Let’s Talk Style

Let’s Talk Style

Guest post from Rhoads.  The views expressed below do not necessarily reflect the views of The Narc.  

I am writing the following not to erupt an argument, but because I enjoy exploring the finer points of style in climbing. I ask that NO ONE takes this personally and to be prepared to defend your opinions with concise argument and examples.

We can talk about many topics and issues but before we get in too deep I think we can all agree on one thing: The best style or ethic in climbing is to “on-sight” solo a climb with no rope or protection. With this statement I think we should skip over an argument as to with or without shoes and chalk.  But if I must…….

Using Shoes

Shoes are fundamental to climbing harder grades. They are such an advantage that climbing without them while barefoot is a completely new level beyond our current understanding of “difficult”. It would make hard routes so much harder it would require a new grading system.

Using Chalk

Chalk is a harder argument. How much does it help? The answer varies based on conditions, the type of rock and the type of holds but, like shoes, it also seems fundamental most of the time so let’s not go there.

Moving on………

I believe the definition of the “best style” is to be as closest to the “on-sight” solo with no rope or protection as possible. This statement also lends itself to the idea that a harder climb mentally is a better style of climbing. We shall see, but the next step beyond this is to lead the climb with a rope attached “On sight” with passive pro, no preplaced pro and from the ground up. On sight is a huge step up in commitment, the pro is unknown, the moves unrehearsed and potential for failure is much higher. On sight ability is probably the true measure of a climbers worth but the “On sight” is a one shot deal and is also clouded by beta from another climber and/or video footage seen by the on-sighter. Therefore, the true on sight is much rarer in nature and also does not allow climbers to improve their skills on higher grades without the potential of disastrous consequences. So we must them move on to the second step away from the best style of climbing, the “Ground Up” ascent.

Ground Up Ascent

A ground up ascent involves the climber never top roping the route but starting from the bottom with pro in hand. The first attempt here would be “on sight” and therefore second from the top in style. In a true “Ground Up” ascent if the climber falls they must remove any pro on the route and pull their rope if possible and if not possible (e.g. multi pitch) they must at least pull their rope to the bottom. In this case the lead is “pink point”.  A variation on this happens when a climber falls but doesn’t pull the rope.  I believe this takes the style down one complete notch and then the “Head Point” becomes a better style making it the third step down from the best.

Head Pointing

Headpointing involves top roping the route first to rehearse the moves and gear. After the climber thinks they can do the route they will then lead the route with passive pro, placing gear and clipping the rope as they go up the wall. A variation includes pre-placing the gear, making the lead a “pink point”.

Some notes on gear…….

Fixed Gear

There is gear that exists that when applied may harm the rock and/or is permanent. I believe some of this gear is obviously necessary but I don’t think it would be controversy to say it would a better style not to use it at all. Using fixed gear when unnecessary demotes a climb to the lowest level of style.

Passive Gear

Any gear that is not highly likely to permanently harm the rock (nuts could leave scars in theory) is game, if you think it will work go for it.

Other Notes……

chopped

Chopping Bolts

It seems climbers chop bolts for two reasons; they are against bolts all together or they believe the bolts are not needed on a particular climb. Both reasons have no merit. Does destroying a hanger save the rock? There’s still a hole!

An example of the first travesty is well-known bolt chopper Ken Nichols. His reasons are, to sum it up, he hates bolts. An example of the second travesty was when Sonnie Trotter went trad on the undone sport line “The Path” and then chopped the bolts. Not only that but he then rated 5.14R. It seemed extremely egotistical to do so. The point is that not all of us are capable of running it out over bad gear without a good chance of getting hurt (Hence, sport-climbing). Why not leave the bolts so that others can work the route also. Bolting the line in the first place is a different story……..

Bolting

When is drilling a hole in the rock justified? The good reasons are few, the bad reasons are many. I operate on the idea that if possible we should avoid bolting. Here are a few questions a potential bolter should ask themselves before they dive in.

Can the route be easily top roped?

An excellent example exists at Devils Lake, WI. There is a paved path on top of the cliff to access the top out. Bolts are not needed. An example of a route that wouldn’t be easily top-roped is one that is severely overhanging due to the swing experienced in a fall. But then the second question needs to be answered.

Can the route be led using trad gear?

If so, it does not need bolts. If bolts already exist they should stay (see Sonnie Trotter above) and the bolter should be shot. But what if only part of the route may be led on gear? This will be a mixed climb.

Mixed Routes

Mixed routes include the use of trad gear and at least one bolt. Perhaps there is a section of a particular climb that takes no gear this might allow for the use of a bolt ONLY if a resulting fall without the bolt will cause death or dismemberment. Big whippers are allowed.

Back to just passive gear……

Has the route been led on gear only?

If so, bolts cannot be added. If the route is too scary for a climber they should seek other routes.

What if it is a bolted climb but very run out?

From time to time a very run out “sport” route is put up on lead. This tends to run out the bolts. A climb of this nature may be “retro-bolted” only with a good consensus from the local climbing community. If the original FA is still around he/she has the final say. Generally speaking if it’s a sport climb it should be bolted to be safe.

