5.14d FA By Ethan Pringle

In a lengthy catch up-style blog entry, Ethan Pringle eventually gets around to mentioning that he did the FA of an old Joe Brooks project at Mt. Charleston, NV called Arrested Development.  He describes the potentially 5.14d route as fun, heavily chipped and pretty hard:

I spent about 5 days on it this year, giving it 2-3 tries per day. I managed to send the route on my first try on my fifth day in May. While the route is manufactured, and heavily in spots, it is still one of the most fun to climb on routes I’ve ever done

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62 Responses to 5.14d FA By Ethan Pringle

  1. j June 19, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

    Interesting synopsis of the route by Pringle . . . Brooks got all kinds of shit for chipping back in the day but it’s kinda funny the route goes unrepeated for years and a “next gen” climber finally sends it and says (a) it’s an awesome route, and (b) it wouldn’t exist if not for the drilling. Maybe the argument that in certain cases, chipping done skillfully isn’t the horrible travesty it’s often portrayed to be isn’t as radical as it strikes so many climbers.
    J

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    • kcady June 19, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

      I don’t think the argument against chipping is that the routes won’t be good. It’s about having some respect for what we rely on to enjoy what we do.

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      • j June 19, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

        So is drilling holes for “protection” purposes (i.e, bolts) NOT a lack of “respect” for “what we rely on to enjoy what we do” (a statement that I admit I don’t really even understand) but drilling holes for climbing holds somehow showing “disrespect”? If so, I’d be keen on hearing the basis for this distinction?

        Keep in mind it is possible that a future climber could send this route with NO bolts and the holes they reside in. Sure, they could skip them, but if the route IS climbable without the drilled/chipped holds, someone could presumably skip these as well. So the “disrespect for future hard climbers” argument is to fly, one would think bolts would have to be put into the same category. If it is all based upon merely altering the rock, then bolts would be in this category still.
        J

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        • GrabSomeJuggs June 20, 2012 at 1:15 am #

          What a preposterous point you are trying to make. You need to hear the basis for a distinction between drilling a hole to place a bolt and chipping out your own hand and foot holds? Are you even a real climber? Get out of town with this junk.

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          • j June 20, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

            Juggs,

            To answer your questions: Yes I am, and yes I do.

            J

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    • Me June 19, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

      The degree to which one considers it “horrible” or “a travesty” doesn’t matter. The objective fact that you are preventing any other climber from ever interacting with that natural section of rock does. It’s selfish and unfair. Don’t do it.

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      • j June 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

        Well, if Pringle’s analysis is correct, the only “interaction” anyone would have with the drilled sections of the rock–had they been left alone by Brooks–would be to look up at them from the last possible stance and realize they are unclimbable.

        Of COURSE Pringle would admit that there will be future generations of climbers better than him/today’s elite. I think salient point he’d also make is that in his opinion, sections of this climb as well as others would be and are unclimbable by ANY human of ANY generation.

        Maybe he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Seeing that he’s logged countless more hours climbing than me and can climb 14d, I think I will accept his view as rather credible.

        J

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        • j June 19, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

          There is also another analogous point that should be made:

          Most would agree that there are many bolted climbs that would be unsafe for most or all current climbers to climb, had they never been bolted. I think it is more plausible that future generations of climbers have a better shot at climbing them safely without bolts (i.e, “free solo” or skipping many of them) then future generations of climbers could progress upwards over long expanses of completely black sections of rock.

          Will anyone ever climbed a smoothly painted 20 foot interior drywall wall? Or one overhanging 45 degrees? It is foolishness to dogmatically insist that identical sections of rock, dividing truly climbable sections do not occur in natural settings. I think Pringle is making this point about this particular climb and as I have already stated, he is a credible source.

          Free climbing bolts (frequency, location, rock-altering physicality, etc.) permanently alter the nature of any climb they are inserted into. They make things different. Many are pointless for highly competent climbers. Many will become pointless for future generations of better climbers. They all can be skipped. And the same holds true for drilled holds in blank sections of rock. The key difference is that in certain cases, drilled holds allow for link-ups, making for a complete route. Free climbing bolts do not even have that virtue.

          If you argue against drilling, then what you say applies equally to bolting. You don’t want to argue against bolting, so unless you have a better argument, you shouldn’t argue against drilling in certain contexts.

          J

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          • dave June 19, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

            I don’t think you can take the same stance on drilling for moves and drilling for protection, but I suppose you are free to try. I think it’s actually a bit ironic considering that bolts are getting closer together.

            As for this particular route, it’s sort of a time capsule. So many of the high end sport climbs of the 90s have some cheese on them somewhere and yet they are still held up as the top end. Ascents of Just Do It are still newsworthy, and the holds at the crux are glue blobs.

            At the end of the day though, hold modification will continue to happen even though its a dead end.

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          • Me June 19, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

            I realize you are probably just trying to find a supporting argument for a belief you already hold, but if you really can’t see the difference between bolting and drilling holds, I fear what you might do to some crag out there.

            Anyway, the “don’t permanently alter the rock” argument is just the only really objective one. There are plenty of other reasons not to drill, and I’m sure you know what they all are. Whether or not you are ready to face up to the character traits that make someone think it’s ok to manufacture holds, well, that’s another matter.

