/ NEWS: New Routes on Ben Nevis for Dave MacLeod
The route, now named White Noise, is a huge 40 degree overhanging roof climb.
Read more at http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item.php?id=67865
I am a big fan of Dave and what he does, but that is not under our winter climbing rules but he knows that. And while I know Dave is a great climber and is unlikely to be scratching and scraping his way up the rock, it still sets a bad example?
I'm surprised you haven't mentioned the name of the route. Well chosen, I'd say!
Looking at the great pics on Dave's blogs, the Snotter is the more interesting one from an "ethical" angle perhaps. It looks so obvious to me - exactly what mixed climbing in the non-British sense should be: hard moves on clear rock to get on to a fantastic ice feature, but the like the argument around that route in Wales with the funny name (something about mammoths?) a couple of years back - some people won't get passed the clear rock bit and ignore the beauty of the big fang of ice!
But when you open that door, are you not opening the same logic to climbing "incomplete" existing routes? Dry tooling up some rock feature on the ben to get to some incomplete ice smear half way up the crag?
I can see the waters are muddied by the fact that the ice never touches down, but then at least wait until the ice is fat and the face is white? I am also aware of the fact that the Breneva Face gets the sun.
Is this confusing to continentals who don't know the ethics?
How can you justify the ethics when there are "exceptions" ?
It will be interesting to hear what the other people at the top of the Scottish Winter Game think.
I do follow the leading edge winter stuff, and by most part I am impressed by what folk like Dave, Greg, Parnell etc are doing this is the very first time I have ever thought hmm hold on here.
Good work Dave.
Scott Muirs forward thinking ideas but without the bolts.
Yeah, agree. It's clearly a phenomenal effort but I don't really want to stock my oar in on the ethics from a standpoint of "I climbed a grade I gully once so everyone listen to my opinion."
What's the context of the bit of rock anyway, in terms of summer climbing? Does happen? Could happen one day? Essentially never going to happen?
No doubt there will be a queue of punters at the start of the route next Saturday morning ready to scratch their way up it <sarcasm>.
If you're really worried about scratching you should be complaining about folk doing Tower Ridge.
My view is that it's an impressive ascent which shows that these sorts of routes can be done in a Scottish rather than continental style. Good news. My only question is whether such an accessible one pitch route should get grade XI or not and I realise that Dave has not claimed that grade himself, it's only a bit of speculation.
We know this situation.
Wish I knew what that big word meant Toby.
The key bit of Dave's log about his reasoning should also be read:
'I’d seen the thin cracks in the otherwise blank wall years ago and thought about what the best style to climb them was, given that they never ever get white being such a big, steep and smooth roof. I wondered if a big ‘dry’ roof climb would be accepted. Things have moved on a bit in recent years though, with most folk realising that the biggest roofs in certain places in the Scottish mountains just do not get rimed up and so must be climbed in the prevailing conditions, or left. After years of passing those cracks it suddenly seemed totally stupid to leave such good routes unclimbed, so I went back up and did the right hand crack.'
For me the key point is that no bolts were used, that this roof probably never rimes up whilst features around it are in winter condition and that such climbs are challenges for winter climbers who can do almost everything else. Ideally it would be the crux feature on a longer winter route though where everyting else is in 'traditional' winter condition.
I'm sure there are lots of bits or rock all over Britain, with a wee bit of snow below them, and another wee bit above them, just ripe for the picking.
I suppose now the precedent has been set, it's therefore game on for everyone.
ok, thats it then, there aint no lines left which are hard enough and dont involve huge roofs.. how depressing..
i really dont think folk realise whats happening here.. you get rid of the condition ethic, the whole sport goes to pot.. dry tooling anything will logically be fair game on any old piece of rock.. its the conditions which (normally) crucially dictate what constitutes a winter crag and route. its actually fundamentally more massive than just a thin end of the wedge.. and lets face it, unlike the bolting criteria its much harder to 'ban' non bolted winter climbing on low altitude 'non mountain' crags.
Interestingly, 2 of daves overhung testpieces HAVE both rimed up massively, the cathedral and anubis. The only one which we are unsure of is the glen shiel route, maybe folk who regularly visit that crag can say? But because that glen shiel roof seemed to be allowed (ie not much gnashing of teeth and fighting on UKC!)and didnt get a kicking on scottish winter.com, then perhaps this is the 'things have moved on a bit' Dave refers to..
perhaps a logical solution is give a route like white noise a clearly defined D (for Dry tooling) grade,and document a list of 'rules' of where this D activity is 'allowed'.. nothing negative about that, just my gut tells me that its a critical stage to get the rules laid out
anyway, couldnt help myself getting more involved in this, old habits....!
I've passed these lines before (as many of us have) and thought they looked like wicked hard rock climbs. I wondered if any of them had been climbed but didn't inspect closely and then forgot all about them. Is the crack just too thin for fingers?
One of them, a vastly experience Winter climber, was actually a bit pissed off as he had also been eyeing up the line for ages. As far as I can tell, the consensus among the climbers I know who are putting up harder Winter lines seems to be that it was a legitimate Winter route.
Bit of an oxymoron that then is it not? Like asking Firemen if they put out fires.
Because all the hard lines have been done that means new styles should be introduced which goes against the grain? If hard scottish winter climbers have exhausted what they can here than maybe the greater ranges are just waiting for them rather than changing years of tradition here to suit themself?
As I said I am awe of some of these hard winter lines and could only aspire to be able have the balls and strength to climb them, but when it becomes dry tooling you would be as well as chucking bolts up there while your at it. What is the point in having ethics if they can be broken to suit?
> One of them, a vastly experience Winter climber, was actually a bit pissed off as he had also been eyeing up the line for ages.
erm... hed been eyeing up the line for ages? why was he pissed off? why on earth did he not climb it then if he thought it was fair game? perhaps it was because he was waiting for it to be in nick?
As a winter novice, but seasoned armchair pundit...
Does there come a point with winter climbing where for the technical grade to rise, it inevitably leads onto steep ground like this, which doesn't rime up satisfactorily to look 'wintry'...? The super hard summer lines that ondra and sharma are putting up all seem to be on relentlessly overhung ground, is that the likely future for winter lines too?
This does seem to be the direction dave mac is going in, what with Anubis, the glen shiel route and now this. I am in no way able to offer an opinion, but would be interested to hear what people think as to whether it is even possible to get tech 12 + moves on ground that isn't so overhung it never looks wintry?
Not that it's ever going to be a live issue for my climbing, but it does look like the advances of standards in recent years is testing the limits of the current ethical consensus, it will be interesting to see how it is resolved
The ground up bit is a good point. Conditions ethics, are there features, on high mountain crags, which will never be 'in condition'? What should the ethics about climbing them be
Dave mac hasn't actually given a Scottish grade, has he? Is this an indication he feels the Scottish ethical style at the hardest grades is breaking down?
He sometimes posts here- would be interesting to see his thoughts on the subject...
but that is of course assuming the Scottish winter ethic continues to be to go for the onsight without prior inspection.
Yup. Were don't die... And Anubis done ground up...? Though not onsight, I don't know what the hardest is, ? iX or X
It looks to an armchair punter like me that there are two strands to dave macs recent efforts- routes in the 'Scottish' ethical tradition, and the two more recent routes which seem to sit outside that, and which he seems quite open that they do.
I guess the question is, are these interesting sideshows, or are routes like these where winter climbing is going? What I have no idea about is the question I asked above- is there an effective ceiling on the pure technical difficulty of routes which can be climbed in conditions that look wintry? If there is, it seems inevitable to me that people are going to want to push that boundary, and these sorts of routes will become more common.
Some interesting comments on there from Pete Harrison as well, FWIW.
If this route didn't rely on frozen water in any form for its ascent then is it a winter climb at all?
And secondly, would it make any difference from an ethical/difficulty/grading system perspective (or any other perspective you care to think of) if he'd climbed it August instead?
I just wonder if the top climbers are climbing into a cul-de-sac these days, a bit like how aid climbing became rather pointless once the use of unlimited numbers of expansion bolts took off. As they said in the Rock Athlete film about the first aided ascent of Malham main overhang, the ability to climb anywhere effectively meant to climb nowhere.
Its not exactly the same, but heading that way.
This is the only way forward...
I imagine some of the obvious leading winter activists would consider that bollocks.
I couldn't say and wouldn't like to speak for others.
But as a guess, because it's nails and because there are stacks of other massively inspiring things to do, including plenty of other new routes or the 2nd or 3rd ascents of numerous major lines in the far North West.
Yes, it's dry tooling but let's face it, there are very few people at the top of the winter climbing game who would ever be able to do this. What Dave and these other top climbers do is their business really, as long as it doesn't encourage the winter climbing masses (that's us!) to adopt questionable ethics. I don't think this particular ascent would encourage that as it doesn't follow an existing summer line, was done on trad gear and is on ground that doesn't normally rime up. So if someone thinks this route would justify tooling a first ascent up an existing summer line that isn't white, they would be deluding themselves.
> What Dave and these other top climbers do is their business really, as long as it doesn't encourage the winter climbing masses (that's us!) to adopt questionable ethics.
Of course what top climbers do influences others.
Sure it will influence others: smart, similarly-skilled climbers will see this and think "hmm, Dave MacLeod is pulling burly drytool moves through an unclimbed M10+ roof on gear, maybe I should try the same".
Stupid climbers will climb at inappropriate areas such as vertical established rock crags regardless of whether or not someone has made a first ascent of a cutting edge mixed route that is far beyond their capability.
It will influence those interested, of whatever ability, to dry tool.
No whether that is good or bad, or doesn't matter, is a different debate.
not sure I agree with your comment sorry, I think there are quite a few strong toolers/climbers that would be able to have a good crack at this line. That doesn’t mean I think they should. I know I wouldn’t and I think it looks like a great line.
Just to give you some comparison closer to home there is a particular line in N'Wales that a number of people have been talking about, sniffing around and eyeing up, but to my knowledge it has never rimed up enough to warrant a pop at least not on a Sunday anyway ;). It holds some turf and the odd ice blob but to me this still doesn’t make it fair game and unless it was stella I wouldn’t be happy climbing it. Putting a rope down it first wouldn’t sit right with me ether(this has been done in N’Wales before and poo pooed as bad form, lessons were learnt and what not). The FA style and conditions set precedent for repeats so it’s pretty vital that it’s done in the best style you can.
Hope your season is going well
See you next october :)
> Bit of an oxymoron that then is it not? Like asking Firemen if they put out fires.
> Because all the hard lines have been done that means new styles should be introduced which goes against the grain? If hard scottish winter climbers have exhausted what they can here than maybe the greater ranges are just waiting for them....
You sure about that?
> If this route didn't rely on frozen water in any form for its ascent then is it a winter climb at all?
> And secondly, would it make any difference from an ethical/difficulty/grading system perspective (or any other perspective you care to think of) if he'd climbed it August instead?
I'd be interested to know the answer to this, too...
What I mean is there seems to be an avenue into this sort of climbing through hard dry tooling which almost completely bypasses the rest of the winter mountaineering experience and apprenticeship which others go through. As others have said on other threads that many of these routes are safer and better protected than the lower grades - not my words, so maybe steep hard winter climbing is more appealing to those from hard steep dry tooling than it is to those cursing and bashing up snow and ice gullies?
While Dave knows what he is doing and as do many other leading hard climbers, will the next generation coming from the dry tooling cave care the same? Will they want to come straight out from their overhanging lines onto VII+ routes and disregard all the 'easier' snow and ice bashing stuff?
I suppose you'd have to add two grades for the midges as well...
If the face was rimed up and white when he climbed it, no-one would have blinked - but that layer of frost would have made no difference at all to the level of damage caused to the rock by tools and crampons.
Also, what's with the title of the thread? Dave Mac graded the line M10+/11, so why not just report that?
Ergo X1,12? (a question, not a statement!)
I agree but I went on to say that in this instance I don't think it will encourage more 'winter' climbing of out of condition lines on established rock routes. Which is the real issue I think. Some might say dry tooling on a mountain crag is an outrage even if it doesn't follow a summer line and even if the line would never or very rarely rime up, ie if dry tooling is the only way to climb it. That's a matter of personal opinion. Fine by me.
I see what you're saying and I wouldn't do it either (even if I could) as to my mind a winter line should be reasonably white and dry tooling is best left for WG etc. But that's my own guidelines for myself. So whilst I wouldn't do it, I wouldn't argue against someone who does either. Whereas doing an out of condition line that does normally rime up etc is clearly wrong. I accept it's a fine distinction and perhaps dry tooling has no place at all on mountain crags. As I say, I wouldn't do it myself but if I were a top climber who has done everything else that I'd like to do, I might have a different view...
The season has been patchy at best as haven't been up to Scotland yet but did manage El Mancho and the Appendix, so that's two classics on the wish list done, so many more to go! In Wales this weekend, suspect the crags will be pretty black but should be some ice routes to go at. Hope you've managed to get some good stuff done.
> And secondly, would it make any difference from an ethical/difficulty/grading system perspective (or any other perspective you care to think of) if he'd climbed it August instead?
Difficulty? Not a bit if it uses no ice.
Grading? Give it D (for dry) grade and everyone would then know that no ice is required to climb it.
Isn't it just an aid climb on bigger than average skyhooks in that case ?