Conclusion:

Of course I’ve missed things here, I ask that you please comment below to add them. Perhaps you think I’m wrong? Please explain how and why you feel that way, examples will be needed. For those of you who think this isn’t worth taking about or that “nobody cares” what you will find is that some people don’t care but some do. If you don’t have anything constructive to say don’t say it, don’t read this, and continue your life not caring, that would be just fine for me. For the rest of you, let’s hear what you’ve got to say!

Note from The Narc:  If you have a topic you think would make for a good guest post please let me know

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45 Responses to Let’s Talk Style

  1. dom January 21, 2009 at 10:46 am #

    Good article, I disagree on a couple of points though.
    1) You say headpointing is a worse style than pinkpointing ground-up like it is fact. I disagree, I would rather headpoint a route cleanly than clip pre-placed gear on the route, I guess it is personal preference. Also you mention pinkpointing with the rope still clipped into the gear, this is called “yo-yoing”.
    2) Later you say that bolting is not necesary when a route can be toproped. I would say leading a route cleanly even on bolts is better style than toproping. In fact I find routes that are bolted on toprope are often bolted better than those bolted on lead since it is easier to place bolts in the best spots.

    dom

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  2. stellartemple January 21, 2009 at 10:53 am #

    First, it is unfair to say, “If you don’t have anything constructive to say don’t say it, don’t read this, and continue your life not caring, that would be just fine for me.” at the end of your little essay. I’ve already read it, cant un-read it now.

    Second, your arguments and conclusions don’t hold water because at the beginning you make certain claims as to what is the perfect style. You tell us that we must all agree on this, but why? Why must we grant that the best style or ethic of climbing is to “onsight” solo things without rope or protection? That’s your personal bias coloring an argument that needs strictly objective observations and facts. For example, if that is truly to be the preferred style of climbing, then we do not need to grant that assumption before the argument has begun, the best and most logical argument should under ideal circumstances point unbiasedly towards one definitive conclusion. If that conclusion supports your original hypothesis then that is outstanding. However, you just cannot start the argument by claiming the conclusion the argument has yet to prove.

    With that in mind, all the rest of your article, after the first paragraph, is pointless. I just wish I wouldve known I could stop reading sooner. 🙁

    Now that I am done being a jerk, kudos for taking on such a difficult task.

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  3. sock hands January 21, 2009 at 11:17 am #

    OMG, RHODES, I’LL KILL! MURDER! OH SO ENRAGING! YOUR DISCLAIMER DID NOTHING TO DISPELL MY FURY!!!! OOOHHH OOHHHH OHHHHHHHHHHHHH [sam kinison yelling]

    i kid.

    i would agree that drilling anchors and bolts is actually better than mandatory top roping in many instances. folks who top rope often damage trees and cliff-side flora, drop rocks on other folks, slip to their doom, or similar. it seems that very few top ropers have the knowledge to place gear to make a safe anchor, so they default to slinging a tree or five. a well-placed set of anchors can avoid much of the environmental degredation and stupid accidents that seem to occur at top-roping areas. of course, this is all generalizing the exceedingly subjective, but that is always a danger in proffering ethical standards.

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  4. Gianluca January 21, 2009 at 11:21 am #

    good post.
    would be interesting to hear your opinion on using pads for protecting a scary start or a shourt route, seems to be the topic of the day 😛

    @dom
    true what you say about routes being bolted on a toprope beig (theoretically) better bolted. Only if the bolter cares though, some people just drill at fixed intervals in a straight line….

    I agree with climbinnarc on not bolting a very obvious toprope (classic case being a road passing on top of the cliff), though leading it would sure make the route a bit more exciting and in the bottom line a fuller experience. A corageous but more respectful choice.

    Would also be kinda playful and original to climb a blank wall with just some toprope anchors and no bolts : no pre-suggested line, virtually free to explore every possibility and make up your own sequence.

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    • Narc January 21, 2009 at 11:25 am #

      Just to be clear, I did not write this post.

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  5. JG January 21, 2009 at 11:48 am #

    Narc – you need to QC contributing posts from now on. This is ridiculous.

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    • Chris January 21, 2009 at 12:19 pm #

      I thought it was an interesting read. Thanks Narc and Rhodes.

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  6. Narc January 21, 2009 at 12:22 pm #

    First off, thanks to everyone who has commented thus far both positive and negative. I expected that some people would like the post and others would not. Guest posts are something I don’t do that often, but every now and then it can be beneficial to hear from someone else. If anyone thinks they have something interesting to share, I am all for hearing your ideas.

    Secondly, I disagree with Rhoads about the Sonnie Trotter issue. I don’t remember all the facts, but he has written about why he did what he did ad nauseum. I found his arguments compelling and thought they made sense. If something shouldn’t have been bolted in the first place does that make it ok to leave the bolts in place?