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  2. j June 19, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    I know this debate is as all as dirt, and tired as vampire movies, but it still baffles me that so few that hold the majority view can up with an actual cogent arguments for their position, especially in the face of actual argumentation that conflicts with this stance.

    Stating that you fear what I would personally do is a complete red herring. Stating that there are “plenty of reasons not to drill” but not actually PROVIDING any is equally unhelpful.

    Speaking of character traits, Brooks’ actions DID result on many assaults upon his character. In the face of a lack of good arguments as to just why this particular action is loathsome, coupled with Pringle’s current testimony leading to the idea that they may not be, such mudslinging may have been unwarranted and unfair.

    If you assert that Joe’s (or anyone who has drilled, etc.) a dick because he chipped it up, but you can’t establish what is in fact wrong with the practice itself (or to do so must tacitly implicate bolting as well), then I’d say your own character should be called into question.

    J

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    • texasclimber June 19, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

      If you can’t climb a wall the way it is, then don’t ruin the route for someone who might be able to. Who’s to say something that is unclimbable to this generation won’t be attempted by one of our super-strong kids? You are steeling their FA by making it easier for your weak ass.

      Also, if you want to make a blank surface “go”, then start setting at your local gym. I hear there are a lot of blank walls that you can bolt polyurethane holds onto to make it climbable.

      Lastly, climbing on glue is glue climbing, not rock climbing.

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      • j June 19, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

        Tex,

        1. Re., “If you can’t climb a wall the way it is, then don’t ruin the route for someone who might be able to.” I already addressed this with my post on Pringle’s credibility for determining that this particular section was not climbable for anyone past, present, or future, as well as the fact that there ARE sections of rock that any climber would deem forever unclimbable, and modifying them can do a service via providing a linkup between climbable sections.

        2. Doing a good job of making a blank surface between areas of a climb with natural holds isn’t really analogous to setting a gym route and if it it was, so what? This doesn’t serve to support the anti-modification position.

        3. As I’m sure you know, glue is used to keep holds made out of rock from breaking off and the climber typically grabs the rock, not the glue. But good slogan I guess.

        J

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  3. C June 20, 2012 at 4:20 am #

    http://www.rockandice.com/news/1406-the-chipping-contradiction

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    • j June 20, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

      Thanks for the link C.

      Funny, I was on a drive to Mt. Charleston with Bill Ramsey (who you may or may not know is a distinguished philosophy professor) and the conversation came up that we had both been considering writing an extended analysis of hold manufacturing. I didn’t know that he went ahead with it and never saw any of this.

      Ramsey is a great climber and an astute thinker and I concur with many of his points. Many climbers simply do not like to analyze such things yet it IS valuable to engage in rational debate over these matters. This is precisely why I find all those who are content to just think of it as an opportunity to ridicule those who do engage, make trite jokes, and/or name call (or “stamp their feet” in Ramsey’s parlance) boorish at best, loathsome at worst.

      My first and main point in my initial post was simply that Brooks took TONS of shit in the climbing world for his actions, and that this latest report in some sense served as vindication for them. It’s not an open and closed case of course but when a fellow climber’s reputation is permanently maligned for doing something that may in fact not be wrong, and arguably, may have actually been a GOOD thing (at least Pringle valued the experience Joe created for him or anyone who can climb the thing), something needs to be said.

      In the history of climbing, there are many people who would be seen as progressive by current standards, yet were vilified by the prevalent “ethics” of their day (“sport” climbers,” rap bolters, users of “freinds,” etc., etc.). NO one’s character should be publicly condemned without sufficient justification that their actions are in fact reprehensible.

      J

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  4. PBC June 20, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    Should all the hard aid routes in Yosemite be chipped so they can also go free? Is aid climbing not a legitimate climbing dicipline? I can agree that free climbing is more awesome in terms of man vs. stone than aid, the same way trad is more awesome than sport, etc. That said, even aid can have some damaging effect on the rock (knifeblades moreso than hooks).

    You have no right to bring a stone down to your preferred climbing method. There are no shortage of routes, stones, or variations. Bring yourself up to the level of the stone, change your style, or go find somewhere else to climb.

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    • Dave June 20, 2012 at 9:38 am #

      All the hard aid routes in Yosemite are chipped. They generally get continually chipped until they go clean. Even after they go clean some people continue to chip them.

      And the free variation to the Nose was intentionally chipped with a chisel.

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      • Matt June 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

        Are you saying that lynn hill chipped on the nose or someone else that tried to free it did. Who chipped all over yosemite? I have not heard this before and you either know a lot or are just making stuff up. Tommy Caldwell sent a lot of aid lines free, did he chip them?

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        • Andrew June 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

          Ray Jardine chipped the nose but did not succeed in freeing it.

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        • Dad June 21, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

          History lesson for younger climbers – with no animosity intended. Ray Jardine- inventor of Friends – was trying to free the first route on El Cap, chose the Nose, and his thought was to chip face holds between many of the pendulum sections on blank granite to allow free traverses to link sections of the climbs between the cracks.

          Also so many of the aid lines on El Cap either have “enhanced” hook placements IE chipped edges. The only reason any route on El Cap goes free is the “chipping” that took place from repeatedly placing pitons and banging them out (you might argue that this was unintentional chipping, but the rock was still damaged). THIS DOES NOT mean the person who does the first free ascent – Lynn or Tommy – did any chipping at all. Like Ethan, however, they were taking advantage of chipped holds.

