installed in ideal clipping locations) doesn’t seem to bother anyone (so long as this original set up is not modified). There is nothing natural about this and it give us a HUGE advantage over the wall as it exists in it’s purely “natural” state. Nor does “working” a route (practice it into submission!) or chalk use raise the ire of the anti-chipper. It’s not like we are simply walking through the woods, come up to a steep cliff, and manage to scale up and over it using only our own muscle, skill, and bravado. It’s of course FAR removed from such a thing and we need to shake off such naive and idealistic notions of the sport. Similar to something Chouinard said long ago; the only true natural ascent is free solo onsight of a previously untouched expanse of rock, barefoot and no chalk.

      -Ramsey can agree with much of what you say, yet continue to maintain that cases of artificial linkage between natural sections (or even crappy little boulder problems carved into blank boulders) do not necessarily rob anyone of free climbing activity because these expanses of rock afforded no possibility of such an activity taking place on them in the first place. Your claim that it is impossible for anyone to know or judge that a given expanse of rock is impossible for any human being to free climb (now or in the future) strikes me as implausible. I do not climb at a high level but I believe that even I would be able to correctly make such assessments. Of course, I would have to err on the side of caution MUCH more than an elite climber would.

      -Your argument seems to ultimately reference and value the interests of future generations of hard climber; we can’t tell for sure that a section cannot be climbed, if chipping is given the green light then sections of climbable-by-future-generations-of-climbers-rock will be chipped. This would be wrong. Thus, chipping should not be given the green light and is wrong

      I think we need to keep in mind that to the best of my knowledge, no one is advocating or defending wanton, frequent, and/or widespread chipping practices. Thus, the idea that a few instances of artificial linkage or some goofy chips in some random, smooth boulder will likely impact the progress of the sport for hard-climbers-yet-to-be-born strikes me as rather implausible; much more implausible, as a matter of fact, then your claim that no current climbers are qualified to determine that any given expanse of rock is simply unclimbable.

      -To conclude, there really is much more convergence of opinion on this matter than is commonly acknowledged. Clearly, most climbers are anti-chipping. The small minority that defend (limited) instances of it agree with the anti-chipping establishment in the vast majority of cases. Some perfectly fine (natural) cliffs HAVE been compromised by short-sighted chipping. No one that I know is denying or defending this, and cases of linkage are and will continue to be comparatively rare.

      j

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  21. confused February 24, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    Why do chippers hide their activity? If its no worse than drilling oil in Alaska, which is harmless compared to a nuclear explosion in a dense urban environment, then why hide it? I just don’t get it.

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  22. Narc February 25, 2013 at 7:27 am #

    I’m still catching up on all the comments from over the weekend, but I wanted to thank everyone for what has been a reasonable and oftentimes very informative debate over this issue!

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  23. mikesmix February 25, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    I originally came across this story via the video on dpm. Although the chipping disturbed me, I was more disappointed in the discussion that followed characterized by threats and shallow mindedness. After reading the comments on this site, I am relieved that there is at least a sizable portion of the climbing community that is free thinking and capable of calm discussion. Hats off to Narc and those that have posted intelligent, well thought out responses, leading to a productive discussion of this incident.

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  24. Douglas Hunter March 4, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    J writes: “Thus, the idea that a few instances of artificial linkage or some goofy chips in some random, smooth boulder will likely impact the progress of the sport for hard-climbers-yet-to-be-born strikes me as rather implausible; much more implausible, as a matter of fact, then your claim that no current climbers are qualified to determine that any given expanse of rock is simply unclimbable.”

    This strikes me as exactly right. The “robbing the future” argument has been around for quite a while. What we can see is that the actual future depends on finding new crags with significantly different characteristics than the crags that currently define hard climbing. I think it would be easier to make the case that chipping robs the near future of some lower quality lines that would only be done because there is nothing else left at the crags in question. Onrda’s kids will have lots of things to climb, but the crags they will be sending 5.17s – 5.20s on have not been developed yet. I think its important to remember that different areas tend to lend themselves to a narrow range of great climbs. Go the the Gunks to climb amazing 5.10s and 5.11s. Go to Rifle to climb amazing 5.13s. Go to Red Rocks for really fun 5.12-, etc. The idea that there are routes in the 5.13 / 5.14 range that would have been great 5.16s if only they hadn’t been chipped is highly unlikely due to the way chipping occurs and the way mother natures seems to dole out the climbing resources.