    With regard to top roping when available. Sock hands brings up a good point about the punting nature of many top ropers. Rhoads, you have surely seen what has happened to most of the trees along the East Bluff at the Lake. Obviously bolting at the lake is not an option due to legal issues, the contrived nature of many of the routes and the fact that many are perfectly safe using trad gear, but I have often speculated with friends that it would be better environmentally (and safer) if the routes were bolted.

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    • Chris January 21, 2009 at 12:55 pm #

      Do you mean you think the routes at the Lake should be bolted or that there should be anchors for TR’ing. I agree with #2 but not #1. $0.02.

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      • Narc January 21, 2009 at 1:34 pm #

        My first attempt at replying got lost in the ether, here is my attempt at recreating it:

        I don’t agree with the idea per se, but here is my thought:

        Think about the amount of erosion that takes place at the lake because a) you generally walk off the top of climb back around to the base of the wall and b) the lines are somewhat non-descript which can lead to aimless wandering looking for your route. If there were discreet signs marking landmarks and bolted rappel stations you could cut down on the need for all this trampling of the earth. Of course you then have bolts that permanently alter the rock. They do this sort of thing at the Gunks, another old school trad area, which is where I first thought of how this might work at the Lake.

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  7. Gr8Belayr January 21, 2009 at 1:00 pm #

    Ok, so I guess I will never have any climbing style…cause I don’t have the cajones to lead much of anything. So this discussion applies to me about as much a quark based physics.

    BUT.

    I tend to disagree with the premise that the BEST style is completely unroped, solo ascent. That premise completely disregards any ideas of personal safety, familial responsibility, or even the EMS response required should the inevitable happen. To me, climbing is all about ropes, gear, and managing risk. To eliminate ropes and gear seem to take the whole thing into a theoretical realm where most climbers will never live and basically place development as a climber into a challenge to use less and less gear in order to achieve more style points.

    I just feel like the original premise (unroped, solo = best style) doesn’t match up with the reasons that most “joe-averge” climbers climb. Under this premise, it’s you against the rock and your 8nu scorecard. Not the enjoyment of being outside in places that most people may never get to, and the bond between those few people you can call your “climbing partners”.

    I could be way wrong (and most times I am) but it troubles me that the most ‘sytle’ is achieved only thru risking career-ending, life altering, permanent injuries. At levels much higher than safer, roped up methods.

    Is it not considered good ‘style’ to be still be able to climb when you are 60 and have a lifetime of successfull ascents and the memories that go with them?

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    • sand towel January 21, 2009 at 1:31 pm #

      agreed. getting hurt isn’t fun, neither is dying. and being able to take falls, which allows me to push myself while climbing, is one of my favorite parts of the sport. so while it may be in better style to free solo and live, getting hurt/dead is definitely the way bottom of the style totem pole.

      Re: Narc on Sonny trotter- “If something shouldn’t have been bolted in the first place does that make it ok to leave the bolts in place?” If you don’t think a bolt is necessary, skip it. More style points to you. It is not ok to fuck up the climb for everyone else.

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      • Jonathan Whitfield January 21, 2009 at 6:10 pm #

        the first point is not directed at Sonnies climb nor sand towel, as I have never met either of them nor seen the route.

        Im sick of people justifying bolts on a trad route by saying ‘you can just skip them’ Trad climbing is more than just getting to the top of the climb and just the fact that a bolt is there, skipped or not, alters the nature of the climb. Im not going to weigh in on a trad vs sport, each to their own, but this is a shit excuse. Bolting a protectable route simply because the equiper cant trad climb is also a piss poor excuse. there are many reasons to bolt – these two arnt any of them.

        now for a retort to sand towel “it is not ok to fuck up the climb for everyone else.”

        well he didnt, it just requires you to place gear is all; the climb is still there, the moves are the same. I kinda feel a double standard being applied here; it is ok to fuck up a trad line but not ok to fuck up a sport line???

        How can a climb be ‘ruined’ by not having bolts in it? I must climb ruined rock then.

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  8. Rhoads January 21, 2009 at 1:39 pm #

    Ok, I’ll take this on one at a time and I will clarify my thoughts.

    -Dom, pre-placing gear is low in style because then you are simply sport climbing. You are taking away from the mental aspect of the climb. Sport climbing is great in a physical way, but it greatly diminishes the mental experience of climbing.
    Yes, “Yo-yoing” is what I was speaking of. It happens most while someone is attempting a “Ground Up” accent but if a climber doesn’t pull the rope and “Yo-Yo’s” the Ground Up is gone. In the hierarchy of style the Yo-Yo is around one-half demerit point.
    Bolting PERMANENTLY harms the rock Top-Roping doesn’t. If the route can be “easily” top roped bolts are not allowed.

    -Stellartemple, my disclaimer means that if you don’t have anything to sling except insults don’t bother because it doesn’t further our discussion, “don’t read this” would be my poor choice of words because you are correct there is no “Un-Reading.”
    I was forced to make this assumption to begin my arguments. If you don’t think “on-sight solo things without rope or protection” is the best style please tell us what is and then we can work from there.

