Retro-bolts on Yorkshire Limestone
by Mick Ryan Oct/2004
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Mick Ryan was one of the key figures in the development of Yorkshire Limestone in the 1980s and early 90s. Despite now living in America for the last 10 years, he has kept in touch of events on his beloved home patch. The retro-bolting activities that have taken place on certain crags during the last year have got him all stirred up again and the piece below was originally posted on a thead about Bolting in Yorkshire. In the thread he is replying generally but on occasions he refers specifically to Alan Steele of IngleSport.
I believe that what has happened at places like Norber, Trow and Giggleswick is very positive.
I applaud the efforts and hard work of people like yourself, Alan, and Dave Musgrove and others
.... BUT ....
A Yorkshire Bolt© Rockfax
They just went a few routes too far in retro-bolting established routes, I refer to routes like Marshal Plan, Ash Tree Groove, Clink, Freak Out, Boogie Wonderland and others. These routes should have been left alone. They aren't just relics of a bygone era but are a living testament to how we were in the past and what we have gone through to get where we are now. They should have been left, side by side with the modern bolt routes, so that those who are interested (and there always will be those who are interested) can have the opportunity to experience a different time. And even if you choose not to climb them, you can look at them and maybe reflect on climbers past and how they did things.
I do know how this retro-bolting happened, I to, like Mussy and co, was at one time seduced by the power of the drill - specifically at Gordale in the early 90s. It is hard to draw the line when you have a powerful tool in your hands and are surrounded by mates (your own private consensus) egging you on. And especially so when you have a passion for new routing and the rock real estate for new routes has all been used up. It's so easy to turn your attention to bolting up already climbed lines and pointless one bolt variations.
Now they are trying to justify their actions by any means possible by the usual arguments of we need more bolted routes, it's good for the environment, it'll make the routes popular.
They completely sidestep the issues because they know they've been caught doing bad things.
All these arguments can be firmly refuted. Then they try to denigrate the medium and the messages of dissent.
"Oh you don't count because you don't climb and sit in an armchair all day, or your opinion doesn't count as you aren't local and we are. Or you can't say that Bernard Newman because you have a commercial interest in climbing, or it's only those UKClimbing people, what do they know? Or even worse, they bray and shout at meetings in pubs."
I wonder what Dave Mussy thought when the rabid pro-bolt-everything brigade at Skipton cheered him. He's now a poster-child and hero to those who have no sense and respect of climbing history and tradition. He's the "it-boy" bolter of the 21st century, deciding for everyone else "when the time is right" (his own words) for the wholesale bolting of our crags. And make no mistake it will happen, the messages Dave and his small cohort are sending to young climbers aren't good. It may not be Dave who bolts up Face Route but it will certainly be someone who was inspired by his actions. And what will happen to Dave's legacy, his sterling record of advocacy for the climbing community? He may be carried on a sedan chair into Leeds Wall and surrounded by an adoring crowd of black-eyed virgins, but the pleasures of the flesh are short lived, and he won't be remembered for his excellent guidebooks or access work, but for letting British climbing down.
And I'm not just conjuring my assumptions of what might happen out of thin air, we only need to look at some other climbing areas. Why do you think there are no bolts on Pembroke limestone. It's not because there is a consensus not to bolt, it's because the moment a bolt is placed in that sacred stone, someone takes it out. The message sent is crystal clear, it isn't fuzzy and gray, it isn't open to interpretation. It's black and white, and so it should be on Yorkshire Limestone.
Let's face it, the retro-bolters are on the retreat, they are either silent or have run off to Kalymnos!
You live and work and love in the Yorkshire Dales National Park Alan. It's a wonderful living landscape, full of diversity and beauty, a balance of the old and the new. It stays that way partly because there is a planning authority that tries to maintain that beauty and diversity by limiting crass development. And the same goes for the climbing community and its legacy of routes, if we are to stop us sliding down the slippery slope to fast-food-climbing-for-all those who care must make a stand, just not by words but by actions, and that is why when I come to the UK soon I will personally take all those retro bolts out (trust me I know what I'm doing and how to do it well).