I think this style of climbing is the future, a bleak one? perhaps, I am a traditionalist. The number of protaganists committed to dry tooling these days is staggering, this is where the leading winter climbers of the future are learning the art, in Europe they have summer multi pitch dry tooling routes, go figure. It's in vogue, strict ethics hold these guys back, more column inches in the media sells product, keeping their sponsors happy is where it's at, self perpetuating.
Oh FFS... come on, seriously. Isn't the "mixed climb blah aid climb blah blah sky hook blah blah" line not just dead and buried but reanimated Walking Dead-style only to have its zombie head totally destroyed with an axe and killed again by now?
Seriously Graham, if this route, regardless of ethics, is just an "aid climb with bigger and average skyhooks" why don't you go and repeat it? I'll accept a top rope ascent of course, because skyhook aid moves are actually rather scary, so lets take the fear away. I mean anyone can aid climb on skyhooks on a top rope, so I expect you'll piss up this route.
> Isn't it just an aid climb on bigger than average skyhooks in that case ?
if you knew anything about winter or mixed climbing you'd know the answer to that silly question.
Well try and explain the difference without patronising. If a line has no need for any sort of winter conditions (IE not mixed)so would be the same prospect in August and February and is done with artificial aid - why isn't it aid climbing ?
Your (non) answer is silly and patronising. Its not a silly question though.
> Why isn't it aid climbing ?
Because aid climbing involves hanging on each piece of gear from your harness (ie a no hands rest on every piece).
When's the last time you did an aid climb that involved massive forearm pump, figure-fours, and delicate foot placements on tiny features?
> Your (non) answer is silly and patronising. Its not a silly question though.
Go to White Goods, The Works, Masson Lees, Newtyle, Chalk cliffs. Climb on some upside down terrain then you will have you answer Graham.
p.s. dont forget your skyhooks.
Aid climbing is slowly sitting down your way up a cliff.
Obviously all ice climbing is dependant on artificial means but it would be impossible without them so we have to turn a blind eye to axes and crampons here.
However this isn't an ice climb, its clearly a rock climb and a rock climb, climbed using artificial means is aid of a kind, even if it doesn't look like it and is very hard.
I see a comparison here with Ed Drummond's ascent of Linden on Curbar on which he used skyhooks but not with etriers etc, just as an alternative to crimping with his fingers. He described it as "free climbing with skyhooks" and of course everybody laughed and awarded the true first ascent to Mick Fowler when he came along and freed it.
So I wonder, if someone came along in say August and climbed this route with their fingers, could they claim the true first ascent having dispensed with the artificial means?
I don't agree, but following your argument:
1. This route = dry tooling
2. Dry tooling = clean aiding
3. Clean aiding = completely legitimate
This route = completely legitimate.
Glad we've got that sorted!
> So I wonder, if someone came along in say August and climbed this route with their fingers, could they claim the true first ascent having dispensed with the artificial means?
i dont know; are there any dry tooling route that follow summer lines and have trad grades?
but given Dave Macs comment that:
"The thin seam occasionally opened enough to get the last tooth of a pick in every so often and had the occasional nut and cam slot. It was as if it was made for ice tools."
would it be climbable without tools? would be interesting to know.
By the same logic, in summer, climbing shoes are aid as is chalk.
I'm not sure what I think about this route, but whatever one thinks, surely the fact that it contravenes the generally accepted ethic on what is a winter climb in the UK is the issue here, not whether mixed climbing is aid, a rather pointless cul-de-sac that itself rests on the outdated presumption that aid is in itself bad.
> "The thin seam occasionally opened enough to get the last tooth of a pick in every so often and had the occasional nut and cam slot. It was as if it was made for ice tools."
> would it be climbable without tools? would be interesting to know. >
Should that be the defining criteria by which a route is deemed acceptable to dry tool? I don't know but history tells us that the "impossible" evetually gets climbed.
Not sure how that relates to whether dry tooling is aid though.
Indeed they are, but like axes and crampons on ice routes, we regard them a fair game.
I'm inclined to agree here, this is drytooling under the guise of winter climbing because there happens to be some snow on the ground. So the issue really is whether Ben Nevis should be a drytooling venue and would the route get the same reception if done in summer?
>... not whether mixed climbing is aid, a rather pointless cul-de-sac that itself rests on the outdated presumption that aid is in itself bad. >
But this isn't mixed climbing and it inevitably drags us into the drytooling debate of which "is it aid" is only one facet. For what its worth, aid isn't always seen as bad, but historically free clibing has always been seen as better.
> Not sure how that relates to whether dry tooling is aid though.
I don't think this is any more like aid, than chalk and sticky rubber.
The issue for me, is that these kind of routes are being marketed (and I use that word very deliberately) as some kind of new avant-garde mixed winter style, when they are plainly dry tooling.
And the level of difficulty, or who did them, doesn't alter that fact.
If this is the way this branch of top end climbing is going, then so be it, but please, lets at least cut the bullshit rhetoric when publicising them, and call it what it is.
Yes, agree. Fascinating though the semantic argument about aid climbing is, I think the real point is that Dave Mac feels that it's necessary to redefine the boundaries of scottish winter ethics. And, accepting that climbing ethics are sometimes work in progress rather than tablets of stone, I'd be interested to know what he thinks those boundaries should be...
As regards this debate, this new route is what it is, which from my viewpoint, seems pretty impressive! It stands for what it does, and if anyone can come along and do it in better style then the ethics will move with that, and thats enough for me. Well done Dave!
I find this a very depressing ascent. But as others have said, it's the way things are going.
I can't imagine this could have been climbed free otherwise presumably DM would have done it that way. Still, maybe it'll be the new Millstone - a few years of dry tooling and some John Allen of the future will come along and climb it free using the scars, observe casually that 'maybe Dave's no good', and dry tooling will retire into the cupboard where it belongs with (most) aid climbing as just another unsustainable fad.
> Yes, agree. Fascinating though the semantic argument about aid climbing is, I think the real point is that Dave Mac feels that it's necessary to redefine the boundaries of scottish winter ethics. And, accepting that climbing ethics are sometimes work in progress rather than tablets of stone, I'd be interested to know what he thinks those boundaries should be...
Yes, +1 to that. Dave Mac seems to have knowingly set out to do something that would be ethically contentious; would be interesting to read in greater depth about his thoughts on this area. Which brings me back to a question i posed up thread a couple of days ago, and which i dont think was answered directly. Now, that might be because its a stupid question... but anyway, here it is again, with some added clarification:
"Does there come a point with "winter climbing" where for the technical grade to rise, it inevitably leads onto steep ground like this, which doesn't rime up satisfactorily to look 'wintry'...? The super hard summer lines that ondra and sharma are putting up all seem to be on relentlessly overhung ground, is that the likely future for winter lines too? In which case, given the hardest part of the routes don't depend on "winter" conditions, and would be just the same climbed in summer, where does that leave "winter climbing"?
This does seem to be the direction dave mac is going in, what with Anubis, the glen shiel route and now this. I am in no way able to offer an opinion, but would be interested to hear what people think as to whether it is even possible to get tech 12 + moves on ground that isn't so overhung it never looks wintry? "
still not sure i'm expressing myself clearly! and given the grades i've climbed at, i have no way of knowing what the answer to that is, but would be interested to hear what more knowledgable people thought on the subject...
> I find this a very depressing ascent. But as others have said, it's the way things are going.
Well, it might be the way DM is going. I hope he doesn't care what you think.
Why can't we just celebrate climbing in all its wonderful diversity?
I would imagine that a sequence of massive jumps between tiny poor hooks up an otherwise blank slab could be as technically near impossible as you wish.
Because whether we like it or not, what the top climbers of today do, the punters do tomorrow which brings me back to the question I asked earlier, is Ben Nevis an acceptable venue for dry tooling?
> I find this a very depressing ascent. But as others have said, it's the way things are going.
> I can't imagine this could have been climbed free otherwise presumably DM would have done it that way. Still, maybe it'll be the new Millstone - a few years of dry tooling and some John Allen of the future will come along and climb it free using the scars, observe casually that 'maybe Dave's no good', and dry tooling will retire into the cupboard where it belongs with (most) aid climbing as just another unsustainable fad.
Without aid climbing Millstone would have about half the number of free routes it has today. Not saying wether pegging on Millstone was right or wrong, just stating a fact.
So fit leashes - its not that far off
> p.s. dont forget your skyhooks.
Whatever I can climb is irrelevent. I probably couldn't climb other classic 'aid' roofs either.
The ethic/rule is "white in appearance" - many mixed routed are climbed in conditions which dont satisfy this and are subject to the same comments.
see > http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=104448
They are all self-imposed ethics and rules of course but they are our ethics all the same.
> So fit leashes - its not that far off
It's a million miles off. Anyway, leashes would undoubtedly make the route harder (there is a reason hardly anyone uses leashes anymore!)
These differences may be totally bloody obvious to you but its not to me, and I doubt its that obvious to someone who wants to aid or dry tool in Blackers Hole, or Peak Limestone or maybe even Millstone.
Once a route has lost any pretence of being a winter climb and the only distinction in ascent style is that the ironmongery used to climb it happens to be winter gear then its a form of aid climbing. Not that thats necessarily a bad thing but lets not kid ourselves that its an extension of Winter Climbing
> Because whether we like it or not, what the top climbers of today do, the punters do tomorrow which brings me back to the question I asked earlier, is Ben Nevis an acceptable venue for dry tooling?
Can you explain to me why this particlar route is more likely to damage the rock than a winter ascent of Tower Ridge when it's mainly covered in rime or a thin layer of snow?
> These differences may be totally bloody obvious to you but its not to me, and I doubt its that obvious to someone who wants to aid or dry tool in Blackers Hole, or Peak Limestone or maybe even Millstone.
> Once a route has lost any pretence of being a winter climb and the only distinction in ascent style is that the ironmongery used to climb it happens to be winter gear then its a form of aid climbing. Not that thats necessarily a bad thing but lets not kid ourselves that its an extension of Winter Climbing>
That's just bollocks.
Well it is obvious. So now you know.
Possibly to the uninitiated. But that's hardly DM's problem.
> Once a route has lost any pretence of being a winter climb.....
it is what it is.....
Bollocks. This has already been fully explained to you by several people.
I guess it isn't
So are you saying that Ben Nevis *is* an acceptable venue for dry tooling?
(I have no idea myself, just trying to understand the issue a bit better..!)
It's not an insignificant point though and one not straightforward to respond to for the ethical elitist. This is climbing at the boundaries of current difficulty, style and ethics. as i said it stands for what it does, and for some of the more ethical obsessives that might mean a goading to get the route freed in summer. If that happens it will change our ethical consideration of this route. Where do these ethics come from? Not from a regard for rock as being sacred? That can't be right can it? It is rather a respect for the best vision someone has had for climbing it.
> I would imagine that a sequence of massive jumps between tiny poor hooks up an otherwise blank slab could be as technically near impossible as you wish.
So is dave Macs apparent preference to take increasing difficultly in the direction of ever steeper ground a reflection of his personal taste rather than being intrinsic to the process? Is anyone pushing difficultly in winter climbing in the direction you describe?
Again forgive my naivety if these are stupid questions!
> So is dave Macs apparent preference to take increasing difficultly in the direction of ever steeper ground a reflection of his personal taste rather than being intrinsic to the process?
How should I know? Ask him!
Maybe ask someone who is good at winter climbing (not me anyway!). Greg Boswell perhaps? My example was hypothetical.
I guess I was comparing to 'summer' climbing where the hardest routes seem to be on ever steeper ground, rather than blanker slabby terrain. I can see your point, and wondered if there was a reason people seemed to be developing the disciplines in the former direction, instead of the latter
Of course I could be entirely wrong and thin slabby face routes may be being done out there- though how thin would they have to be to be tech 12! Not sure I can even imagine that...
As to asking dave, I guess we will all be watching his blog more closely in coming to see if he has any further thoughts on it...
I would armchair quarterback and say that no. For a mixed climb to get a higher technical grade, it needs to be harder (oxymoron, I know).
This is pretty much only done by using ever smaller holds or adding the distance between the holds... or makin' it physically more straining (ie. roofs and overhangs with long reaches between "good" holds).
So there is definitely a limit on what can be climbed on traditional terrain (ie. slab, vertical or gently overhangin' with small roofs). The more forgiving the angle, the shoddier the holds are (so tiny, long way off and really insecure). I believe some of the todays routes already have that kind of climbing. Which means that only way to make it harder, would be to add the length of the difficult section. That would also mean no gear for a really long way (because if it takes gear, it's actually a rather good hold for them ice tools). Not sure if people want to go there.
> I guess it isn't
> So are you saying that Ben Nevis *is* an acceptable venue for dry tooling?
I'm saying that all mixed climbing scratches rock. The rule of a route having to be white to be in condition was just an artificial construct applied to mixed climbing in the nineties when people realised they could climb a mixed route regardless of whether it had ice on it or not ( I know that's a simplification).
Dave climbed a bit of rock that's been looked at a million times from the CIC hut and never touched before because there's lots more to do on the Ben higher up. No one ever bothered with it summer or winter and I doubt many will now (has Annubis had a second ascent Summer or Winter?). Given the degree of difficulty the damage done to this bit a rock will be a tiny fraction of the damage done to the classic ridges of the Ben over the coming years.