    -Sock Hands, people’s poor top-rope anchor ethics are un-important to the argument, the point is that if you do it right it will leave no trace. I’ll reiterate, bolts PERMANENTLY harm the rock and should be avoided if at all possible.

    -Gianluca, pads at the bottom of a scary climb is for Bouldering or soloing sans rope only. If you put on a rope lose the pads. Just my preference there, definitely slitting hairs. If I’m trad climbing, I’m trad climbing, if I’m bouldering, I’m boulering and then I’ll use pads. But, where do we draw the line? Did you see that photo in Climbing of a climber is Austria over a HUGE circus size air pad? That’s cheating as the risk is totally gone.

    -NARC, you did not write this post 🙂

    -JG, see disclaimer.

    -Chris, thanks, it will be an expanding project 🙂

    -NARC, the bolts on Sonnie’s route should stay ONLY because he then rated it “R”. Not all of us are good enough to run it out at 5.14. Since they were there, and he used them to work the route, I think it would be a nice thing to do to leave them for others to work with.
    See my above response to Sock Hands regarding bolted anchors at the lake. I agree a situation like the Lake is rare but I would prefer never to alter the rock.

    -Gr8Belayr, soloing is perfectly SAFE if you know what you are doing. If you are a real solo climber you don’t take risks there is TOTAL CONTROL! Many very famous solo artists have died, but they weren’t even soloing at the time! (Reardon, Dan-o). Soloing may be selfish, per your arguments but it is still the best style. (Wo)Man Vs. Rock.

    -Sand Towel, yes, if you are soloing and you die that equals bottom of the heap in style.

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    • steve schultz January 21, 2009 at 2:15 pm #

      Rhoads, Devils advocate here…

      Not sure where I heard it but Ethan Pringle was originally pretty down on Sonnie for chopping the bolts. After he did the 2nd ascent his mind was changed and he approved of the bolt chopping. Food for thought. And I don’t think that people would be lining up to do the path either way. It’s really freaking hard. You don’t see people lining up for the 14 at the lake do you??

      Also, about pads at the base of a climb. Do you think less of the first lead of acid rock because there was a pad involved? I sure don’t. I know that you’re just trying to define “best style” but i’m curious what your thoughts are?

      As for toproping versus bolting, i tend to side with bolting on this. There is a reason that there are bolts at Governor Dodge. ALL of those climbs could be easily toproped, but the top of the cliff would be destroyed right now if that was the case. Same story at Barn Bluff up in Red Wing. The entire cliff would be destroyed if everyone that would normally sport climb set up top ropes instead. While it’s a different situation than the lake, similar logic can apply. You cant deny that the top of the cliff would be in better shape than it is now. All that said, there is an asphalt trail up there.

      The beauty of climbing is that there is no right and wrong. Just opinions.

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  9. Rhoads January 21, 2009 at 2:25 pm #

    I’ve been doing more research since I wrote this piece, mostly from climbing movies, British ones. Here are some more tidbits:

    -My definition of the “best style” is the one that impresses me the most. Wouldn’t you say that completing the same climb, whatever the grade may be, while placing gear is more impressive than doing that same climb on bolts? Or then doing that same climb without a rope at all is more impressive than doing it while placing gear? Or then without shoes? Or chalk? I’m trying to strip this whole style thing to the core. See the movie “On Sight” or “The Sharp End”.

    -“Don’t bring the climb down to your level, bring yourself up to the level of the climb.” Words to live by. Sometimes reality doesn’t allow us to always follow this rule but I think it is an ideal mantra. See the Micheal Reardon movie “Bachar”.

    -Sorting out the hierarchy of style is my aim here. Why? Because if people want to claim that one style is better than another (and they always will) there needs to be some rules. This sort of piece will keep people honest and humble and if people are honest and humble perhaps we can avoid some future shit storms and ego trips.
    What started my thought process here were those videos of the Yanks hitting some Grit Stone. Specifically, the video in which the “First Ground Up Ascent” was claimed. If someone wants to capitalize on this designation then “Ground Up” must be defined.

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  10. dom January 21, 2009 at 2:33 pm #

    I think you need to re-read my comment Rhoads. I’m not condoning pre-placed gear, infact I’m saying that when you ground up with gear in then your climbing on pre-placed gear, which is worse style than headpointing. And what are you talking about ‘around one-half demerit point.’ this is starting to sound like Jens on 8a. Rhoads you need to pull your head out of your ass.

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    • steve schultz January 21, 2009 at 2:44 pm #

      I dunno, the one half demerit point made me laugh.

      And i think the idea of having rules about which style is best is somewhat absurd, but whatever. It’s fun to talk about this stuff sometimes.