          Come to think of it- and this is blashphemy- a huge majority of the steep/ awesome free climbs in the Valley are all chipped – pitons scars for hand holds. The Valley is proably the most chipped climbing area in the US and rivals some Fench limestone areas. Geez, I’m going to get a lot of crap for writing that…..

          As to the debate of chipping vs. not. I think respecting the resource is something that should be looked at with chipping. Yes some sections of rock are patently unclimbable- no features what-so-ever across 8 or more feet of overhanging rock. Does that mean we should climb it? SHould there be routes on every piece of rock. And if we say chipping is OK, then who does it, what are the rules, how big should the holds be, etc., etc.– huge can of worms and huge potential to really ruin sections of rock– just like poorly executed bolting of routes. Also access issures abound- land stewards don’t really like climbers, anchors, bolts and really don’t like the idea of chipping holds.

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  5. Will June 20, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    Totally. I can’t wait for the ‘next generation’ to solo Jumbo Love and chop those bolts, such a travesty…

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    • j June 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

      Will,

      Right, those bolts are not a travesty. To the contrary, of course someone could solo Jumbo Love. And, besides trying and failing to make “joke” or snide comment, your point?

      John

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  6. climb2core June 20, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    I tend to be of the opinion that chipping to make a route go can not be justified. Some routes that were chipped have been been repeated avoiding using the chipped holds. (ie. ironically Pringle recently on La Cadre) Other routes may never go without the chipped holds. So what? There is more rock in the world than anyone could ever climb. Go find another line. Once you start ethically accepting chipping for some routes it becomes a slippery slope to turning blank walls into gym walls. I think people get emotionally invested in a route and are unable to walk away from it when they realize it will not go without modifying. Seems like self centered approach to developing.

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    • j June 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

      Climb2,

      You make some solid points here. But here’s something to ponder:

      I would say that 95% of the non-climbing population, when gazing at the typical 5.13-5.14 bolted, drawed, chalked, chained, non-drilled “sport climb” would agree with the following statement:

      “Look, those rock climbers turned that blank wall into a gym wall!”

      It is elitist bullshit to discount this viewpoint. That’s EXACTLY what “sport” climbs do.

      J

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      • climb2core June 21, 2012 at 8:32 am #

        Yeah,
        I don’t take any moral high ground as a sport climber myself. I think the “defamation” of the rock is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But, It is not necessary to chip to sport climb while it is necessary to have bolts to sport climb. That being said, I have climbed and had fun in areas with extensive manufacturing. (Jacks canyon, Az) I guess I just don’t like the idea of a 5.12 climber chipping a route down to his/her skill set when it might go at 5.13+. or a 5.13+ climber chipping the route that would go at 5.14-. Now a route that is truly 5.impossible without modification that requires a hold or two to make it go… Meh, I guess then leave it up to local ethics and laws. Just make sure you know what climbing 5.impossible truly is.

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        • j June 21, 2012 at 9:01 am #

          I fully agree with all your points. But let’s keep in mind Brooks was never more than a 14b climber and in this case, he manufactured what appears to be a 14d route. So this situation doesn’t seem to violate any of the reasonable concerns voiced by Climb2Core, like changing a 5.13 into a 12. He aspired to harder climbing and had the vision to create routes that he himself ended up being unable to complete. If he did indeed make a impossible line into a 14d, I’m not sure he should be faulted for at least this creation.

          J

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          • climb2core June 21, 2012 at 9:30 am #

            Yeah, but all chippers aren’t created equally. I would suppose that there are far more routes being chipped in the style of La Cadre (they will go without chipping) than in the style of Arrested Development. And that is in my mind why I think it creates a slippery slope. If chipping becomes an acceptable ethic from the Rock Stars then there will be a trickle down effect to those not qualified to determine what might go at V15/16 and what is impossible.

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  7. Phunk June 20, 2012 at 10:41 am #

    Oh hey look, a chipping discussion on an internet website. I’m sure this will bring about an unprecedented era of mutual understanding as well as a final solution to the chipping debate!

    😉

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    • David June 20, 2012 at 10:49 am #

      I noticed this thread with only two posts yesterday and thought to myself “Hmm, I wonder if all the chipping wackos are going to come out for this one……nah”

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      • j June 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

        Ha! And the irony is that you took the time to chime in Mr. Snarky.

        J

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  8. Anthony June 20, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    It seems to me that the anti-chippers in this argument are offended on such a fundamental level that they are unable to adequately articulate their point of view. Instead they seem to rely on cliches and personal attacks on people like “j” who is actually making some valid points. In the grand scheme, there is no difference between a hole drilled for a bolt ,and a hole drilled for a hand.. As they say in prison, “a hole is a hole.” You guys can try and justify one over another on an ethical basis, but remember there are plenty of people out there appalled by the use of bolts for sport climbing, so let’s not pretend the distinction between the two is so cut and dry. These days it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish the line between chipping and “cleaning” anyhow. Personaly, I’ve never been n a route with a chipped hold and thought my climbing experience has been lessened because od it, most of the time I am not even aware the hold is artificial. I keep hearing the argument put out there that there is so much rock in the world, instead of chipping you should go find a route at your level and climb that, but the same can be said to the person upset about chipping…nobody is making you climb the artificial route, so maybe you should go find a climb better suited to your tastes elsewhere.