I have no problem with people wondering whether mixed climbing is really a sustainable thing to do; it's something I wonder about myself. I'm just a bit flabbergasted at people criticising Dave for doing something that's essentially the same as that which thousands of other people are doing every weekend in winter on lower grade climbs.
I hope I amnt seen as criticising him!
And I see what you are saying, and agree. Is the heat in the debate over this because dave mac has taken off the 'fig leaf' of the route looking snowy, so it then leads to all sorts of follow on questions for which there is no consensus or ready answer...?
I suspect anyone who wanted to go dry tooling somewhere inappropriate would already be more than aware they weren't aid climbing. The difference in the physical movements between mixed and dry is small and between dry and aid is an entire world.
I used to think you were one of the more reasoned posters on this site. Pursuing your current line in this argument is really making me reconsider.
I've been following this from the other end of the world and noticed exactly the same thing and wondered why no one else mentioned it. There is also only one (insubstantive) comment on his blog after the posts by Ian Parnell and Pete Harrison. For a supposed XI, 12 the silence is deafening.
> I guess I was comparing to 'summer' climbing where the hardest routes seem to be on ever steeper ground, rather than blanker slabby terrain. I can see your point, and wondered if there was a reason people seemed to be developing the disciplines in the former direction, instead of the latter
I get the impression that the vast majority of other leading activists are developing things in the "traditional" direction of climbing ever harder, bigger, gnarlier routes (either winter only lines or based on summer lines)onsight. You only have to skim through scottishwinter.com to see that this is the case and that the traditional approach is very much alive and well and in safe hands. DM in fact seems to be the exception (and good luck to him!).
> Whatever I can climb is irrelevent. I probably couldn't climb other classic 'aid' roofs either.
Anyone with a bit of aid climbing practice and knowledge can climb a standard aid roof by plugging cams into the roof crack, clipping in, and resting. An A1/2 roof is piss if you are willing to deal with the core strain (the only physical aspect).
Not anyone can climb an overhanging M10/11 crack, much less on traditional protection. There are only a handful of trad M-graded routes in the world at that level.
Where have I suggested it would?
My point really is that dry tooling seems to be a strange evolutionary cul-de-sac in climbing in which people climb rock routes using ice gear simply because they can and the routes are presently considered too hard to free climb.
In the traditional sense its clearly not aid but in the context of those particular climbs it clearly is aid of a kind because they wouldn't (presently) be possible without it.
Now aid has had a place in climbing for decades, but its always been regarded as a poor alternative to free climbing, although of course it can be difficult, dangerous and/or good fun but its never been regarded as the best way to climb something.
Of course its a free world and dry tooling doesn't break any laws, it doesn't appeal to me but if others want to do it, that's up to them. But climbing is guided by ethics which most people stick to for the greater good of the climbing world, hence we don't bolt Stanage or put a via ferrata up Cloggy. We could do those things, or at least some individuals could go ahead and do them and the rest of us could carry on climbing as we always have but it would impair our experience so ethics do matter.
If people get it into their heads that any mountain crag is fair game for drytooling then where do we draw the line?
Only between the months of November and April? Only when there's snow on the ground (even though it makes no difference to the route)? Only on unclimbed lines? Only on unclimbed lines considered "too hard" to ever be freed?
It opens a massive ethical can of worms, hence I do not think Ben Nevis is an appropriate venue for dry tooling and this route sets a bad precedent.
> I get the impression that the vast majority of other leading activists are developing things in the "traditional" direction of climbing ever harder, bigger, gnarlier routes (either winter only lines or based on summer lines)onsight. You only have to skim through scottishwinter.com to see that this is the case and that the traditional approach is very much alive and well and in safe hands. DM in fact seems to be the exception (and good luck to him!).
Robert, I totally agree. Well said.
When I rehearse the classic ridge climbs and mixed climbs on the Ben on rainy summer days (practice for winter) I always use crampons and ice axes, i'd never think to whip out my pecker. Two different things.
> So is dave Macs apparent preference to take increasing difficultly in the direction of ever steeper ground a reflection of his personal taste rather than being intrinsic to the process?
Pretty much, yes. He just loves overhanging things; probably much to do with learning to climb at Dumby.
Is anyone pushing difficultly in winter climbing in the direction you describe?
The Hurting is a good example of a less than vertical but very hard route. Of course this is also a route of Dave's so one would have to say that he's also pretty good at the slabby stuff, as some of his trad ascents demonstrate.
The guys that are pushing the frontiers are in a minority, the majority of winter climbers these days are learning the art by dicking around in quarries, this will seriously affect the status quo at present and in the future, the strict Winter ethic has seriously been eroded over the last few years, so it isn't a new phenomenon. To be honest the strictly in when it is white is not helping, because routes are being attempted in very marginal thin conditions, such as the first snows in early winter, for example a lot of the really sustained mixed lines on the Ben, are seen as out of condition when proper winter conditions arrive, dry ice free cracks are the norm, and why wouldn't it be' to succeed on these routes you need the odds stacked in your favour, they have more in common with test pieces in an old quarry than they do with the icey mixed routes of yesteryear, even the term mixed is a misnomer these days. i personally see dry tooling as a dead end, difficulty for the sake of difficulty, Daves route the Snotter looks like a good addition, I just wish I had the big guns back in the day, to do a route like that, it was duly noted, but not looked at to see if it was feesable.
You are arguing from the point of view of movement and a traditional view of aid climbing. I am arguing from the point of view of venues and conditions. It strikes me that steep routes with no requirement for winter conditions are aid climbing territory and therefore potentially expose many more venues to dry tooling in the name of advancing 'mixed' climbing standards.
You seemed to imply that. If you accept that it doesn't then there are two views you can take on it:
a) If that's what he wants to do then fine I might or might not be inspired to emulate him.
b) I don't think that the damage to the rock is acceptable on any mixed climb and we just shouldn't do it. That of course would mean that there isn't much above grade VII or VIII that would be climbable.
Or too cold?
Well if you want to climb hard in winter it generally involves scratching, half an inch of ice doesn't protect the rock much.
Others have pointed out that this ascent proves you can climb European type M style routes without having to bolt them into submission so I would argue that it's actually a progression in terms of ethics. No one's going to be able to say now that they needed to bolt a Scottish winter crag because the route couldn't be climbed on trad gear.
I'm sorry but I still don't see the difference between this route and a lot of lower grade routes in terms of the amount of damage that's done to the rock which is really all I'm interested in. I do accept your point though about climbing in conditions which don't conform to our artificial set of rules and like always, education is the key.
Perhaps, that's what happens in the alps isn't it?
Bad precedent for what though? Precisely what do you want to stop?
Well done Dave.
Ignore most of the posts above from the whiter than white folks of ukc.
I can remember many many years ago (now where's that bag of Werther's Originals) having an impromptu discussion in The Scotsman's Pack in Hathersage one lunchtime, with several other peak climbers, including some leading one's, and Ken Wilson, regarding the use of chalk.
Now Ken was pretty anti-chalk - it was only a few weeks after he ran the headline in Mountain - John Allen free's Great Wall but uses chalk - which sparked considerable debate on both sides.
However, his argument centred around not primarily the use of chalk by the leading lights of the day pushing standards, but how that would influence ordinary climbers to emulate them, and soon you'd see chalk being plastered all over Stanage V Diff's.
Most people disagreed with that extension of his argument, but of course, as history has so aptly demonstrated, he was absolutely right!
I see exactly the same problem being created by the new style of 'winter?' routes which top climbers like Dave Mac are currently doing. Ordinary climbers will start to follow suit, and unfortunately, as in the case of chalk, the end results will be only too plain to see.
It may take a few years, but it will happen, and cases of people dry tooling classic rock routes, could become as common place, as chalk now is on V Diffs.
Of course I could be completely wrong on this (I really hope I am), but history does have a habit of repeating itself.
> Bad precedent for what though? Precisely what do you want to stop?
> It may take a few years, but it will happen, and cases of people dry tooling classic rock routes, could become as common place, as chalk now is on V Diffs.
I think I see what you're getting at but people already climb classic rock routes in winter, Agag's Groove, Crowberry ridge, Route 2 direct, Mitre Ridge, Unicorn...
Perhaps I'm displaying the same lack of foresight as Ken Wilson but I can't see someone turning up at the bottom of Rannoch Wall in July with a pair of quarks strapped to their rucsack.
> It may take a few years, but it will happen, and cases of people dry tooling classic rock routes, could become as common place, as chalk now is on V Diffs.
> Of course I could be completely wrong on this (I really hope I am), but history does have a habit of repeating itself.
Mixed climbing such as this has been going on for nearly two decades in places such as the Canadian Rockies, Colorado, and New England, yet there's been little to none of what you fear. When someone establishes a new double-digit M roof at Ouray, you don't suddenly see a bunch of people drytooling an 8b route at Rifle or a 5.13 trad climb at Eldorado Canyon.
I see ascents such as this, M10+ routes entirely on gear, as a good step forward for hard, athletic mixed climbing. Nearly a decade ago Ryan Nelson wrote an article for Rock&Ice where he openly pondered if the hardest mixed roof testpieces (such as Alcatraz in Colorado) could have potentially gone on gear. Only now (see also the news article about the new all-gear Robert Jasper M12 WI5 route) is that sort of extreme technical mixed climbing being realized on traditional protection.
You could actually argue that chalk has a far greater 'visible' impact on the crags, than scratches made by winter climbing.
It might be that the average climber has enough forethought to recognise this and not take to dry tooling existing routes.
Well the average climber hasn't so far demonstrated enough forethought to recognise you don't need need chalk on V Diffs.
Ethics and tradition have very little if anything to do with environmental protection.
Tradition is what people have always done (I'm sure you knew that really) and ethics are a code of practice in a sport with normal formal rules so we know we're playing the same game in a manner that we all generally regard as fair play.
They only climb routes like the ones you mention using axes and crampons when they're in winter condition though, they don't drytool them,...yet.
He wasn't displaying a lack of foresight, he accurately predicted what would happen
I'd be surprised if there weren't a few folk out there who would if they thought they could get away with it.
> They only climb routes like the ones you mention using axes and crampons when they're in winter condition though, they don't drytool them,...yet.
There's little actual substantive difference between what many call "winter condition" (i.e. a thin dusting of snow and/or coat of hoar/verglas/rime/etc.) and "drytooling", i.e. making direct contact with rock using ice tools and crampons. The illusion that "winter conditions" protect the rock in any way is just that, an illusion. An ice tool or front point sinks right through that thin coating and grabs a hold of the rock.
The only individual moves on a mixed climb that are not "drytooling" are ones where picks and crampons are being swung/kicked into ice or turf, which makes the pejorative usage of the term somewhat amusing. Anyone who has climbed any sort of mixed route that is not effectively a pure water ice climb has "drytooled".
Every form of climbing causes damage or some sort of distress to someone or something.
Dry tooling will only get more popular with time. Climbing is evolving.
I personally have never used my tools on rock but that's not saying I won't. I defiantly will, in the right place at the right time. I will use my own judgement as to weather it's ok, just like Dave has.
I like the fact that UKC gives people the opportunity to express their view, but it seems pretty much every action that's i little different just gets attacked.
Now I'll await my punishment.........
> They only climb routes like the ones you mention using axes and crampons when they're in winter condition though, they don't drytool them,...yet.
I can assure you that there's plenty of scratching going on when someone climbs any of the routes I mentioned in winter conditions.
I think the discussion here , is what constitutes a winter climb, beyond a certain angle, whether it is white or not, is pretty meaningless. It becomes an exercise in steel on rock, as I said "mixed" is a misnomer.
Hi Erik, trust you're well...not particularly replying to you, just making a couple of (slightly) related observations...
Huge respect for Dave Mc's ability on this dry-tooling, massively overhanging route...I couldn't get anywhere near it...but it's exactly that, a dry-tooling route. Not a winter route. I agree with you Erik that dry-tooling is a blind alley as far as Scottish Winter is concerned. I'm all for dry-tooling, and great for people to get out there and do their thing, but it is not Scottish Winter. As for the effect on others as to whether it means other such pieces of rock are fair game for dry-tooling, I think we may have an issue to address here...if you can dry-tool a bit of overhanging rock on the Ben, then why not a bit of overhanging rock elsewhere? I make no judgement here...just something we may have to think about in the future...
A bit of an historic "hold my hands up and admit it" story to maybe illustrate changing ethics in this regard...in 1985 (I think!)it was very snowy in the Ogwen Valley in I think January. Myself and a well known Welsh based climber (I'll leave him to own up if he wishes) went up to the Idwal Slabs and tried to climb Hope in full on winter conditions with full winter kit. It turned into a bit of an epic in bad weather and we ended up abbing off...but we never admitted doing it (and I don't think Pete (oops!) did either) for total fear of severe reprimand for attacking such a classic route with axes & crampons....
So Dave Mc's route, highly impressive and good to challenge accepted norms...I'm all for people doing new stuff...new ideas are great...
There are consequences to everything...
> Huge respect for Dave Mc's ability on this dry-tooling, massively overhanging route...I couldn't get anywhere near it...but it's exactly that, a dry-tooling route. Not a winter route. I agree with you Erik that dry-tooling is a blind alley as far as Scottish Winter is concerned.
Isn't it the case though that as winter climbs get harder they inevitably go down this blind alley. You may be able to point out to me a line in Scotland that might be XII and isn't dry tooling but I doubt anyone can point out a line that's technical 12 and not steel on rock for most of the way.