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  11. Rhoads January 21, 2009 at 2:48 pm #

    Steve, “The Path” is just an example. What Ethan Pringle simply thinks doesn’t matter because I’m trying to strip away opinion and go on hard facts. Hard, I know. (See my opinion comment below this).
    And just because people aren’t lining up to do it doesn’t change the style argument. Know what I mean?
    Yes, if someone leads Acid Rock without pads I will find that more impressive and with better style.
    G Dodge routes are NOT easily top roped because of the hike to the top and the destruction of vegetation. The Lake is a RARE circumstance and I think the bolts are justified at G Dodge, as long as they follow my other rules stated above.
    There IS right and wrong in climbing. “Right” and “Wrong” are based on an overwhelming majority “opinion”. For example almost all of us can agree murder is “wrong” but some murderers might say otherwise. Likewise, I think we can all agree that a bolt every two inches is “wrong”.
    Your statement “The beauty of climbing is that there is no right and wrong. Just opinions.” is the easy road out of this mess, lets not take the easy road and see what happens 🙂

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    • steve schultz January 21, 2009 at 3:36 pm #

      Like I said earlier rhoads, devils advocate here. I agree and disagree with many points that you brought up. Just decided to talk about a few here. Even if they are very off topic.

      I thought that the path conversation was interesting because someone who was very against the original chopping eventually agreed with sonnie solely because he went there and tried the thing. While he thought that the route never should have been bolted in the first place, he agreed with the chopping in the end. And yes, you are right about this not changing the style argument. It’s just fun to think about and debate.

      About Dodge, the walk up is VERY easy and there has been a trail going to the top since at least 2001. Bolting is not allowed there, to the best of my knowledge it never has been, yet there are still a bunch of routes. One of which was put up a year or so ago. All that said, i’m an advocate for the bolts that are there right now. That said, if someone went out there right now and chopped all of the bolts would they be “wrong”?

      I think it’s good to have these conversations and I agree with you on a lot of the points above. Style is a tricky thing and everyone has their own thought on what the “best” style is. I didn’t take the easy road out of it. It’s the truth. You will NEVER be able to get a true consensus of what the “best” style is. Ever. People have been having this conversation since climbing started, and there have always been disagreements and difference of opinion.

      P.S. while it would be better style to do acid rock without a pad, I will never ever be more impressed when someone else does it. The door was opened when Jason did the first lead. Everything after that is just a repeat.

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  12. sock hands January 21, 2009 at 2:52 pm #

    the point of this post seems to have been to set out ethical standards in a vacuum. thus, the idea that the soloist may die is not part of the equation; it’s out of context. the context is: what is the most pure, least *contrived* version of climbing… or at least this is what i interpreted the article as.

    if you remove the gear and the rules, you are left with soloing and following the most intuitive path up the particular section of rock you’re jazzed on. having to deviate from this intuitive route or sequence to leave room for placements, or to stick to a line of bolts, adds ‘rules’ to the experience and is thus less pure. that, i believe, was rhodes’ point.

    still, anyone who looks at an article like this and feels compelled to risk their life for better style.. the onsight solo ascent… is an idiot and may deserve their peril.

    of course all opinions are valid and certainly issues of responsibility should always be a part of risk assesment on every line a climber attempts, but i think that folks are missing the point here.

    though many do not agree, i’d also have to say with sincerity that i believe that climbers have evils much more profound than “permanently altering the rock” with bolts and anchors. the feeling i really get is not that people think bolts in the rock are so bad intrinsically, but rather than another human came before and decided how a climb should be interpreted. perhaps you think that that predecessor was a total limp wuss who couldn’t handle a little spice, or, perhaps you think that they were hell bent on making up for daddy issues with hollow displays of boldness… in any event, when people talk about fundamentally altering the rock, it has never passed the smell test to me…. really, it’s a euphimism for “i think the FAist was a total dooshbag who made poor choices”.

    no one types on these message boards that they think the bolt is sitting there, festering on a climb, killing off birds and puppies and unicorns… they bitch about how, in their opinion, the bolt was not necessary, or, that it was placed in the wrong location…

    these arguments are fundamentally related to differences in opinion… not the actual damage to the climb.

    maybe this is a distinction without a difference, but bolts in a cliff do not damage anything in the ecosystem. it’s the people who come to use the bolts that cause the ruin. if bolts damage anything, it is just people’s egos and relationships with others…

    of course the latter can be applied to relationships with land managersm, but that’s a whole other waste of billable hours.

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    • steve schultz January 21, 2009 at 3:06 pm #

      Bolts totally kill unicorns…..and kittens. Don’t forget the kittens.

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      • Jonathan Whitfield January 21, 2009 at 6:20 pm #

        yeah, didnt you know? everytime a bolt is placed; God kills a kitten 😉

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        • sock hands January 22, 2009 at 9:59 am #

          and chuck norris kills a god…

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          • steve schultz January 22, 2009 at 11:39 am #

            Chuck Norris IS God.

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  13. Rhoads January 21, 2009 at 2:55 pm #

    Dom, headpointing is definitely more impressive to me than the pink point because headpointing is more similar to a reality of simply (Wo)man Vs. Rock. In this reality, there are no “cam fairies” to fly up to a placement and put in the gear, “cam fairies” don’t exist obviously, thus headpointing is more “real” to me.
    The “one-half demerit point” was a half-joke to defuse the splitting hairs bomb.