    Or something.
    I dunno, this is all dumb. We climb in quarries that have been dynamited, though its less offensive when a company does the blasting for some reason.

    In the end, it’s just rock..it is literaly all over the place. Go find a piece that you like and climb until your heart bursts. If you wanna chip it, who am I to say no?

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    • sp June 20, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

      Well said.

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  9. nakedslabwhipper June 20, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    Assuming that one can assert his dominance over the rock, as if he/she owns it (Hey if it’s actually your property, go nuts) and to think that their version of what hold should be where and how big etc is the height of mankind’s arrogance and domination over nature. Those chiseled out holds will be there forever, essentially. Now, instead of a beautiful work of art created by nature and the forces of the earth, there’s a man made scar and a human’s “stamp” on nature. It’s graffiti. But at least graffiti eventually fades. And no, A hole is NOT a hole! (snicker..). If you want to climb a rock, you look for a natural line. If there’s no trad line, bolts are a necessary addition to protect the climber from getting injured or killed. The actual being of the rock is unchanged. The actual route is unchanged and just as it was provided by nature as a challenge to us puny humans. If, someday we become mutant strong and can free solo without bolts, (or have anti-gravity belts!) the bolts can be removed and the holes filled and you can barely tell they were there. The original route remains. Chipping must be absolutely shunned because if it’s accepted, even a little, idiots will start chipping all over the place, probably mostly on public lands and permanently creating scars as a monument to selfish humans who needed passage for their egos where there was none provided.

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    • sp June 20, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

      WOOSH!

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    • Anthony June 20, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

      I can’t tell if your post is meant to be taken seriously… I’m pretty sure you’re being sarcastic, but I might be wrong… The part where you compared chipping to the height of Man’s arrogance in showilng his dominion over nature was a nice touch… I agree chipping is a much worse eyesore than skyscrapers that can be seen from space…I hear there is a really big wall in china…alot of chipping probably went into erecting that…or the pyramids…

      I agree with the part about chipping lasting forever… I mean, it’s literally set in stone.. Nature did a pretty cool job carving the grand canyon with a river, but its a shame mother earth wont be able to do anything about those outrageous chipped holds n a couple hundred thousand years.. I think that’s the point you were trying to make about human arrogance..

      I got a bit confused when you said the actual being of the rock is unchanged by bolts..i got earring once..they punched a hole in my ear for a sexy litle stud tha I wore as a badge of coolery. I guess technically my ear was unchanged, it coulld still hear after all, but I was lacking a certain amount of flesh which made me think I mint never be whole again. Despite how cool that stud made me look, I regretted my decision, so I removed the bolt… I mean, earring…eventually the flesh grew back…it was amazing… It’s a shame mother earth doesn’t have a way of regenerating and filling those bolt holes.. I guess she will just have to live with her earrings..forever.. Or at least a couple ousand years.. Same difference, right?

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      • j June 20, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

        Anthony,

        Naked was being serious, and more or less (finally) summarizes one of the central emotional responses that I feel are common from the anti hold-modification camp. The “future generation” argument is probably more of a smokescreen then anything else, and the reverence for The Natural sentiment more of a motivating factor.

        I think part of the awe many climbers experience is the thought that they are able to scale a cliff that was just “there,” untouched by human intervention. Hold modification thwarts this sentiment. It’s pretty simple.

        I also think that to some degree, this is legitimate, or at least cannot be “argued away” due to the fact that it is an emotional response and feelings play a huge role in why anyone climbs in the first place.

        However, all I am defending is hold-modification for routes where the practice provides a linkup between naturally climbable sections over expanses of rock that would be impossible to climb. This practices, if done properly by experts, does not subtract one iota from the worlds supply of “as is” “natural” routes in the world. Even on such climbs, one still has the option of climbing as far as one is able up the “natural” section.

        So, putting aside unwarranted concerns of a slippery slope, those who love climbing on routes that exist only due to “natural” processes such as erosion, uplift, glacial action, etc., really have nothing to fear. And of course, the process of “cleaning” routes prior to any accents–as it involves human intervention with the “natural” state of the “holds”–should be similarly frowned upon by such people (though it commonly isn’t).

        Finally, although safety hardware (bolts, draws, chains, etc) do not alter holds, they are of course far from “natural.” In part, this is why people who don’t really get the “natural” sentiment find those who promote it yet do not disparage THESE interventions, rather incredulous: Artificial holds=bad, Artificial safety devices=Just fine. Doesn’t really compute.

        J

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  10. Narc June 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

    This is not what I had in mind when I posted this…

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    • j June 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

      Narc,

      I don’t think that perennial climbing “issues” the repeatedly invoke passionate debate should be denounced or avoided on that basis alone.

      I understand that some folks tire of analysis that seems to “go nowhere,” but others still want their points to be heard and considered. That’s precisely why people are still debating about the existence of God in book and essay form, for the last 2000 years.

      I think the persistence of this debate is simply a sign that it is in fact important.

      J

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    • Tom June 20, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

      It’s more or less 3-4 people arguing amongst themselves. I, personally, couldn’t care less. I’ve been following this argument because it’s entertaining.

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      • anthony June 20, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

        Tom, I think there is definitely some room for less caring on your part. If you cared a bit less you wouldn’t have commented.. if you cared just a tiny bit less than that, you probably wouldn’t even read this thread.