> I doubt anyone can point out a line that's technical 12 and not steel on rock for most of the way.
Maybe those routes don't exist and top grade Scottish winter climbing is progressing into dry tooling due to the high ability of leading winter climbers. I wonder now if this could be a steady progression into mountain routes like White Noise generally being done all year round.
>Perhaps I'm displaying the same lack of foresight as Ken Wilson but I can't see someone turning up at the bottom of Rannoch Wall in July with a pair of quarks strapped to their rucsack.
You mean the same lack of foresight as Ken Wilson's interlocutors, I think. The point of the KW/chalk story was that Ken was right.
Doesn't sound much like progression. Why don't they just go rock climbing?
Logically there seems to be two possibilities, either
a) completely dry new routes aren't accepted in the mountains in any shape or form, or
b) those which lend themselves to being dry tooling routes (pretty much only significantly overhanging stuff and only that which doesn't hoar up) are accepted for what they are (something different) but to reflect this are given D grade to clarify what one should expect from the route and the climbing. A winter grade wouldn't apply, bolts would never be used and whether top rope practice would be allowed would be open to debate.
I won't comment on which option might be better though it would seem a shame to alienate Dave who in many ways has pushed the sport more than any other (in recent years) and given so much. I would point out that it sounds as though he abseiled the route to get a look at the gear potential and to see how feasible it might be for placements - the climb wasn't toproped. Trying something like this onsight for a FA is probably just not an option.
1. importance of conditions for non ice routes
2. onsight ethic
the more i think about it the more I think these dry overhanging routes are ludicrous. no one is actually taking them serious on the continent or N America anymore are they? except old farts like jasper who seems to get some crucial media air time out of his dry tooling.
to me, we are still on the right track in scotland, Bayard Russell gets scotland, Nick Bullock gets it and nails the new hamspshire winter smear ethic as a result.. nonsense like white noise is an unhealthy distraction..arguably IMO of course!
regarding your question about steepness:
i asked dave (during the Q&A at the end of one of his talks a while ago) where he thought his winter climbing might be heading after completing the likes of his wild looking ascent of 'don't die of ignorance'.
i was hoping he might give up some gossip on his next winter project, but he chose instead to respond to my question in terms of his thoughts about the future of winter climbing generally. in short, he answered your question. he said that he anticipated new routes getting steeper... MUCH steeper.
> Ethics and tradition have very little if anything to do with environmental protection.
> Tradition is what people have always done (I'm sure you knew that really) and ethics are a code of practice in a sport with normal formal rules so we know we're playing the same game in a manner that we all generally regard as fair play.
If that is the case then what is there to get worked up about? In reality no one cares about the style you climb in as long as you're honest about it. Dave has been honest.
Well I suppose we can't say he didn't warn us then...!
Hypothetically, would it make any difference if white noise had been part of a much longer route, like, say, Anubis? Where it may have been the crux, but was preceded and followed by a couple of hundred metres of hard 'traditional' wintry ground?
in such a case, the overall grade would still be driven by a pitch of what, taken on its own, doesn't seem like Scottish winter climbing. Though I guess it could be approached ground up which would address the ethical concerns
Is it possible that this is a 'training and rehab' route for dave, testing out the possibilities for a route like hypothetical on above, and mindful that he is still in the early stages of recovery from a serious injury? And isn't meant to be taken as a precedent for anything?
Will be interesting to see what dave says when he comments on it...
Well, all climbing is a bit ludicrous at some level isn't it? But climbing is a broad and broadening church and I think the diversity should, in principle we welcomed; each to their own. As for where such essentially dry-tooling routes should take place, I expect a consensus will emerge through the testing of boundaries and robust debate (just like with bolts). The future of Scottish winter climbing is bright.
its ludicrously simple, routes which dont require, or get into winter nick should not be given traditional scottish winter grades, there is allready a grading system in place and in use in the UK called the D grade.
result = everyone happy as larry
Why would they? What would be the point? I mean that as genuine question.
No. What I mean is that there can be a place (which will eventually, no doubt, be settled by consensus) for such essentially dry tooling routes, not that they can be done anywhere.
Thats seems a good idea. Big Scottish grades carry big kudos. D grades would carry less kudos (and perhaps even a little ridicule), resulting in less incentive for the proliferation of dry routes on egotistical grounds.
BTW, did nobody else think this was the funniest post in ages? I take it the double silliness was intentional, or at least I hope it was.
I was trying to explain to a Finnish friend the Scottish ethic the other week and he kept laughing, but the more I think about it the more I think it makes sense. Kenneth Boulding once cut through 30 years of social science theorising on identity by saying, "we who we are because we got this way". It sums up the Scottish (British) winter ethic perfectly. We don't have enough ice routes to not want to mixed climb. We don't have strong enough winters to be able to say from Dec. 1 to March 31 that is a winter ascent. We do have plentiful damp colds winds that coat all the mountains often in hoar. Those things make the UK mountains different to New Hampshire, or the Tirol, of the Southern Alps, even to a lot of Norway, and the ethic has developed to make sense of those conditions - it doesn't transplant well to other places; nor do their ethics transfer well to the UK.
We know that Joe Brown was- what? 90% -right by saying it's a winter route when it's easier to climb with axes and crampons than without, hence you let them get white. Routes get a 'rest' if we stick to climbing them when they are 'wintery in appearance'. Personally I think it's simpler that we say winter climbing, with the exception of ice routes, is done ONLY on mountain cliffs although I can see that in N. Wales that gets a bit complex; but it does stop people saying Millstone is in "good winter conditions".
No one want to criticise Dave because he has a) given so much to British climbing and b) is so much better than us all so we look silly trying to tell him he's wrong! But I agree with Erik here that White Noise doesn't fit the established ethic. Maybe it does hoar up occasionally; I know that would do nothing to protect the rock and might not make it any harder at all, but it would keep within the ethic whilst still pushing technical boundaries. As is, it seems to open a can of worms to some degree. Summer dry tooling in unloved quarries, particularly where the developers have done lots of cleaning the area etc., is fine with me but I think it would be sad if people started doing it in the mountains. Nevertheless, the ethic is pretty well ingrained - at other times leading climbers have tried something different and those ascents haven't set a precedent. Garthwaite redpointing Logical Progression (an ironic name in retrospect) and Gresham doing the same on the Tempest being the obvious examples but there are probably similar earlier ones too.
> No. What I mean is that there can be a place (which will eventually, no doubt, be settled by consensus) for such essentially dry tooling routes, not that they can be done anywhere.
There is in Scotland it's called Newtyle and numerous other quarries around the country (ie White goods), there is no place in the mountains for dry tooling, this doesn't mean people are not taking these methods into the mountains because they are.
Dry toolers up to now have been confined to quarries a chink of light and it could spread like a virus, what scares me is the dry tooling zombie apocalypse that will ensue, the horror! Daves may well be a maverick, but to a lot of young impressionable climbers he is like the messiah and they will spread the gospel.
There is,to me anyways, a clear difference between dry-tooling and mixed winter climbing and I think this is what has become blurred here and presents the real danger.
There's a huge difference between the two routes that Dave Mc has done - both of which I think are excellent BTW. Snotter is a mixed Scottish winter route - it cannot be done without winter conditions. It uses dry-tooling techniques, but the route cannot be done without the icy bits...it will certainly never be done by me! It is a winter route and should be given an appropriate Scottish Winter Grade.
The overhanging roof climb it appears is totally different - it would appear possible to do this route any time of year, and therefore as you suggest should get a D grade. It's not a winter route, it's a dry-tooling route.
To me the distinction is clear and obvious...
IMHO I think it is important that the two routes are seen as being very different to each other, otherwise we could/will end up with people dry-tooling all over the place. I make no judgement as to whether this is a good or a bad thing (I have my own view...and you will know what it is Erik), but if climbing history has taught us anything, it is that where one goes, others will follow.
I think Dave Mc's routes on the Ben are great and I actually think we should all be very grateful that by his superb ascents (both of them) he has brought to the fore an issue which needs, at the very least, tidying up.
And that may well be the consensus.
> Thats seems a good idea. Big Scottish grades carry big kudos. D grades would carry less kudos (and perhaps even a little ridicule), resulting in less incentive for the proliferation of dry routes on egotistical grounds.
absobloodylutely! couldnt agree more. glad you got there in the end :)
> its ludicrously simple, routes which dont require, or get into winter nick should not be given traditional scottish winter grades, there is allready a grading system in place and in use in the UK called the D grade.
> result = everyone happy as larry
So you'd be happy for such routes to exist as long as they were given different grades? You seemed to be giving the impression before (by saying "we shouldn't accept this" etc) that such routes shouldn't be officially recorded at all.
> Simon Richardson has commented on the Snotter.
I agree with what Simon says.
I think he's pointed out the fundamental component to the scotish ethic;
-- It has to be in winter condition --
If this principle isn't stuck to then future ascentionist can argue that bare rock is ligitimate component of any winter mountain route, to the extent that a route doesn't need to have any snow/ice on it at all. It would all become too ambiguous and open to abuse.
The 'It has to be in winter condition' is not a difinitive rule, it has an element of ambiguity to it (as we see each year when folk argue about what is or isn't in nick), but it does draw a line which people, by and large, find perfectly workable.
so what of the true 'dry' route white noise then?
Erik I wouldn't think my opinion holds much weight.
Simons view seems a tad harsh, if you look at the photographic evidence, there is snow and ice on the ledges, he is obviously heading for an ice feature, would the cracks in the wall be any more difficult with a little rime, I doubt it due to the angle and I have to say I have never seen that area rimed(steep angle/sun). it looks wintery enough, would you not agree?. All in all Simon is making an example of this route, comparing it to climbing a snowed up rock route in the northern corries seems rather bizzare.
This smacks of hypocrisy to me, as I can think of numerous routes that have been recorded by the SMC that climbed dry rock to a degree, Hung drawn and Quartered sticks out, including one of the mavericks other controversial routes the Cathedral on the cobbler, I guess simon is making a stand, the wrong route in my opinion.
Personal view...taken at face value Snotter looks like a winter route to me...done in winter (albeit sunny)conditions. I'm sure many of us could come up with winter routes we've done where there have been stretches of bare rock...
White Noise is a dry-tooling route...end of.
Both fantastic climbing achievements nonetheless...
Simon's comments, whilst as valid as anyone else's, come across as being strong in tone to me, when his rational and experienced input to this discussion would be valuable, in my view.
Routes have to be refused on the basis of conditions at some point and in the past perhaps the praise of certain stuff has been too generous considering the doubtful conditions. Whether this is the right route to make a stand on I don't know.
Perhaps Simon is wanting to hold the Ben up as the crucible of Scottish winter climbing so takes a harsher stance than elsewhere? Nevis certainly rimes up much better than most other venues, at least high on the mountain anyway.
I thought Simon's comments seemed pretty rational and reasonable. It could have been much stronger in tone!
> so what of the true 'dry' route white noise then?
Pitches like this are very much the exception to the rule that 'it has to be in winter condition', so give them a D grading to show people the distiction and therefore avoid any cross over of 'its ok to climb bare rock' into the rest of scotish winter routes. These big roof pitches are so few and far between that there shouldn't be any confusion as to where to apply the different ethics.
Whether people are happy having dry pitches in scotish mountain is another matter...but it seems to me that there doesn't need to be any cross contamination so long as the grading systems reflect the route type.
Blimey - is the Simon Nadin mentioned in that blog THE Simon Nadin? Is that what he's up to now - I remember in his palmy years him being reported as having sampled his first -"and last"- taste of Scottish winter climbing.
Just my view Michael...effectively saying someone has been cheating appeared strong to my obviously sensitive personality. But Simon is entitled to his view too and if he wishes to take a stand then I praise his principal.
> Blimey - is the Simon Nadin mentioned in that blog THE Simon Nadin? Is that what he's up to now - I remember in his palmy years him being reported as having sampled his first -"and last"- taste of Scottish winter climbing.
Yes that's him.
> I think he's pointed out the fundamental component to the scotish ethic;
> -- It has to be in winter condition --
No he seems to be saying something different...
...the crux has to be in winter conditions, or a dry iceless rocky crux can't be used to get to ice and then be called mixed.
> Simon Richardson has commented on the Snotter.
He loses me a bit here:
"Quite simply, climbing bare rock with axes and crampons is easier than climbing it when it has a wintry appearance. Hoar frost may be purely cosmetic in some cases, but typically a wintry appearance comprises a spectrum of additional challenges including icy cracks, difficult protection, hidden hooks and difficult to see footholds."
-Some of these points are fairly debatable, such icy cracks and difficult protection being challenges of hoar frost. Not only will ice in cracks often help stabilize tools, but it can turn Spectres into bombproof protection if pounded in.
-I would say comments about hidden hooks and footholds may apply somewhat generally, and especially to lower-graded and less steep routes, but for climbers such as Dave Mac who can climb M10+ roofs would climbing an overhanging headwall such as on this route have been any more difficult with some white stuff on it?
Its lucky Dave MacLoed comes from north of the boarder! If he was English he would have been hung drawn and quartered.
This is a very important point for the future of winter climbing and the climbing community have to decide if dry tooling in the mountains of Scotland is acceptable.....