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  14. Rhoads January 21, 2009 at 2:59 pm #

    Sock Hands, that was a GREAT post! Seriously, that’s the type of post I want to see here.

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    • Chris January 21, 2009 at 8:22 pm #

      Yes, sock hands, [great] post. I am enjoying this discussion. I will never achieve “Rhodes tier 1” style as onsight solo would be incredibly irresponsible for me at this point in my life, and I think I personally value an onsight lead as the “Eggman tier 1”. I can see the other view though, I guess, and the point here is not about personal responsibility.

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  15. Schyler January 21, 2009 at 3:03 pm #

    I’d have to quote Reardon on the best style “onsight chalkless barefoot solloing is climbing everything else is a compromise.” mainly because everything else just makes it easier. I have to agree with Rhoads that if it can be trad climbed it should not be bolted. Complaining that a climb is unsafe cuz its too far out of your level shouldnt warrant bolts being drilled into the rock but you training more and bringing yourself up to the level.

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  16. Schyler January 21, 2009 at 3:12 pm #

    Sockhands nailed it

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  17. Rhoads January 21, 2009 at 4:37 pm #

    Correction: Trotter did NOT use the bolts to work the route like I said above. Style points awarded 🙂
    But, he did rate it “R”….BUT he didn’t seem to know it would be rated “R” when he was doing the chopping. Lets let that example slide, too close to call. Still, I stand behind my view, I will look for a better example.

    Lets also forget about arguing about bolts on an environmental impact level (an entire other topic). Instead lets focus on how bolts “bring the climb down to the climbers level.” I see it at pre-placed protection that isn’t very realistic. (See “Cam Fairys” comment).

    Steve, I have answers to your above questions but per what I said directly above lets focus on that.

    I DO think we can get a good consensus on climbing style if we work at it and wade through the bullshit.

    P.S. Would you be more impressed if someone soloed Acid Rock? Why or why not?

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    • steve schultz January 21, 2009 at 4:55 pm #

      I agree, much of what I said was very off topic.

      Acid Rock has been solo’d. I believe by more than one person, actually. The reason Jason’s ascent impressed me was that he opened the door to leading the thing. The first lead of acid rock opened it up to other leads. People have had that climb wired for years and years. Why hadn’t anyone lead it up until then? The landing is crap and the gear is dubious. It was more than likely harder to lead the thing than to solo it. I have respect for both though.

      I’m always more impressed by the “first” of something. It takes vision to see a line and to see it through to the end. After that, the mystique is gone. Just look at Jade in RMNP. A project for 6-7 years all of a sudden saw 2 repeats within a month or two of the FA.

      It’s always harder to do something first, and i’m always more impressed by that. That’s what I meant by that.

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  18. Rhoads January 21, 2009 at 6:19 pm #

    Steve, yep, I was aware it had been soloed and my trap was sprung! Can a solo be easier than a “lead” and therefore the trad lead harder and more “impressive” and therefore in better style?
    What’s wrong with your “first” argument is the TR of routes. Wouldn’t a clean trad lead be in better style?

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  19. John January 21, 2009 at 6:38 pm #

    Climbing is something different for everyone, and as such, everyone should pursue the sport in any way they please so long as it does not interfere with the enjoyment of the sport by others (see Declaration of Independence). Things that might cause this include, but are not limited to, chipping a route, partaking in activities that threaten access to the area, etc.

    In my opinion, it is impossible to suggest one method of climbing is “less contrived” than another, as climbing is inherently very contrived and meaningless outside of the pleasure you get out of it (the exception being people who get paid to climb). No matter the grade, climbing is a pretty silly activity. Some people don’t need to be mentally challenged to enjoy themselves, and for some that is all climbing is. I agree with the non-climbers at Devil’s Lake and elsewhere who think it’s funny to be walking through the woods with a giant piece of foam strapped to my back. Climbing means a lot to me, but I still think it is a sort of ridiculous activity in the scheme of things.

    As long as you think your method of going about things is “in good style” and is not harming anyone, go climbing.

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  20. Justin January 21, 2009 at 11:06 pm #

    When exactly did an ‘R’ rated climb become a bad thing? Some of my favorite routes are ‘R’ rated and they range from 5.6-5.12 so clearly they are not just for the elite.

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  21. Gianluca January 22, 2009 at 3:36 am #

    >pre-placing gear is low in style because then you are simply sport >climbing. You are taking away from the mental aspect of the climb. Sport >climbing is great in a physical way, but it greatly diminishes the >mental experience of climbing

    rhoads

    the point is that I have a “sport climber” mind mixed up with some kind of “environmental” attention (I am not saying that I am good at the last point, i try).

    so, personally, the best style for myself would be one mixing total respect for the rock (no bolts, or minimal amount of), respecting the place and its issues other than the rock, and last putting serious danger close to zero while still experiencing some kind of thrill (that is totally lost on usual topropes-maybe still there if you toprope the top of a 200 meters cliff though).

    nevertheless, I have placed some gear on lead in my life and would say that unless it is a desperate blind placement, it is more a technical and physical skill than a mental one.
    Where’s the mental part in sliding a secure piece in a thickmarked slot with a well-reharsed movement?

    when I think about british trad, I really have a hard time understanding why the “danger” part has been so glorified, while at the same time I am amazed by the fact that if humans abandon a trad venue, in 15 years there would be no trace, while the same does not hold for sport-oriented spots.

    maybe I am more , ehm, “american”???