        I feel like you’re trying to discredit the “3-4 people arguing amongst themselves”, as if our time would be less wasted if there were 30 people arguing. Nonetheless, you admit it is entertaining, so there must be some value in the discussion. 🙂

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        • j June 20, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

          Anthony,

          I thought Tom was just stating that he’s not really interested in the issue, but nonetheless finds the dynamics of the discussion entertaining. So entering into the discussion doesn’t seem to me that it indicates he in fact must care about the actual subject matter.

          Good point though about numbers in a debate; there isn’t a direct correlation between higher numbers and higher quality.

          J

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  11. Ian June 21, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    A thought experiment. Imagine a non-climber nature enthusiast hikes up to a cliff and sees two people putting up two routes:

    Route maker 1 is chalking up holds, drilling holes into the wall, and prying off loose rock with a crowbar (this is how most routes get made, folks, rare cases aside).

    Route maker 2 is on an (exceptionally rare) clean section of rock that doesn’t need cleaning. He is also chalking up holds and drilling holes into the wall. In one section, he uses a chisel to widen a thin seam for fingers.

    I doubt the nature enthusiast will see any relevant difference between the two route makers’ practices. She’s a little shocked at first (power tools, crowbars, shiny metal fixtures, white chalk?!), but after reflecting that it’s sort of like trail-building for climbers, she concludes that it’s OK. She’s surely not going to say: “It was all good until that chisel was used to widen that seam.”

    There may well be a difference between the aggressive cleaning/bolting and the chisel. If some climbers think there is, the burden is on _them_ to explain to our nature enthusiast what the difference is. And if these climbers can’t think of solid difference, they owe it to _themselves_ to consider revising their opinions.

    Many of us are like the nature enthusiast: we just don’t see any clear ethical difference. We’re not looking for arguments to reinforce our opinions. Rather, we’re listening to arguments suggesting we should change our opinions. And we’re finding that most arguments on offer are pretty unpersuasive. There may well be some good arguments out there, though.

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    • j June 21, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

      Well put Ian. It’s funny because the distinction is simply accepted as fact and then as you point out, the incorrect burden of proof is placed up those who claim there is no such distinction to be made. Other things being equal, the burden of proof should be place upon the party that is making the accusation.

      Still, there of course ARE arguments for why there IS a difference between the two actions; differences that the non-climber would fail to recognize:

      1. Unfairly changing routes robs future generations of climbers of routes they could climb free, with no modifications.

      2. It’s not as enjoyable (from an aesthetic standpoint) to pull on artificial holds.

      3. It will lead to a slipper slope where 13’s are changed in to 12’s, 12’s to 11’s, and so forth.

      4. There is an ethical difference between rock modification for safety purposes and rock modification to simply enable or enhance free climbing possibilities.

      I’ve discussed 1 and 2 here already and gave reasons why I think these arguments fail.

      3 is an empirical point that that, as Climb2Core pointed out above with his reference to La Cadre, has a bit of merit. Of course, since bolting practices are largely unregulated (where bolting is legal), all sorts of other sorts of things will always occur (overbolting, underbolting, shoddy bolting, over-cleaning, etc.). Few would argue that this alone is grounds to encourage everyone from partaking in such activities and recognize that there will always be a few people who screw up. Funny, because if you compare “sport” routes by age, there is certainly a correlation between number/spacing of bolts and the year the route was established: The older the fewer and far between; the newer the more and closer. So sport bolting HAS lead to a slippery slope (fixed draws anyone!) but again, few argue that the practice itself should cease. The correct response is education and responsibility, and this can be applied to route modification as well.

      Regarding 4, I haven’t heard any explicit argument made for this, but have noted it as a tacit assumption in various comments on the subject. I’d like to hear a strong argument for this stance but remain skeptical that it would hold up to close scrutiny.

      J

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      • j June 22, 2012 at 12:27 am #

        Typo . . . I intended to use the word “discourage” instead of “encourage” in the following sentence from the above post . . .

        “Few would argue that this alone is grounds to encourage everyone from partaking in such activities [i.e, sport bolting, cleaning] and recognize that there will always be a few people who screw up.”

        J

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      • mike June 22, 2012 at 9:15 am #

        j–

        Thanks for posting up, this has been thought provoking. I’ve been trying, and failing, to come up with a bullet proof case for #4. Not sure I believe it anyways, but I dig your style of debate and want to help keep that going.

        Have a good one, will let you know if I have a stance worth getting picked apart.

        Mike

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        • j June 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

          Thanks Mike.

          Regarding (4), if one accepts the analogy between hiking trails and climbing routes as “trails” up vertical expanses of rock, then sport routes in general can be seen as legitimate from a naturalist/adventurer perspective.

          The next step for the anti hold-modificiationist is to demonstrate that rock modification for safety is justified whereas hold creation/modification is not, even they are both parts of the same “trail” in certain cases.

          Prior to posting this, I thought inroads could be made here. After some more thought, most of my initial ideas ended up serving the opposing viewpoint instead. The very creation of hiking trails makes it far easier for the hiker to move with ease over the formerly “natural” terrain. In a sense, the paths are akin to a very long expanse of “ease of passage” modification and serve little safety purposes other than to perhaps lessen the incidence of scrapes, twisted ankles, and poison ivy. In certain cases, steps are even carved into rocky expanses to make uphill areas easier to navigate (Red Rock in Las Vegas has many examples of this).