> Why would they? What would be the point? I mean that as genuine question.>
I don't know, you tell me. As I've already said, I think drytooling is a pointless cul-de-sac but for some reason people do seem to want to climb rock routes with axes and crampons.
If very good climbers want to climb radically hard stuff in that style there's bound to be some punters who want ot climb easier stuff in that style and therein lies the problem. The potential for people to drytool established mountain rock routes not in winter condition.
Jon Bracey, thanks for speaking out, more big names needed in this.
Left Pork, Hopefall and that route up Clova are all climbed on ice (though the last one thinner than the other two) so the blackness of the rock shouldn't matter. The one on the Cobbler is mixed and looks sunny but there's lots of snow on ledges and I believe Mr MacFarlane wouldn't climb it when it wasn't in.
This one on the other hand is unquestionably dry rock. MacLeod has made no attempt to hide this (nor should he of course).
Even though other routes (though I wouldn't include the above) have been done in doubtful condition and allowed, two wrongs don't make a right!
Hang on, are you talking about the Snotter or White Noise? The Snotter looks to have some mixed moves that in the photos appear dryish to get to thick ice but which seems much more of an arguable case as a 'normal' winter route than White Noise.
I was talking about the Snotter where the crux mixed moves are on dry rock. It would be a 'normal' winter route if it was whiter.
White Noise is completely unambiguous as a drytooling route.
> If very good climbers want to climb radically hard stuff in that style there's bound to be some punters who want to climb easier stuff in that style and therein lies the problem. The potential for people to drytool established mountain rock routes not in winter condition.
There is that potential, but need it actually happen? (And I mean people deliberately setting out to do mountain routes in totally dry conditions as opposed to going to do, say, Savage Slit, finding it pretty much black, but doing it anyway to make something of the day - lots of us, I suspect, could hold our hands up to that sort of thing!). I suspect the prediction of armies of "dry tooling zombies" invading Ben Nevis all year round are paranoid scare-monegring; much more likely that sensible lines will be drawn by consensus with dry-tooling confined to the sort of things which DM seems to pick which never get "white" anyway. Hardcore dedicated dry-toolers will stay in their steep, bolted quarries. etc - I just can't see them wanting to make the effort to go to the Loch Avon basin. For the rest of us, dry tooling will be something we might do as practice for real winter climbing (just as sport climbing has it's place as practice for real rock-climbing - and the Scottish mountains have not become covered in bolts).
Sorry if I come over as unnecessarily optimistic and accomodating.....
I think that's a much fairer appraisal than others are affording.
No... but history often proves otherwise.
Naïve maybe (in the nicest way, obviously).
> No... but history often proves otherwise.
An example perhaps? As I said, the non-proliferation (indeed virtual absence) of bolts in the Scottish mountains is a good counter-example.
And Wales and the Lakes, but I was thinking about the proliferation of bolts in the Alps (it doesn't bother me as much as it bothers you, but that doesn't mean I can't see it). Bolted venues are also on the increase in other parts of the UK - Scotland seems to have its fair share.
The other example is the use of chalk. You probably remember when it arrived here (from the States?) and the outcry it caused (that was referred to above). Then there was the < don't worry, you only need it on very hard routes so it won't be get used on easier ones > elitist crap argument. And now it's rare to see anyone climbing without it, no matter what grade they climb.
It's just a fact that what leading climbers do today, most everyone else does tomorrow.
> And Wales and the Lakes, but I was thinking about the proliferation of bolts in the Alps (it doesn't bother me as much as it bothers you, but that doesn't mean I can't see it). Bolted venues are also on the increase in other parts of the UK - Scotland seems to have its fair share.
But that is not a great comparison, because there has always been a difference in ethics, a lack of British ideological elitism, and so has very little to do with precedent setting in the UK. Some things we do find we eventually accept, but we are overall pretty damn conservative.
I'm not sure how that replies to the two sentences you quoted. And I'm certainly not sure about:
But one thing I am sure about is that:
And the gear manufacturers and outdoor trade in general are there to ensure that, which is why they sponsor climbers, err sorry, ambassadors.
But look, I'm not here to argue... I'm just waiting for some glue to harden so I can get back to my DIY kitchen project.
> And Wales and the Lakes, but I was thinking about the proliferation of bolts in the Alps.
But Scotland is not the Alps. Here our ethics are not determined by the commercial interests of guides and hut wardens. ;)
Yes, but fairly clear lines have emerged - just my point!
But chalk makes all rock climbing climbing easier (and IMO more pleasurable), whereas tools and crampons almost always make it harder except in "white" or icy conditions when no-one (leaving aside the debate about whether classic rock climbs such a Engineers Slabs or Savage Slit should ever be tooled at all) is arguing against their use anyway. So, if we work on the sensible/intuitive basis that people will climb in the way that best suits the conditions, then almost everyone will use chalk all the time (which they do) and Ben Nevis will not be invaded by armies of dry-tooling zombies. Sorry, but I just don't see it happening.
Actually, I don't think they care what the punters do as long as they can persuade them to spend money on the same kit as the ambassadors/athletes.
Ah, athletes. I'd forgotten that.
Hi Erik, I agree that this is clearly borderline and I agree that Scottish winter would be meaningless if drytooling was fair game. But the roof on King rat, the Glen Shiel route and to be honest various roofs on some cutting edge FAs on Beinn Eighe and other crags looked very 'lean' from below (they always look very different from above) on the photos that were posted on the internet. This was accepted by most and that's why I wondered whether it was at the time to say that 'lean' roofs on big routes are acceptable under specific conditions. Such conditions could be that it does not look white in most seasons, that it is not a shortcut to tackle a 'last great ice problem' and that it is climbed onsight.
DM's own opinions up.
You've got to hand it to DM; even if one doesn't agree with his position he always handles this sort of thing with class.
Funny thing DM complaining about SR not using his name. I remember a similar sort of discussion about manners in chess. I'm pretty sure SR didn't use DM's name exactly because he thought it was politer when disagreeing publicly with DM's ethics not to mention him by name. One can see the idea behind that. But (i) the anonymous party seems as a rule to take this as a further slight, and (ii) perhaps in this internet age the politeness is wasted anyway, since anyone who wants to know the name can so easily find it out.
(Shades of Alec Sharp. 'A route has been climbed.....'.)
What about, for example, Crypt Route on Church Door buttress? The back of the cleft is rarely touched by Winter but it's an accepted winter climb, despite large sections of effectively being tooling (or crawling)
Dave M is highly regarded partly because he is clearly an intelligent guy who thinks a lot about what he does and how he goes about it. And of course he's a superb climber.
His latest blog on the subject is sort of an attempt to set the record straight as well as conceding that his stance went too far for the majority, at least as regards the dry tooling. I think it was almost inevitable that Dave would have to back down to some extent. On the Snotter, I think Dave is essentially saying that a large part of what appears to be bare rock was in fact covered in water ice and it was only a short section which was truly bare. So, yes, fair play perhaps on the Snotter? However, the dry tooling 'incident' still has an almost surreal feeling to it and I find that hard to reconcile.
However, to say "They still exist of course, in my memory as great days out and two of the most fun climbs I’ve done in a while. Nothing more ultimately matters." could excuse almost anything provided you have fun doing it. That's good to know then... I'm not intending to be a typical UKC armchair critic but I did find that quite a peculiar way to finish his otherwise reasonable musings which at least he has had the good grace to air in public rather than simply go to ground on the subject.
You're reading way too much into it. He just said he has a good day on the Ben, and will remember the routes. He isn't excusing anything in my reading of it, and is rather recognising the dissent of some within the climbing community leaving it up to others to decide what is "wrong".
Great blog post there Ian!
That was an excellent post on your blog, thanks for that!
It would be interesting to hear Andy Nelsons view of the ascent of the Snotter, he was there afterall, this is where the controversy lies in this case, White "nonsense" being just that!
> However, to say "They still exist of course, in my memory as great days out and two of the most fun climbs I’ve done in a while. Nothing more ultimately matters." could excuse almost anything provided you have fun doing it. That's good to know then... I'm not intending to be a typical UKC armchair critic but I did find that quite a peculiar way to finish his otherwise reasonable musings which at least he has had the good grace to air in public rather than simply go to ground on the subject.
I'm a typical UKC armchair critic, whatever tf that is. I don't know any of the people involved and I've never climbed in Scotland in winter. So...
The comment from DM that you have selected there - ''nothing more ultimately matters" etc - could be construed quite cynically, as him being a bit disingenuous, given that clearly this was a premeditated act and he had a pretty good idea, given his experience, knowledge, expertise and media savvy, what the result might be. Not really some innocent jaunt for a fun day in the hills with friends. Not to say DM is lying, I'm sure they were great days on fun climbs, but as the (predictable) controversy has shown, there's a bit more to it than that and he knows it. He might be naughty but he's not stupid. Nor amnesic - Anubis, etc.
Not being even remotely in the Scottish winter scene I have no idea what the big names think of all this, though I wondered if the silence from them and others was that they considered DM to be deliberately pushing this particular boundary for publicity, given he is a fully sponsored pro climber who needs constant media presence to garner continued support, and that they did not want to further fuel the controversy by commenting on it and thus helping DM generate the chatter he was aiming for.
Or maybe they're pissed off that he was willing to face the opprobrium of the winter climbing community by drytooling this wall that so many had seen and thought of but not done because they toed the line on the rules? Cos regardless of who says what on les interwebs, fact is he's now done it first and any following claims of 'first' can only be conditional. Progress is rarely polite.
Personally, I'm as much concerned with the post-fact rejigging of the reports, almost verging on censorship in the case of DM's blog (most of it gone) and the re-titling of this thread. Re-titling of threads can leave later readers wondering what some of the comments are referring to and it changes the orientation of the article as an archive of historical record. By removing reference to the proposal of Scottish XII does this answer the question of whether WN is 'only' a drytooling route? Has someone been unfairly maligned by inaccurate reporting? Is UKC trying to provoke controversy rather than just report it? Is that OK? Or is it OK but not like this?
I really can't understand the hypocracy evident within the Scottish scene, it was only a few years ago SR was applauding an ascent of the Steeple, climbed after the first snows in october, evidently black as the ace of spades.
Tell me this is not a winter route, the mind boggles, sour grapes springs to mind. http://www.davemacleod.blogspot.co.uk/
Having just pointed out a rather dubious ascent back in the nineties, i would like to add, that i think the scene has changed a lot since then, with big hitters coming to the fore, the likes of Nick bullock, Guy Robertson, Greg boswell, pete mcpherson et al.. are really setting the bar quite high, with repeats and FWA that are really ground breaking and ispirational, the scene has never been more vibrant. The ascent of the Snotter is perhaps minor in comparison, but why it has been singled out as over stepping the mark, i can not fathom, it is quite different in style to your average icy mixed route or snowed up rock route. I guess only time will tell whether this descision is seen as overly harsh, most are not whiter than white(excuse the pun), i personaly have know problem with this route, it breaks with convention in a small way, but on the whole i find it hard to judge this as cheating.
Bad french reduces that to "in mixed climbing, you can't ignore the dry component, it's the only bit that has scope to get harder"
Anyone want to improve on the translation?
PS: a direct link to Dave's comments on the Snotter, as all the others are blog generic:
The snotter ice feature has been watched carefully for over a generation and many people have been waiting patiently for it to touch down.
As an example...I have been in to a remote crag in the N.W. with my climbing partner 7 times to climb a certain unclimbed line. That's 7 x 6 hours there and back = 42 hours of my life invested walking too and from it. We could on several occasions have climbed it when totally black and it would have been possible but we chose not to. It may be that someone beats us to it, but hey ho if they climb it in good conditions i'd be pleased for them, if not then it is sort of a waste of an exceptioal challenge and as these exceptional lines are not an infinite commodity it is important to do them in the best style possible.
You are misinformed about Mega Route X, it had ice all the way the initial rock being plated with ice that made for an alarming start given the tools of the day. ( I know because I was there!)
Fair enough, it's been awhile since my quest for new routes, not to mention line banditry, which was always on the agenda for most climbers.
But do you not think the strict Scottish ethic, it's "in" when it is a pleasing shade of white is pushing the boundary a little, considering the style of this route and the elevation. Out of interest who had tried this route, certainly when I was active, it was a notion that the icicle may well touch down one day, but from a far it looked a tad burly climbing the overhung wall to get to the feature.
As regards 'The Snotter' I think the issue is this.
The heart of the matter is whether the crux was in winter condition.
It seems from the first ascentionists account that the crux was the overhanging rock below the icicle.
It is apparent from that account that this section of the route was dry and not in winter condition.
If this was indeed the crux then the route was not in winter condition.
For those who find this assessment harsh, consider what your views might be if that crux section led to a grade 1 gully instead of a grade 6 icicle.
One armed pull ups! I wish :)
> For those who find this assessment harsh, consider what your views might be if that crux section led to a grade 1 gully instead of a grade 6 icicle.
But it didn't! It might not have been the crux, but the "point" of the route was the icicle.
> But it didn't! It might not have been the crux, but the "point" of the route was the icicle.
Then best to wait for the icicle to form!
> Then best to wait for the icicle to form!
Why? Because have wondered whether the thing might touch down this century?
> Then best to wait for the icicle to form!
Has the icicle ever formed?