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  22. sock hands January 22, 2009 at 10:20 am #

    not that disclaimer seem to work, but here’s mine: i appreciate the differing viewpoints on all these issues, but let me pratter on a bit more:

    while bolts in a rock are permanent, i find it strange that it keeps people up all night compared to the environmental impacts we have on the planet in all other aspects of our lives. perhaps this is because we feel that some of our impacts are unavoidable, whereas we can focus on a small issue like bolts in some obscure cliff that no one but climbers and land managers care about? it’s like how folks get eating disorders when they feel they cannot control other aspects of their lives… they can control their eating… it’s a psychological thing.

    now do not get me wrong, i certainly feel that traddable cliffs should be left without bolts. i have no aversion to gear… though i’m not very skilled in placing it, knowing that non-climbers think i look cooler with trad gear than foam mats is decent compensation…

    but again, the issue is in the minds of climbers and land managers. it is important for the community to set responsible standards for itself, but once a bolt goes in, the deed has been done. chopping bolts has NEVER done anything to stop people from other controversial bolting jobs. the “statement” of chopping bolts is just hot air, whether justified or not. so, my only point is that if you do not agree with a bolt placement, get over it. maybe take the hanger and replace one of those homemade jobs on an old sport climb elsewhere, so folks can still use a wired nut to use the already placed bolt. as soon as you smash the bolt, your righteous indignation just made you as much of an asshole as the one who placed it.

    finally, i like that the idea of climbing as ridiculous is still strong in the community… it reminds us that we are all just full of hot air and dooshbaggery… allows us deflate the ego a bit and be a better part of our small community… but on balance, remember that other high dollar things like the fashion industry and various other keeping up with the joneses things are just as pointless in the grand scheme. the value of climbing is how it makes us all feel. often frustrating, but overall, climbing enriches our lives more than a fancy new suit or a polished new sports car. so, while it is good to keep it all in perspective, the truth we all like to deny is that climbing makes us feel good and makes us feel like part of a community. to corrode those important and meaningful aspects of climbing based on minute details of ethics is a loss that can resonate beyond the simple minds of the combatants.

    word, fools.

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  23. Matt January 24, 2009 at 11:26 am #

    Passive gear: nuts, hexes, RPs — anything that slots passively into a crack, for lead or anchor protection

    Active gear: spring-loaded camming devices (Friends, Camalots, cams, TCUs), Big Bros, Ball Nuts, Sliders, etc. — anything the leader must ACTivate before placing on lead or as an anchor

    Fixed gear: pitons, bolts, RURPs, etc — “permanently” affixed to the rock as protection

    Chopping: not what Sonnie did on The Path – see your photo above, of a chopped bolt. What Sonnie did was remove the hardware; there’s a big difference, both in intent and end result.

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    • sock hands January 26, 2009 at 3:34 pm #

      note: i’m a trotter fanboy and my comments about bolt bashing were made generally, like all my comments that do not specicially idenfify someone, rather than continuing on the example raised previosuly.

      note 2: NEW ETHICAL DEBATE:

      climbers with a wingspan of more than 5’11”: all “ascents” = invalid.

      discuss.

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  24. Scott January 26, 2009 at 12:00 am #

    Clearly, in your mind, the removal of a bolt (that can be replaced by clean gear) always leaves a scar in the way of an offending stub of steel or a hole. You know, holes are reasonably easy to patch. A patched hole is usually pretty hard to see from the ground. That said, even without patching, a holes is less noticeable than a bolt hanger. The hole doesn’t glint in the sun (or have a so-so paint job). Most obviously, the hole simply does not protrude from the rock. Hell, even the steel stubs that the classic chop job leaves are less visible than bolt hangers.

    If FAists would, when ever possible, use bolts that can later be removed, those nifty Powers Bolts, for example, it would greatly clean up bolt replacement, hardware upgrade, as well as the chopper’s removal of a bolt in favor of clean gear.

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  25. Rhoads January 26, 2009 at 1:32 pm #

    Matt, not my photo, Narc put that there, so there’s not a hidden message there from me.
    You are right regarding the “removal” vs. “chopping” but the point I’m trying to make isn’t environmental it’s style. I will save the environmental ethics debate for somewhere else. But if I must……
    What’s wrong with Sonnie’s “removal” is that he rated it “R” and and therefore made a safe climb with bolts now dangerous. But! Extra style points because the line was previously unclimbed.

    Scott, once again this is about style not environment, but yes, it is possible to patch a bolt hole cleanly and make it invisible but that isn’t always what happens is it? And how many patches will the rock take before it becomes destroyed?