    All that being said, there have been some thoughtful posts here that praise the idea of conforming ourselves to what nature gives us. That our imaginations and the idea of what is possible should be molded by our experiences working with what the rock provides. Personally, I don’t think the anti-chipping argument needs to go any farther than that. It’s a perfectly reasonable philosophical position to take, and it contains a strong critique of one powerful motivation for chipping: ego.

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    • Nick Falacci December 1, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

      Probably pointless to jump in here at so late a date and after so many have articulated the various positions so well. But seeing my old friend Doug here, I can’t resist.

      And it’s a topic that I’ve debated with fellow climbers from the very first week I started climbing … at the boulders in Central Park, NYC. My early experience (1986) with the chipping discussion came about because some holds had broken at Rat Rock and folks started immediately strategizing how to best glue the pieces back on. That led to an argument over the ethics of gluing. And chipping. Because no sooner had the conversation started about the wrong or rightness of gluing, some climbers felt that if someone was going to go ahead and glue a hold back on, then we had established an ethical precedent that would allow them to go and chip a hold. And there was a boulder problem a lot of people had had their eye on, but so far, at that time, it had repulsed all efforts. That problem was the blank middle face of Cat Rock … just north of the skating rink in Central Park.

      To make a very long story short, the holds at Rat Rock were glued back on. And they were glued by possibly the most ethical and aesthetic climber I have ever known. A Japanese climber named Yuki. Over the years, Yuki became known as sort of the de facto mayor of Rat Rock. He was an artist living the artist life of impoverishment. He worked at a Japanese restaurant, painted and climbed. He had almost zero possessions. He didn’t have a phone. He didn’t have really anything. Except his art. And climbing. And he only climbed at Rat Rock. He was lured once to the Gunks by well-meaning friends. But he did not enjoy it and he never went back.

      Yuki worked Rat Rock like an artist would work his art form. He climbed that boulder meticulously and constantly. Seeking new variations on very old problems … year after year. He perfected moves. And when he perfected a sequence, he looked to create a new sequence. To be sure, Rat Rock is not an area. It is one single boulder with a very limited number of problems on it. But it was all Yuki wanted and needed. He climbed his first few years in bare feet. He didn’t have money to spend on shoes. A bunch of us pooled some money together and bought him a pair of Fires. He was climbing in the same shoes 8 years later when I ran into him at the rock. His chalk bag was made from an old felt Chivas Regal bag. He tended to the maintenance of Rat Rock as if it were a zen garden. He moved rocks from the base, dug irrigation ditches to help the rain water run off and not puddle at the base. He collected leaves and twigs and bark to create his own ground cover.

      And in Yuki’s mind, there was nothing unethical about putting the holds back on. There was never a second of hesitation.

      There’s probably a good argument to be made that Yuki’s perception of what was right or wrong was distorted by his mania and complete fixation on Rat Rock. It was his isolation chamber. But it’s very hard to argue that Yuki did not love Rat Rock and cared for it deeply. Yuki cared more for this rock than almost anything in his life. He was partnered with Rat Rock. And nothing delighted him more than helping others explore and discover the climbing there.

      Back to Cat Rock … and the blank middle face. Whether through laziness or ethical fortitude, no one ever tried to chip a hold to make the problem go. It was a problem of the future.

      Or at least three years into the future.

      In 1989 a group of us locals brought a climber … one who had been previously establishing 5.13s in New Mexico (a big deal back in the 80s) … to Cat Rock and showed him the problem. He sent it after about three tries. The key was a tricky opening move that had evaded everyone else’s imagination to that point. Then, one just had to hang in there for another 4-5 moves on super tiny edges and micro slopers. (The other trick was climbing the problem in the dead of winter … when it was cold and there was zero humidity in the air, the rock or your fingers.) That problem is called Private Angel and it’s somewhere in the vicinity of V6-V7.

      I’m glad no one chipped it.

      I wound up actually compiling a home-made guide for the bouldering in Manhattan. There was one comment I made about ethics. I think it’s one of the few things I’ve written about climbing that still has some relevancy:

      “This is a sport of ego and aesthetics. The idea is to not let the former compromise the latter.”

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