I guess a middle way is to put the route in a guide book with the note that it was climbed when the icicle was incomplete etc and is awaiting an ascent when it is fully formed. I don't think Dave has taken much away from those who wanted to climb the fully formed icicle.
The point I was trying to make in my initial post is that the icicle is irelevant.
The issue is that according to the initial account of the first ascentionist the crux was dry.
That factor leads to a 'scottish winter' grade being inappropiate.
It strikes me as one of those eternal looking up/looking down photo debates that makes Scottish winter climbing so, ahem, unique! But now even the 'looking up' photo is not in the public domain. From memory the wall behind the ice did look dry, but that's 'looking up' - hard to see if there was ice in the cracks and all of those things that can make things 'feel' very wintery when you are climbing even if the photo doesn't really reveal that.
When you look at the picture of the pitch in total, well it just looks like an ice climb - so hard to see how it could be considered not a 'winter climb' unless any 'dry' moves to access ice are considered illegitimate?
Can anyone remember - didn't Gresham do a route maybe a decade ago that broke out from Mega Route X and swang out onto some steep hanging icicles? Was that something similar in style to the Snotter?
Exactly and that seems to be exactly where this is headed, because otherwise the ethic becomes so obtuse as to be ineffable, and determined by an elite few who write guide books.
Its interesting to note Simon's previous comments on Anubis:
Some critics argued however, that Anubis failed to meet the MCofS guidelines that a Scottish winter ascent ‘should have a ‘winter’ appearance with snow, hoar frost, rime-ice or verglas covering the rock.’ As one of the architects of these guidelines – written some 15 years ago – I can state that they were not written for climbs like Anubis, which overhangs 12m over its 35m-long crux section. They were to provide guidance for vertical or off-vertical climbs and discourage quasi-winter ascents of routes with snow on ledges with otherwise dry rock. If we disallow Anubis on appearance grounds, we’ll have to wipe the slate clean on many other big Scottish first winter ascents including Grade IXs such as Sassenach and this year’s Super Rat, (see this month’s Scottish Winter Notes) that both feature climbing through roofs that didn’t have their undersides white with hoar frost.
And as someone now totally confused as to what goes. Anyone care to classify these in terms of acceptability:
Which, if anyone was in any doubt, just goes to prove that Dave *is* spiderman.....
<gets coat and shuffles off>
Skyfall - LOL etc. Have today's post of the day award. ;)
They were all found on or from links from Simon's blog, so wasn't a hard way to kill half an hour ;)
What responsibility?... to set an example via a greater ethical conservatism, or just to be consistent. I've always found this ethics thing weird anyway.. ..I mean, its not as if mountains themselves have ethics, and when many of those advocating a conservative stance are off in Europe quite happy to climb dry rock between sections of ice, it begs the question of where the feck the ethic comes from.
Well perhaps Ian but I think Jimbo was having difficulty discerning the difference between what Dave had climbed and what others had climbed in the photos he had linked to.
I probably should not get myself involved further but the Snotter is a long standing last problem for many of those who have shaped winter climbing on the Ben and elsewhere. And for these climbers the challenge was to make the first ascent of the Snotter in perfect style, either as a four star ice column that has touched down or at the very least as a climb with mixed moves on well hoared up rock.
Seeing Dave climbing it in a different style, with a section of M-style trad-protected drytooling, feels like cheating. But on the other hand Dave has a valid point because if his ascent of Annubis and black roofs on other routes are fair game (see photos in your post but things generally look much whiter from above) then the Snotter with a relatively short dry mixed overhanging section should be fair game.
There is no easy solution to this as both views seem valid to me. Time will tell whether any new styles stand the test of time like mixed climbing, snowed up rock and for some even Newtyle drytooling whereas other styles, such as the first ascent of point five and bolted mixed are thrown out by history.
I don't believe both views are valid. Dave wrote in his blog that he has seen the Snotter touch down just that at the time he did, he didn't have time to climb it as it was late in the day and he needed to get back home. That's just bad luck.
Instead of waiting for it to touch down again (and this could have been a while), the desire to climb it was sown, he came back, it wasn't in condition, but the urge was there and he decided to climb it anyway...
Obviously not... but I read some double standards... other bare rock routes seemed to be acceptable and reported. While Snotter is not.
Odd, since according to Dave 47m of the 55m crux pitch was on ice. I would say that is a lot more wintery than some of those other climbs from the pictures (from Scottish Climbs and others Jimbo posted).
Say this one for starters...
Or this one:
Both are without a doubt drytooling, plain an simple. Sure, there's a bit of snow here and there. But then again there was ice on Snotter... in fact, I would say that Snotter was a winter route (~85% on water ice) and Pretender is not (by the looks of it, ~70 dry tooling).
But then again, I'm just a foreigner. But double standards are kind of retarded. It's either or. Small portion of drytooling are allowed or not at all. Or drytooling needs to be always on severy hoared rock (which again means that Pretender does not count, as it ain't that hoared up).
Nothing wrong with discussing your ethics. I am sure you, and others on this thread, are well qualified to do so. It makes for an interesting read.
However, I do find it distasteful for climbers such as yourself and Simon Richardson on your blogs and others on this thread to sit in judgement on what other people have climbed. Richardson's blog is very aptly named "overstepping the mark". His only confusion is that it is he that is overstepping the mark with his entry, not anyone else.
I would welcome the deletion of both of your blog entries. They reflect very poorly on you and Scottish Mixed Climbing, and I think when you step away from the fray you yourself will recognise this.
Is that from first hand experience?
Could you post as concise and unambiguous statement as you can of what you think the ethic is/should be? That would be helpful. Not a loaded question - a genuine request.
Absolutely, but (and I'm sure you've tried doing this as well Ian) when trying to explain to non-Brits the Scottish/UK winter ethic they often seem to be as confused as Jimbo is, and looking at at least some of the those pictures you can see why. Should Boswell have waited for more ice to form on Crooked Smile for instance http://gregboswell.co.uk/index.php/2010/12/09/a-good-way-to-end-a-trip/ if Macleod should have waited for the Snotter? I have no idea of the answer but it seems a fair question at least.
I guess the issue here is why Simon choose to make a stand on this route having publicised other routes that at least look in the photos rather dry? I'm sure he'll get back to this at some point - in fact, Ian, you should ask Simon to write a piece about for Climb as he's always been an eminently sensible voice on these things (despite his mid-90s piece on trying not to use pegs too much having me slithering down the ramp on the Sting on Dothaid onto an RP! :).
I think you hit the nail on head in saying (at least I think it was you, apologies to someone else if it wasn't) that Dave, for good or bad, is such a prominent personality in British climbing that he both takes more flak and his actions have a wider precedent setting impact, but for Scottish winter climbing now, Boswell is snapping at his heels so may well face the same sort of questions.
Henkka, it's unfortunately not that simple, because of the nature of Scottish mixed routes. The open faces of rock in those pictures are bare of hoar but what you are climbing in the cracks can be wintery. In the cracks you might be climbing ice or frozen turf or frozen up rubble, which of course ONLY occur in winter. The "it has to be white(-ish)" ethic developed because those routes shouldn't be climbed with tools in summer or even in winter when not frozen because turf, chockstones, flakes etc can all be pulled out when not frozen.
There is also the whole up photo/down photo effect.
But it is a total mindfield because you can got to a cliff totally white with hoar and snow and then find the turf underneath not frozen, in which case then you shouldn't climb turfy routes either!
No it doesn't. All it reflects is that reasonable minds can differ. This isn't a debate over whether to arm Syrian rebels or the extent of benefit cuts to disabled people, it a discussion about a hobby. And despite many people loving that hobby greatly, I don't see why it can't be discussed honestly, without personal attacks and without suggesting that people who disagree with you are somehow immoral or whatever.
This situation has made a lot of people feel uneasy and confused about the ethical boundaries in Scottish winter climbing and it is impossible to say either opinion is wrong or right. Unfortunately by rejecting this ascent (Snotter) the boundaries become even harder to define and a precedent has now been set that may bring future ascents into question much more readily. Is this really a good situation?
> Henkka, it's unfortunately not that simple, because of the nature of Scottish mixed routes. The open faces of rock in those pictures are bare of hoar but what you are climbing in the cracks can be wintery. In the cracks you might be climbing ice or frozen turf or frozen up rubble, which of course ONLY occur in winter. The "it has to be white(-ish)" ethic developed because those routes shouldn't be climbed with tools in summer or even in winter when not frozen because turf, chockstones, flakes etc can all be pulled out when not frozen.
> There is also the whole up photo/down photo effect.
I do understand Toby (albeit having never climbed in Scotland). But the harder lines climb more face than cracks, hence ice in cracks is a moot point. The pics of Bullock on Pretender is from above, and there is very little snow visible. Same can be said of Daves original picture on Snotter (which was shot from below). But from his own description, 47 of the 55 m were on ice. That doesn't seem to be the case with Pretender. Also, generally you see more snow&ice from above than below.
So I do pick on that point. Not as general, but with regarding reporting Snotter vs. Pretender. Because simply from an outsiders view, Snotter is much less a drytool route than Pretender (jugging solely on the picture and descriptions of the FAs).[/armchair quarterback]
Not at all; the lines might travel through open, steep faces but the climbs almost all follow cracks lines because you need somewhere to stuff your picks! The Needle is a classic crack climb for instance.
Clearly using tools on vaguely wintery terrain in one form or another is the norm on harder / steeper routes in the UK.
Dave McCloud's ascent of the Snotter is obviously no different in terms of ethics than the ascents highlighted in Jimbo W post.
It is amazing what people can convince themselves of, Simon Richardson denouncing the ascent seems deluded considering what else has been documented and accepted.
Climbers deluding themselves was highlighted to me at Lochnagar at the weekend when I belayed someone very high up on the mountain - he was convinced he had climbed and planned to document a new route - when in fact it was easy ground followed by a 3 metre traverse, 3 metres chimney and easy ground. Ok it was white but 6 metres of a dog leg of new ground is hardly a route....
My point being perfectly sensible climbers can convince themselves of anything if it suits.
Dave is just taking what is know established a bit further with White Noise and the Snotter - good luck to him and maybe detractors need to get their own house in order before talking with one voice.
But looking at the pictures (Bullock on Pretender from ScottishClimbs) and Dave on Snotter. They seem equal on the wintery feel. Pretender was shot from aboce, hence a bit more snow visible on the picture. Snotter obviously has the big icicle. And from the description it was over around 90% of the crux pitch on pure ice.
The other is valid winter climb, and the other it seems is not. As on outsider, I would say that purely from winter perspective Snotter is more of a winter climb than Pretender (it ain't the protection, but where most of the climbing is, and from the pic of Pretender, it seems to be drytooling on edges rather than cracks). Which is why I'm having a bit of problems understanding the issues raised.[/bored at work]
> No it doesn't. All it reflects is that reasonable minds can differ. This isn't a debate over whether to arm Syrian rebels or the extent of benefit cuts to disabled people, it a discussion about a hobby. And despite many people loving that hobby greatly, I don't see why it can't be discussed honestly, without personal attacks and without suggesting that people who disagree with you are somehow immoral or whatever.
Different points are view are fine and should be discussed. Nothing wrong with a bit of banter to go with a discussion either.
But the blogs are not discussions of ethics, they are sitting in judgement. The blogs are not about their own opinion of when to venture out or not, they are about how wrong it was of a specific climber to do a climb. That is very, very uncool. I hope you can see the difference. And regardless of the substantive issue to be discussed that is going to reflect very poorly on them. There is no other way of putting it.
I can see no logical reason why an ascent of the Snotter in these conditions is considered poor form.
It seems the bigwigs at the SMC have taken it upon themselves to arbitrarily dictate that this route is not valid, this has certainly not been a democratic process and leaves a bad taste in the mouth, they are laying down the law on something so highly subjective, this descision has left a lot of climbers confused.
On the one hand they applaud winter ascents of summer classics( often in dubious winter nick) then deride an ascent of a last well known winter only problem on mainly ice (the short dry section is traditionaly protected) it just smacks of hypocrisy and double standards.
I think Dave should boycott the SMC and produce his own guide to the Ben, after all he has done most of the hardest routes, then we can all decide on what are valid winter routes.
Why shouldn't a blog contain personal opinions? Or should the writers toe the party line? There is no difference between giving an opinion on whether conditions are safe or in or whatever and giving an opinion on specific climbs. If Simon or Ian feel strongly about an issue then they should speak up about it.
Should people have kept quiet about those who dry tooled in Millstone Quarry the other year? No! Yet that is what you are saying should happen. If Simon or Ian had congratulated Dave on his ascents would that have been OK? According to your argument the answer is "no". Simon's blog is a major source of information about what is going on during the Scottish winter, but it is much more than that: without comment and opinion it merely becomes dry regurgitation of whatever spin the first ascensionist wishes to play.
No doubt there have been plenty of routes claimed in marginal conditions and which have since been climbed in what might be considered more pure winter conditions.
I'd be interested if the Snotter would have received a different reception if it wasn't obscured by "White Noise"...
Excuse me? Since when has Ian P been 'a bigwig at the SMC'?! I'm not sure even Simon R is, exactly.
As to LM's nonsense about how blogs should comment on principles on not specific climbers and ascents, this is drivel. Commentators react to specific events; that's how it is.