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  26. Matt January 26, 2009 at 9:05 pm #

    Hey Rhoads

    Gotcha…hats off to you, in all sincerity, for tackling this hydra and for stating a good, clear view of the style discussion. I think for the purposes of any essay on style, it makes sense, for succinctness, to leave out the eco/impact aspects, because that does open a whole new can of worms. But in the real world — and I think it’s why climbers still carry on these debates so heatedly — they tend to overlap…a lot.

    More bolts = more users = more impact, or so the argument goes. Less gear = higher demands on the climbers = less users. Not to mention the whole aesthetic-drawbacks-of-bolts vs. clean gear discussion that’s the simmering background to all this, going back to the first sport-v-trad bolt wars of the 1980s.

    Anyway, no easy answers, but thanks for putting the thoughts out there. Happy climbing!

    Matt

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  27. Volker January 31, 2009 at 7:31 pm #

    Having witnessed natives climb, using shoes and chalk definetly is not out the debate disregarding the fact they can perform were we can’t any more. Both mental and physically.

    People start to use shoes like the La Sportiva solution because they can with a muscle that has strenghtend through regular climbing excercise. Being used to barefoot walk you can climb in high grades without shoes. Vibram Lizard Five Fingers are pointing this way. So why is this crutch of civilization accepptable? It’s common consent not to discuss, but still better style without.

    From this viewpoint only a loincloth is acceptable minimum for some privacy on photos. People agree less to be inacceptable, to stick wth the same logic.

    The first ascender defines the style. Most people have come to agree on this. Later climbers can free a route, but they don’t remove fixed pro.
    A first ascender is asked to use as little fixed pro as possible.
    We can’t judge his doings unless other prove him wrong by actually going there putting themself at the same risk. Even then, the first ascender might have been in different conditions and climbed on the edge of his abilities. There’s no fair judgement.

    Probably with the invention of glued bolts there is no justification left for drilling bolts any more, except from extending climbing parcours close to civilisation. the current increase in via ferrates trying to be more and more spectacular in the Alps is starting to become a major ethics problem fast.

    High injury stats on a route can justify drilling bolts in dedicated sports area. That means somebody actually has to get hurt to justify thinking about it. As you can’t undo this leaving nature as we found it has a high value. More than life and health? Well, if you want to stay healthy, climb in the gym. Rockfall is a frequent danger, not talking about pro or falls at all. This is your descision. Out of that descision you can’t define a right to change the setting for everybody.

    Opening a new route that is different. Were past the stage were the summit is the only goal, so bolting your way up is looked down on, rightfully. You can’t make yourself a name by that any more.

    I support the idea of honouring the deeds of the first ascender.
    He should put down his view on style on the topo, allowing or banning to increase the level of pro. First 2 repeaters should comment this on a new route and their vote on safety should stick, with no split descision possible. Probably we’ll need to formalize this in the community. Dedicating routes, crags and areas to styles is already pointing in this direction.

    A chopped bolt should be replaced by a new one. This endangers others, can’t undo anything is a reckless act putting innocent fellow climbers at risk of death.

    In theory it is possible to sue them in case of an accident.
    To my knowledge that hasn’t happened yet, but is sure to come.
    You can’t put yourself above other, starting to dismantle a skilift or a via ferrata because you personally despise it.

    With sport climbing and via ferrata becoming more mainstream ethics become a bigger concern were civilization is close by. To some degree why not – communities have a right to decide on the use of their mountain environment. On the other hand national parks and natural heritage should be protected as well as the first ascenders heritage needs protection. That’s difficult to near impossible if not put on record.

    Starting to do so no can define a status quo to start from.

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  28. Gray April 19, 2009 at 7:17 am #

    The original topic was regarding style. I suppose I agree with many of the points if we are only concerned with or currently discussing style.

    It is more impressive to climb without gear than with.

    That would leave me out of the picture however and I’m more concerned with me than with style (within reason).

    I disagree with most of the comments regarding top roping. I find no mental stimulation from top roping. I’ll go to the gym for that or tolerate it outside to get beta for a lead (yes I know…lower style points for that).

    I disagree with most of the posts regarding sport climbing. I think it has a place. In an area where the climbing has been traditionally predominately trad I think sport climbing should probably be limited (it depends on the view of the community).

    In most places I think there is room for both. I don’t agree that sport takes the mental aspect out of the experience. It’s a matter of degree. It depends on the skill level of the climber.

    If one goes from leading a 5.10 whatever vertical or overhung sports route to leading trad on a 5.7 slab I’d say the sport route is more mentally and physically demanding.

    Both types of climbing for the most part are contrived. Where I live both trad and sports routes in many cases are crowded, have bolted anchors and aren’t natural at all. Why is one better than the other.

    I primarily lead sports routes. I’ve been on a few trad climbs that involved very little climbing, a lot of driving and hiking, crowds and a level of difficulty (lack of) that made me want to free solo or just lay down to take a nap.

    It’s a big country. There’s room for sport and trad and there should be thought and respect before doing anything that would affect the environment and the varying interests of climbers.

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