          On hiking trails were there are actual physical safety devices put in place; for example, the chain “fences” on Angel’s Landing in Zion, the neatly serve a dual purpose: To prevent hikers/tourists from plummeting down a steep exposed rock face and to facilitate the ease of scaling a steep rock face by pulling hand over hand up them.

          In essence then, it does not seem that in the process of establishing hiking trials, no clear distinction is made or heeded between safety and ease of progress; indeed, they are inextricably intertwined and bleed together by necessity. Thus, if sport routes in general are made legitimate by the fact they are simply another version of a nature trail, it would seem a bit odd that practices common and inherent in the legitimizing practice in the first place (“flat” trail-making) would be unethical or wrong in the context of vertical trails.

          Of course, in the case of sport routes, there is a bit more of a distinction to be made. Pulling on draws and stepping on bolts is at least frowned upon. That said, the presence of bolts and the safe resting points they provide of course aids in successful progress up a route (i.e., “hangdogging”), at least in the initial stages of “working” a route.

          So bolts aren’t really singularly about safety; they help us get up to the top. Many recreational climbers are not always concerned with a “redpoint,” and on any given 5.10, are more than happy to rest in given places by hanging from a bolt, eventually top out, and then just more on to another fun sport climb. Bolts, giving us the ability to rest safety, serves the dual purpose of safety and making it easier to get to the top, just like the chain fences on Angel’s Landing in Zion.

          Bolts are also about something else that has nothing to do with safety: Leading. Climbers enjoy leading, and see it as somehow superior to top roping. Thousands of routes that could be safety and rather easily top roped–entailing far less damage/alteration to the rock face–are nonetheless bolted, permanent alteration to the rock be damned (and of course I recognize this does not apply to the hardest cave-type routes). To be clear: I’m not disparaging this practice, but only pointing out that bolts are not only in place for safety, and those who espouse disdain for rock alteration from a naturalist perspective are not being consistent if they favor bolting to create leadable routes when there exists the option to top rope with far few or no bolts.

          So bolts and cleaning help us make upward progress, just as hold modification does. There is not a viable distinction to be made between the two, and they both permanently alter the nature of the “natural” rock face. From the naturalist perspective, if one is okay, the other should be. If both are wrong, then either hiking trials are wrong, or some other argument is needed to demonstrate the wrong-headed nature of the sport routes as “vertical trails” analogy. We can safely leave THIS task to anti-climbers in general!
          J

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          • mike June 22, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

            The more I consider it, the less I accept the trails analogy you’ve presented. You compare the ethics, impact, etc., of climbing with those of other “nature sports” which appear to be accepted by the public.

            For me, climbing stands out among these other pursuits as a more beautiful and natural way to interact with nature. In this regard (and many more) I would say that climbing is better than hiking, and perhaps more importantly, it is unique. This is demonstrated by the slab you mention in Red Rocks. As that is a hiking slab, there are carved steps, enabling 3rd class(? – never seen this, just guessing about your example) moves on naturally 5th(?) class terrain? That practice would be unacceptable in all realms of modern rock climbing.

            Could it be said that a hiker will build trails to get up the mountain, while a climber only goes up the trails that are there? From a strictly ethical standpoint, there may not be much “difference between rock modification for safety purposes and rock modification to simply enable or enhance free climbing possibilities”. I would argue that accepting/enforcing this difference is what defines modern free climbing, and allows us to truly distinguish climbing from, say, hiking or skiing, where this distinction may not be drawn.

            For many of us, it’s not all “just going up/down a rock”, and a unique set of ethics would be among the many ways I’d distinguish climbing from hiking, skiing, cycling, etc.

            You might assume that, among your other points, the limitation of chipping to routes of the highest difficulty levels would be paramount. To others, arguments like “allowing people to enjoy the rock” and “would otherwise go unclimbed” could be a key inspiration for chipping, while the “avoid creation of moderates” could go disregarded. Trying to prevent these types of misinformed trends seems nearly impossible in a world where climbers accept chipping.

            I’m out of time. Hope that was slightly coherent.

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          • Todd June 25, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

            J
            In regards to the trail cmoparison, it depends on what you see as the purpose of a trail. For many people, the point of a trail is to minimize the damage to sensative environments. I live in an area with tundra which can see a huge amount of damage to the natural environment if people walk all over it. As such the trails are there not to make things easier, nor to provide safety, nor do they negate from our interaction with nature. If anything they enhance it due to keeping the off trail areas more pristine.

            This is no way describes climbing routes….

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  12. j June 25, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

    Todd and Mike,

    Yeah, I noted the trail analogy only as a vehicle to shed light on some important distinctions (or lackthereof) relevant to the hold modification debate. For reasons you both point out, it may not be such a good analogy at all. To my knowledge, this analogy was a way that some climbers attempted to justify the visual blight (fixed anchors, draws, chalk, etc.) created in the establishment of many sport climbs.

    Todd neatly describes yet another property of hiking trails that further breaks down the analogy. Related to this, the creation of one “established” trail can serve to negative the creation of multiple trails all leading to the same general area.

    Of course, just as the anti sport climber could argue that the climber should simply keep of the cliffs, the climber could argue that the hiker should keep off the flats (because intentional trail creation and “trails” created by frequent passage both provide access by damaging the landscape). So while the hiking trails and climbing routes are in many ways NOT synonymous, there are productive comparisons to be make (esp. in the face of criticism of sport routes by hiking nature lovers).