Apropos of nothing, by the way, I find that a good general rule in these debates is that anyone using the phrase 'smacks of hypocrisy' is merely highlighting the fact they're about to say something stupid. Although not as stupid as those who say it smacks of hypocracy, obviously.
> But the blogs are not discussions of ethics, they are sitting in judgement. The blogs are not about their own opinion of when to venture out or not, they are about how wrong it was of a specific climber to do a climb.
Of course blogs are about opinions. Dave was of the opinion that the routes were acceptable. Simon R was of the opinion that they weren't. How you discuss the boundaries of what is or isn't acceptable without expressing opinions, since that's all we've got? There aren't hard-and-fast rules, and what one person deems acceptable may not be the same as someone else's opinion of acceptability - Jimbo's samples of pics is adequate demonstration that the lines are very blurred.
As Will Gadd once said, "a free-hanging dagger is far more aesthetic than a vertical ice pillar".
Wasn't that about the bolts, which is a completely different issue? Anyway, bolts are either used or not - no room for debate - and their presence directly affects future ascentionists. Conditions are a much more subjective and less clear cut issue, and do not affect future ascents.
So by that rationale, If someone were to climb then re-grade Elliot's Downfall in the same manner (condition)as Snotter, that would be better because it would be harder???
> Excuse me? Since when has Ian P been 'a bigwig at the SMC'?!
That's irrelevant. Don't you know it is traditional on here to blame the SMC for everything?
> So by that rationale, If someone were to climb then re-grade Elliot's Downfall in the same manner (condition)as Snotter, that would be better because it would be harder???
"Better" is totally subjective, so no, a "harder" ascent is not necessarily a "better" one. As far as re-grading, ice grades are ephemeral to begin with since they are so condition-dependent, so while that doesn't mean a grade in say a guidebook should be changed, there's nothing wrong with self-reporting a different grade for different conditions and style of ascent (unfortunately that only seems to occur in one direction; when a climb is repeated in easier conditions than the first ascent, all too many climbers are more than happy to tick the guidebook grade).
> I can see no logical reason why an ascent of the Snotter in these conditions is considered poor form.
The issue is,
'Is it appropiate to give a climb a 'scottish winter' grade when the crux of that climb, and the difficulties on which the grade is based, consists of climbing dry rock?'
If you consider the answer to that question to be 'no' then it is logical to question the recording of 'Snotter' under the scottish system.
(No harm in giving it an 'M' grade though, but that might start another debate!)
DM himself didn't give it a Scottish winter grade and is against it getting a winter grade.
> "Better" is totally subjective, so no, a "harder" ascent is not necessarily a "better" one.
So should Dave have waited until it formed completely and been lauded for a fine ascent?
> DM himself didn't give it a Scottish winter grade and is against it getting a winter grade.
Isnt that the crux then? If it doesnt have a winter grade then does it belong on The Ben?
> It seems the bigwigs at the SMC have taken it upon themselves to arbitrarily dictate that this route is not valid, this has certainly not been a democratic process and leaves a bad taste in the mouth, they are laying down the law on something so highly subjective, this descision has left a lot of climbers confused.
I was going to keep quiet since the truth as always is halfway between the extremes. But I have to say that Scottishwinterclimbs.com is nothing to do with the SMC and any criticism or praise is Simon's own opinion.
As I said above, I wonder if the snotter would have had a different reception without the white noise / white nonsense distractions.
Try taking Dave's route description for this in isolation without the photos:
" Anyway, the reason it took me so by surprise was the focus on the section of overhanging wall to get between the ice grooves below and the hanging icicle above. I deliberately went on the route because the recent sunny conditions has been good for helping the grooves below the icicles to become iced. In the 55 metre crux pitch, around 47 metres was climbed on water ice, with 6 metres crossing a grossly overhanging wall underneath the roof to get to the icicle. The 30 metres of grooves below the roof were climbed on ice, initially stepped iced slabby ledges, then a thin ice smeared rib and groove, apart from a few hooks on the right of the ice. Once on the icicle, there was a long section (15 metres at least) before the angle even started to lie back.The downside of this mix of conditions was that the overhanging wall itself was pretty dry. My thinking was that this is par for the course for this type of route. The sun helps more ice form, but at the expense of the rime. My interpretation (which may be ‘wrong’ if such a judgement can truly be made) of Scottish winter conditions is that basically the route must be wintery in appearance. If it was nearly all dry mixed with a little ice, it would be outside that definition and I would have come back another time. But the reality was the pitch was nearly all ice with a short section of dry rock."
I think it would be actually really good to have your opinion Andy as I'm sure you've seen this type of discussion many times before and perhaps have been one of the parties yourself in the past.
Ian may well not be a member, but he is certainly towing the party line, just a little peeved he didn't get in there first, me thinks.
We had a vision of this back in the nineties as being Scotlands answer to Lowes octopusy in Vail(Remember how futuristic that looked), shame I wasn't good enough.
Have I put my foot in it again.
You're right - my mistake, sorry.
SR has stated that the SMC will not be recording this as a valid ascent, has he not.
> Ian may well not be a member, but he is certainly towing the party line, just a little peeved he didn't get in there first, me thinks.
In reply to Fergal
Given that Dave MacLeod is a member of the SMC I don't think we have a party line!
> Given that Dave MacLeod is a member of the SMC I don't think we have a party line!
I was thinking this too
You don't know me Fergal so I'll forgive you that sentence but both sentiments are completely wrong. While Snotter was climbed I had 9 days of the best winter climbing I've ever had in Norway, believe me it was worth missing any first ascent for that. As for party lines, you really don't know me at all ;-)
I think those who are getting upset about my opinions need to re-read what I wrote - I was very strong about White Noise, whilst for Snotter I wrote
'The Snotter is more subtle, and judging by the internet responses I’ve seen perhaps splitting opinion. Some feel that because the hanging icicles were such a focus of the route that it justifies accessing via bare rock. My own view is that it’s an unfair Scottish winter ascent. Obviously with that much ice the route isn’t a summer climb and I’m fully aware that many ascents of winter lines have been made in marginal conditions, where the odd section has moves on bare rock. However with The Snotter the whole of the crucial section of the route is seemingly devoid of winter’s touch. That section of the route does get wintery and will have been so already this season. Dave lives pretty much at the base of the Ben, and I know he’s been injured and I’m sure was keen to get in on the action, but this major last great problem deserved to be climbed in the best possible style.'
If it's 'un-cool' to write such a mild considered opinion like that then heaven help us!
Ok so there is no party line and SR has gone up river to operate purely as a renegade, there must be some joined up thinking and policy within the SMC.
Bolts are of course a no go zone in Scotland.
Despite that there are several similarities: a last big winter climbing problem, one group of climbers who have waited a long time to climb it in the best possible style and a cutting edge climber who saw evidence of other practice and just climbed it in the new, non classical way.
Fair enough, I was being a little cheeky, good to hear you had a great trip to Norway, give my regards to Garth. I think it is probably time for me to bow out of this debate, before I really dig a hole for my self!.
> A last big winter climbing problem, one group of climbers who have waited a long time to climb it in the best possible style and a cutting edge climber who saw evidence of other practice and just climbed it in the new, non classical way.
Well, the route is still there (actually, it might have fallen down by now, but you know what I mean!) and they can still go and climb it in the best possible style (as they see it). If what is really at stake here is the kudos of the first ascent (it seems to me that this is what this discussion is to a large extent about) I would actually bet that, given the route's new found notoriety, there will be substantially more kudos attached to a subsequent ascent with superficial whiteness, than if DM had not made his ascent. And if it's got nothing to do with kudos, is the route really going to be less challenging or enjoyable because of DM's ascent?
> If what is really at stake here is the kudos of the first ascent (it seems to me that this is what this discussion is to a large extent about)
I disagree, I rather thought it was about the use of a grading system.
Ian, we all know that photos can be misleading when regarding conditions. Dave's detailed account of the Snotter from his blog, leave no doubt IMO that the route was in good winter conditions:
"I deliberately went on the route because the recent sunny conditions has been good for helping the grooves below the icicles to become iced. In the 55 metre crux pitch, around 47 metres was climbed on water ice, with 6 metres crossing a grossly overhanging wall underneath the roof to get to the icicle. The 30 metres of grooves below the roof were climbed on ice, initially stepped iced slabby ledges, then a thin ice smeared rib and groove, apart from a few hooks on the right of the ice. Once on the icicle, there was a long section (15 metres at least) before the angle even started to lie back.The downside of this mix of conditions was that the overhanging wall itself was pretty dry. My thinking was that this is par for the course for this type of route. The sun helps more ice form, but at the expense of the rime. My interpretation (which may be ‘wrong’ if such a judgement can truly be made) of Scottish winter conditions is that basically the route must be wintery in appearance. If it was nearly all dry mixed with a little ice, it would be outside that definition and I would have come back another time. But the reality was the pitch was nearly all ice with a short section of dry rock."
I can't see any doubt about the validity of Dave's ascent if the Snotter based on the detailed description he has provided.
White Noise on the other hand is clearly dry tooling, which Dave states himself.
I know I have no experience and have only climbed on the Ben once but White whatever it's called was dry tooling no doubt and it's shadow would appear to have been cast over the Snotter and that's a shame.
> I disagree, I rather thought it was about the use of a grading system.
> I disagree, I rather thought it was about the use of a grading system.
Sorry. Reread SR's blog post and his new one. The new one indeed gives the impression that his only (or at least main) issue is the use of a Scottish grade. I am now thoroughly confused. Is there a line of thought that anything goes as long as the Scottish grading system is reserved for "white" conditions? Are we to see guidebooks full of new routes given M and D grades? And I thought I was erring on the liberal side of things!
I for one don't need to read anything you wrote again, thanks. On the contrary, I have read more than enough already. I am disappointed that the words "its an unfair Scottish winter ascent" have been repeated by you. Who are you to sit in judgement?
If there is one route in Scotland that I want to repeat its the Snotter, looks like a fine and logical line. And I would assume it is now also the best known in the Scotland?
I think that ultimately repeats will speak louder than all this nonsense written in the blogs that I have mentioned and what is on this thread.
See you at the crag.
>Who are you to sit in judgement?
What a stupid thing to say. We're all one to "sit in judgment". We call it 'having an opinion'.
> I for one don't need to read anything you wrote again, thanks. On the contrary, I have read more than enough already. I am disappointed that the words "its an unfair Scottish winter ascent" have been repeated by you.
Why are you disappointed in someone expressing their opinion? You seem perfectly free to express your opinions and pass your judgements - what makes you special?
> He feels a Scottish grade doesn't reflect the North American/continental style of mixed on the Snotter and would be happy if an M grade was used.
Yes, this does seem a bit bizarre. Will the floodgates be opened with routes getting 2 grades, one for dry conditions and one for white conditions? Will this only apply to routes where the dry/white bit is to reach or leave an ice feature? This really would seem to sanction the undermining of the traditional Scottish ethic. Some clarification would certainly seem essential.
But he is also planning on deleting both of his blog entries in a few days and forgetting this ever happened. I for one think that would be a shame, as this discussion has clarified the feelings within the community, on both White Noise and the Snotter.
I'm unclear how simon's statement that "There is no question that The Snotter has now been climbed, and no question that Dave was the first to climb this feature. It is also clearly a winter climb, but it is categorising it as a Scottish winter route by giving it a Scottish winter grade that is the rub for me here." Fits with the earlier "The ascent was given a Scottish winter grade, but in my opinion it is not a Scottish winter route and I will not be recording it as such in the next edition if the SMC Ben Nevis guidebook."
Unless he had intended to record under the M6, WI5 or similar grading and was misinterpreted.
I for one had taken this originally as "would not include in the next edition", and doubt i was alone in this.
He is a lot more versed and experienced in commenting on Scottish Winter Climbing than you are.
I'm not sure about others views but if you look at my contributions to this thread you will see that my issue is with the grading system used for snotter (and I've told Dave MacLeod this).
My concerns arise from the picture of him climbing the wall toward the ice and his account that this was dry and the crux of the route.
I don't have an issue with the route being climbed, it is still a free country, just about whether it can be properly described as a 'scottish winter' route. It might be that an 'M' Grade might be the right one, or a combined grade as for instance used in the FA of Don't Die of Ignorance (VI & A3) but in this an E or M something.
What would cause me equal concern would be any attempt to erase this route from the history of climbing on Ben Nevis, it has been done, that is that. There are numerous cases of routes initially being completed in styles that were anomolous Point 5 is the obvious example, Don't Die of Ignorance even Mega Route X but in all these cases subsequent ascentionists build on the knowledge gained before. I would hate to see this go the way of the 'Fly' on Megaidh where Wieiochowski and Notteridge's contribution is often ignored.
I haven't fully formed my own views about the widespread use of M and D grades, I suspect I am on the liberal side but am open to persuasion.
I would point out that these are my views and not representative of anybody elses or of any organisation or club.
> I don't have an issue with the route being climbed, it is still a free country, just about whether it can be properly described as a 'scottish winter' route. It might be that an 'M' Grade might be the right one, or a combined grade as for instance used in the FA of Don't Die of Ignorance (VI & A3) but in this an E or M something.
Yes, but if such routes are recognised by appearing in Guidebooks with M or D grades or whatever, this might be interpreted as a green light for widespread dry tooling with all sorts of styles of first ascents being recorded by activists and the masses happily climbing Savage Slit when it more or less black and going around claiming an M4 or whatever - nightmare! This would seem to me to potentially seriously undermine the ethics of and attitude to Winter climbing. Maybe this doesn't matter; I don't know. But, like it or not, grades matter and give status to ascents.