    What Mike says is enlightening and I agree that it is perhaps the case that in hiking, ease of passage plays a more common role than in the establishment of sport climbs (generally speaking, sport climbs contain a far higher percentage of natural holds than manufactured ones). That said, I stand by my earlier points regarding the fact that bolts themselves greatly aid passage and do not function as mere safety devices (indeed, even if they did, safety considerations and ease of passage are intertwined anyhow) and that his has relevance to the so-called “chipping” debate.

    I’m not quite as confident that sport climbing can realistically claim or aspire to higher ethical standards than other outdoor sports (at least those that are non-motorized). More to the specific point of this thread, I also do not believe that if hold modification were to be 100% eliminated overnight, it would have much of an effect on the legitimacy of sport climbing in broader contexts.

    John

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  13. Gym King June 26, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    You guys are worrying about all this gear talk when you should just be glad you get the opportunity to climb. It’s a gift and everyone has different things about it they like and dislike. Some like climbing on plastic or bouldering, sport climbing, or trad climbing outdoors so this is a debate that’s not gonna solve anything it’s all just opinions. Something that’s once ingrained in someone can not be changed to easily.

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  14. j June 26, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    Gym,

    I don’t think anyone here is under any false pretenses that this thread will “solve” anything at all. That said, there is a significant difference between merely offering opinions and stating one’s view in a thoughtful fashion and supporting them with reasons and argumentation as to just why they may be correct.

    You present a false dichotomy here. It’s not a case of either “worrying” about such matters OR enjoying the type of climbing one likes to participate in. You can easily do both and I assume this holds true for everyone who has in fact participated thoughtfully in this discussion. I know it holds true for me. I’m writing this here, right now, and in a few hours I will be enjoying a hearty bouldering session with my favorite climbing partner.

    J

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  15. Guidoprincess June 26, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

    For all this hate on sport climbing as disgracing to the rock, impactful, etc, I am going to say that sport climbing is, or at least can be, the least impactful way to protect a piece of rock. Most popular trad climbs are full of stuck nuts, cams, rusty pitions, nests of slings and are chipped with piton scars. Furthermore, as time moves forward, the amount of this shit is only increasing. To me, it kind of makes sense to designate 10 fixed, decided on points (bolts) to protect the climb and leave it at that, instead of making the whole rock face fair game for altering for protection. 10 such bolts, especially when painted to match the color of the rock, make the rock look way less impacted than the typical trad climb. So, if sport climbing can be the least impactful discipline out there, why not have it be the poster child for not affecting the rock in other ways (i.e. not chipping?).

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    • Hanson June 26, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

      Guidoprincess,
      As a traditional climber who finds ethics integral to my climbing experience I have to disagree with you. Though there are some trad climbs that have plenty of evidence of previous ascents, this is ethically very far from sport climbing. A stuck nut or cam is a scar on the rock, but it is an accidental scar. Often as a climber gets better and better at placing and cleaning traditional protection they lose fewer and fewer pieces of gear. I personally have climbed hundreds of pitches of trad and only left one nut in a climb. When I came back to climb that route a year later the nut had been removed. Placing a bolt always permanently alters the rock, cams and nuts and other pieces of natural protection very rarely alter the rock. The exception here is pitons, which haven’t been used prevalently by free climbers in at least 30 years. Pitons found on free climbs are usually from a completely different era of climbing. Most pitons were being placed before sport climbing even existed. The exceptions here are modern aid routes and mixed climbs, but this is a whole other can of worms.
      For me the most disturbing part of your post is: “10 such bolts, especially when painted to match the color of the rock, make the rock look way less impacted than the typical trad climb.” This is simply not the case. In my experience the typical trad climb has very few if any stuck pieces. Usually the typical trad climb is a crack system going up the rock that can be protected without bolts. Even on popular climbs, evidence of previous ascents is scant, especially when compared with a bolted climb. My point is, for me and many other trad climbers protecting a pitch with cams and nuts and other clean pieces is an important part of the experience. Seeing a bolt where natural protection could suffice often detracts from the experience. The feeling of climbing a 1,000 foot face and leaving only chalk as evidence of your passage is incredible. Sport climbing, bouldering, aid, ice, mixed, pick your passion and pursue it. That’s great, but please DO NOT BOLT CRACKS. It scars the rock tremendously compared with natural protection. If you want to try a line that might go on natural gear, but you want to bolt it, leave it for someone who is stronger and bolder. China Doll, Deadline, and Iron Monkey are all examples of bolted cracks that have later gone on gear.
      Thanks and no hard feelings,
      Hanson

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  16. Guidoprincess June 26, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

    I think your position as a “traditional climber” basically makes you unfit to make your argument because you have no basis for comparison. If you only climb trad, how can you make the argument that its less impactful than sport, you never see the other side!

    In the last year or so I have climbed on the moonlight buttress, freerider, regular northwest face of halfdome, as well as many, many bolted climbs. In this way I am not a “traditional climber” but a rock climber. And what I see is that these uber classic “traditional climbs” are often impacted much more from the traffic they receive than their bolted counterparts. I can specifically cite the myriad of stuck pieces in the high crux dihedrals on freerider, the enlargment of holds on the moonlight buttress from repeated wear of cams and nuts in the crack, the whole regular northwest face of halfdome which can practically be climbed with a rack of quickdraws from all the “natural, removable” gear stuck inside.

    You are a traditional climber? What does that even mean? Does that mean you don’t clip bolts? If you think of the greatest multipitch climbs in this country, basically all of them have bolted anchors and many have bolted pitches. Once again, there are multiple bolts on Freerider or The Nose, arguably the greatest “trad climbs” in the country.

    Am I arguing that cracks should be bolted? No, I like plugging cams too much. However, all I am saying is that to argue that “trad climbing” is less impactful than sport climbing is foolish because trad climbing doesn’t really even exist anymore and if it does, its pretty damn impactful.

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    • Guidoprincess June 26, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

      And lets not forget about the myriad of empty water bottles, bags of poop and toilet paper, and other wasteful remains that you ethically sound “traditional climbers” routinely leave on the wall.

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  17. Climbing Snob June 28, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

    I don’t have time to read all the banter but from my skimming…
    Hopefully someone has pointed out that you can’t necessarily just skip manufactured holds? Man-made holds could have been previously smaller holds. Ok, so skipping bolts isn’t the same as skipping manufactured holds, that argument is dead.

    Skipping bolts. Yes, technically speaking the bolts could simply be ignored, however by skipping bolts a climber is being forced to become reckless by the actions of the bolter. Climbing a route with little protection and big runouts is a choice and heading out into a dangerous section of climbing is also a choice but by a bolter coming along and installing the gear and the climber skipping it, it has made that choice “reckless”. Without the option of the bolt the climber must make a serious consideration of their skills on the climb. With the bolt they also have to make a personal ethical decision along the way. By clipping the bolt they have compromised their personal morality regarding their style of climbing. By not clipping it they have chosen to forgo a safe and reasonable option, hence they are now being reckless. So how is it doing a dangerous climb is not “reckless”? It’s because there are no other options, either a climber can do it or they can’t and only they personally came make that decision.

    To sum it up, the erroneous bolter has changed the mental approach for the climber without their permission.

    Back to chipping. Sometimes chipping works, sometimes it doesn’t, overall I don’t trust the climbing public to make the right call 100% of the time and since the consequences of chipping can be as dire as closing a climbing area I opt for the much safer stance that it is not allowed. There’s alot of climbing out there, if it can’t be done without chipping it shouldn’t be done.

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    • j July 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

      Snob,

      You make some good points here but I don’t agree with all of them.

      Agreed: Skipping (manufactured) holds can be more difficult than skipping bolts. In some cases, it might not be possible to discern between a “natural” hold and an improved hold. However, this isn’t ALWAYS the case. Drilled pockets–where there existed nothing prior–are obvious and can be discerned and skipped (if possible). Also, the person who set the route could provide beta regarding which holds were made, improved and so forth. Oddly, I do think your argument provides limited support for the idea that improving holds may be a more dubious practice than actually creating holds from nothing. Even if this result is strange, I see it as progress as it is something else that should be considered.

      We all agree that bolts CAN be skipped. Your concern seems to be that doing so makes the climber “reckless.” This is a pretty subjective assessment and surely varies from climb to climb, and is highly affected by the climber’s skill and experience, etc.

      The idea that “the erroneous bolter has changed the mental approach for the climber without their permission” seems wrongheaded to me as it puts the cart before the horse. The mental approach to a bolted sport climb is created by the bolter. It can only be changed by someone who later chops or adds bolts to the line. One “ethic” that has pretty much stood the test of time is that no one should add bolts to classic lines, even though they may find them scary or they are in fact objectively dangerous. Part of the charm and challenge (for many) when climbing bolted lines that “erroneously bolted” by modern standards is the mental fortitude it takes to send them.

      Case in point: CBGB’s in Joshua Tree. Short 10d; not very dangerous per se, but sparsely bolted by modern standards. If this climb had a few more bolts, it would be just your standard (if nicely exposed) slab climb. As is, it is an exhilarating challenge; even for climbers used to climbing at much higher grades. The sparse bolting may be due to the standard of hand drilling on lead, or perhaps even lack of money for more bolts. It doesn’t matter now; very few would argue/endorse adding bolts now. The mental attitude required to approach this climb was set long ago by the bolter and simply varies from the attitude required to approach most modern “sport” climbs. Moreover, it is part of the very nature of the climb; proof again that bolts (or the lack thereof) really do have a profound affect on the cliffs we turn into rock climbs.

      J

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  18. JGlassberg July 2, 2012 at 1:36 am #

    Im just announcing a new website, a forum for people to debate pressing issues such as this 65 comment thread. Its called hatersgonnaclimb.com , and itll be launching next week! Stay tuned and spray on!

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    • j July 2, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

      What’s really “funny” (in the non-humorous “interesting” sense of the word) about the now-clichéd word “hater” is that term has been so forcefully applied to such a myriad of attitudes, by people wanting to sound funny and hip, that it has pretty much lost all meaning. Participants in a written debate are patently NOT “haters” on this account alone.

      The term should have died with the 2005 Robin Wright movie, “Sorry, Haters” (which was quite good by the way).

      J

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  19. Hater1 July 2, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    Jon, you’re too late.

    http://professionalhaters.blogspot.com/2011/05/rock-climbing-is-not-blowing-up-and.html

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  20. Climbing Snob July 3, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    “Haters” is just what people say when they don’t have a leg to stand on in a discussion. It’s a cop out and inherently weak.

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