I agree entirely. These ascents are part of the history and evolution of winter climbing and, if we lose our history, a large part of climbing's richness is lost. I would like to see all these ascents and others, along with DM's ascent of The Snotter acknowledged and recorded in future guidebooks, (after all they have happened), but without a grade attached.
If you'd taken up my suggestion to re-read my blog then you wouldn't have partially quoted that sentence but included 'MY OWN VIEW IS THAT it’s an unfair Scottish winter ascent'. You sound like you are very new to the debates that constitute a large part of climbing culture. I expressed my personal opinion about the Snotter, others have expressed theirs, Dave might change his mind about some aspect of the ascent and it's reporting or he may not, others will read the various opinions and they may be influenced in their future approach to winter climbing, they may not. All this is normal - no-one has taken Dave's axes away and said he can't play anymore.
Dave and I have had correspondence about what I was going to write, whilst he might not have liked it, he was fine with me expressing my view. He's a big enough man to handle the cut and thrust of someone at the forefront of climbing. If you're not comfortable with these type of debates what are you doing reading threads like this on UKC?
That is why I think his blog entry needs to come down. I have seen Parnell in a few videos and know some of the things he has done and he seems to be real class. As a knowledgeable person I am disappointed that he has taken it upon himself to start policing other people's ascents and hope he will come to see that there is no future in that.
Opinion on ethics is one thing, and I respect those expressed on this thread and I welcome discussion. If you belong to the deluded few who expect the Snotter to touch down then please feel free to wait as long as you wish of the route to come into the condition you wish. If you are saying that you would have down climbed from the crux when you saw that it was bare instead of cracking on as DM did, please go ahead and let us know.
However, detailed personal attacks on individual climbers and their routes are quite another thing, especially when those criticised have more than enough experience and understanding to make up their own minds, and were at least there on the day to make the call.
I cannot find an example anywhere of one climber posting an entire article or blog entry to invalidate another climbers ascent by the use of the word "unfair" in any other situation, or for a guidebook writer to come out and publicly rebuke a climber for a claimed ascent as a story in itself.
Regardless of the niceties of Scottish Winter ethics this tarnishes both the blog writers and will continue to do so until the blogs come down.
Both of them are well out of order on this point.
I think you will find the majority opinion as far as I can see. Now don't take this is an attack but looking at your profile you seem to have a background in bolted sport climbing and mixed climbing of some description, and you are based in London. If your profile is out of date then feel free to update it to reflect your Scottish experience but my initial feeling is that you are a continental climber - which is not a bad thing but it isnt our way.
And for the record I am by no means a high calibre climber but I still follow the rules we have and actively teach and pass down the trad and winter ethics to new climbers who join my mountaineering club.
The community police it. That's how our ethics works.
Would Simon or Ian have been in order tif they'd praised the ascents?
Yes your hunch is quite right.
Despite the use of the words "my own view is ...", your blog entry is offensive. Its a fig leaf at best to a rather ugly sentiment.
Your blog is politely phrased, like your post here, but offensive. And a bit personal vis a vis DM.
I just wanted to let you know as I would class myself as a fan of yours, and don't think it sits well with how you have presented yourself in the media in the past.
What?! Seriously? There have been fist fights and and trips to the lawyers in climbing's past over ethical debate. Regardless of whether Ian is totally wrong or totally right (or somewhere inbetween) calling something "unfair" is hardly fighting talk!
> Well Eric, Jimbo posted several times consecutively. His post of images was separate to the point I was answering - where he seemed to have trouble understanding the point of ethics. As to his examples - I don't think anyone would naive enough to suggest that the Snotter is the first time bare rock has been climbed in Scottish winter.
It wasn't a dig, but rather an obvious point about the variation of ethics by region, and the variability of an individual's ethics when moving from region to region. I too find aspects of ethics fascinating, and generally come down on the pretty conservative traditional line - indeed so much so that I've always regarded mixed climbing something of an oddity. So, I'm not as confused about the ethics as you suppose. Its more an expression of a personal interest in ethics in general, and climbing ethics in particular:
- ethics are formed from a "settling down" of what the community of climbers finds are acceptable standard and rules to them. Those ethics are a reflection of many individual views. It seems to me, at an individual level, many climbers are quite happy to climb dry rock between ice elsewhere in Europe, but I take the point that different ethics develop according to the general nature of the rock, the nature of conditions in an area and also the general temperament of the people too (we Brits have historically been a pretty conservative breed)
- style is also relevant here.. ..while some might agree the style can be approved upon, e.g. with obvious hoar frost on the steep rocky section before attaining the hanging ice, or a complete ice column, that isn't necessarily to be conflated with the question of whether the route is an acceptable FA, and would a full ice column really be the same route?
- in addition to adjusting their ethical standards in different locations, there also seems to be a modification of what is deemed to be acceptable either for different people, different routes or even more weirdly, the perceived value placed on a potential route. So from Henning, we have the kind of apologetic line...
but the Snotter is a long standing last problem for many of those who have shaped winter climbing on the Ben and elsewhere. And for these climbers the challenge was to make the first ascent of the Snotter in perfect style, either as a four star ice column that has touched down or at the very least as a climb with mixed moves on well hoared up rock. Seeing Dave climbing it in a different style, with a section of M-style trad-protected drytooling, feels like cheating.
...which is a view which one can certainly appreciate, but not one that seems necessary for a strict application of ethics, and appears to me to appeal to a new standard in terms of style and ethics, which is specifically: "perfect", and also doesn't seem to reflect the fact that Dave is also definitely one of those individuals who has and is shaping climbing on the Ben. This argument, that it is a last great problem, is also reflected in Simon's and your blogs, but it appears to me to be appealing to an exceptionally rigid application of an ethical standard, rather than a consistent application of a standard
- that of course brings me on to consistency... ...as Henning and you in your blog have acknowledged, there are times one makes a few moves on dry rock, but given Simon's very hard line, and a clear appeal to authority (vis a vis MCofS guidelines and SMC guidebook entries) it seems perversely harsh on Dave when there are routes published on Simon's blog that look at least as equivocal on the photographs provided, for example, particularly, the pretender (VII,9), crooked smile (VII,7), the crux of which appears quite analogous to Dave's ascent of the Snotter, and King of the Swingers (VIII,10), which though a picture from below doesn't look particularly icy or hoary, and I also wonder what might be as a grade for this route:
I started writing this yesterday am, but such as work has been haven't managed to complete it till now. I note that Simon has now posted again, and made explicit that he thinks this is a grading issue, rather than an inappropriately sunny rock for a modern mixed approach. Well the original criticism certainly didn't come across as a quibble about grading issues, especially with comments about modern mixed approaches, not to be recorded guidebook entries, and cheating etc, and b) my problem with consistency still remains. From this point of view I remain confused about the judgements being made.
- the only reason I commented, was that I thought Dave got particularly harsh criticism, despite his openness, and despite what seems to be inconsistent judgements from those commenting.
I'm sure you guys can put me right here, and would request that no blog posts be removed so that the discussion of the ethics can remain and therefore inform upon future discussions (if the problem is with tone, and unwitting insult, I'm sure apologies would suffice) and therefore be illuminating for time to come. Its also a shame that Dave removed his original entry.
You were saying that you've not seen anyone be singled out for criticism in a blog before, perhaps you don't read blogs, web forums or mags much. I for one wrote an editorial in OTE about Scott Muir's bolting actions - that was way stronger than what I've done with Dave's recent ascents. In that case I was personal - something I really regret. Of course there are many many other climbers whose actions have been criticised Maestri, David Lama etc etc. Even my own climbing on the Lafaille Route on the Dru had an editorial deeply criticising it - bizarrely in the same mag I worked for. I spat feathers for a few days but got over it.
I suspect Dave is not too bothered what I think, not because he's uncaring just that his climbing is about pushing boundaries and he knows that will at times receive criticism (as a sport scientist I think he calls this being an outlier). My blog was more directed at those heading to Scotland who might be impressionable - novices and those reading about Dave's routes overseas. Particularly the latter - some have talked about double standards but Dave's routes were publicised in dozens of countries - which is why I wrote about Dave's and not some other ascents which have seemed dubious to me.
>I cannot find an example anywhere of one climber posting an entire article or blog entry to invalidate another climbers ascent by the use of the word "unfair" in any other situation, or for a guidebook writer to come out and publicly rebuke a climber for a claimed ascent as a story in itself.
Frankly this comment betrays such an enormous ignorance of climbing history as to make it clear that your views are those of a total imbecile.
By definition that is double standards... You picked on this route, plain and simple. From ethics point of view, this is treadin' on very thin ice. Simply it is allowed for all, or for none. But not something in between.
Hi Robert,I strongly agree with both yourself and Roger regarding your last para...
Both Simon and Dave have said they're going to remove their respective comments and photo's from their blogs and forget about the routes. To quote When Harry Met Sally "...it's already out there..." so you can't really forget about them. And I don't think we should forget about them - the comments, photographs and the debate on here are part of, as you describe Richard, our history and richness.
For me, whatever people's personal feelings about these routes, they have kept Scottish Winter Ethics to the fore as being, in my opinion the best in the world. That is worth preserving. In order to test accepted norms people have to push the boundaries to enable a consensus to be arrived at. Both Simon and Dave should be congratulated for facilitating this (albeit maybe unwittingly !).
For me, Scottish Winter Climbing is the best climbing in the world - long may the climbing and debating continue....
He also climbed Snotter which I felt wasn't in full Scottish winter condition, since the two routes were publicised together I also wrote about that route - being careful to separate the two, and temper my criticism about the Snotter compared to White Noise so that people like you wouldn't get confused.
If Dave had only climbed the Snotter I would have had a word in private, as I have done recently to a good friend when I saw photos of his ascent that seemed over the line to me personally.
I explained in my blog (have you read it?) why I might be treating Dave more harshly due to his position as the most influential climber in the UK, and poster boy for Scottish winter climbing. I've also restated that on this thread. If that isn't clear then...!
> He also climbed Snotter which I felt wasn't in full Scottish winter condition, since the two routes were publicised together I also wrote about that route - being careful to separate the two, and temper my criticism about the Snotter compared to White Noise so that people like you wouldn't get confused.
> If Dave had only climbed the Snotter I would have had a word in private, as I have done recently to a good friend when I saw photos of his ascent that seemed over the line to me personally.
> I explained in my blog (have you read it?) why I might be treating Dave more harshly due to his position as the most influential climber in the UK, and poster boy for Scottish winter climbing. I've also restated that on this thread. If that isn't clear then...!
Yes, I've read your blog, what was posted on Scottish Climbs and even through this whole tread.
And I've asked numerous times in this tread why some other ascents should be treated differently than Daves Snotter.
This is the double standards I'm talkin' about. White noise is a pure drytooling route. But Pretender and King of Swings are published as OK winter routes. Yet according to you (and more to the point Scottish Climbs) says, Snotter is not a (Scottish) winter climb.
From my outsider view, if drytoolin' on non white rock even to access ice (drytoolin' less than 10% of the crux pitch) is not valid of a winter route. Fine, so be it. But then how come some other route that atleast from description and photos is way more drytooling, albeit some of the edges have a bit more snow on them (report photos also from above and slabby, vs. Snotter photo from below and overhanging sheltered roof to access the icicle).
Kind regards occasional reader of Climb
I take your point about your focus on "white noise" (though your strength of focus on that point was tempered by your opening recognition that Dave at least appeared to view it as a dry tooled route, which of course you strongly disagree with the appropriateness of) i.e. Dave knew what he was doing, and you think that was wrong. However, the point is you didn't have a quiet word regarding the Snotter, you put your comments out there, and which you regard as "unfair" and which in one sense is good because at least what you, and Simon and others on UKC think can inform upon the rest of the climbing community and can be learnt from. Other than this, your posts / blogs don't resolve what I maybe wrongly see as inconsistencies with regard to other ascents that appear to have been applauded on blogs. Though you say you speak to others about there ascents, that doesn't help the rest of us, and I suspect that the issue of climbers climbing dry rock between ice is far more prevalent in subsequent ascents of routes than it is in FAs. So how would you describe where you see this line? What about those other ascents that I've mentioned and linked to above?
However I acknowledge the above theory to be difficult to compute, as I think the real issue that has been kicked up is due to the fact that Mr MacLeod has climbed a highly valued prize, The Snotter, under what appears to some to be a continental mixed approach - foreign to Scottish ethics. He did however state, as has been pointed out already, that the cracks were well iced. For many people iced cracks on steeper drier sections of climbs is enough to warrant an ascent. So this is where the issue with consistency comes into play.
The issue of consistency I personally think is not one that can be answered or ever be clear cut. I think it comes down to the individual's moral compass on the day. At the end of the day we climb for the self satisfaction gained from battling with yourself and pushing your own body. Therefore if you climb Route X successfully in dry conditions you may feel okay about it, but if you climb Route X successfully in over a foot of rime then you will feel fantastic about it, as you have succeeded with a greater challenge. So it is down to the individual and where they put the line of acceptable and unacceptable with respect to conditions - this isn't ever going to change and at the end of the day you are only kidding yourself climbing a route that isn't in condition, so if that is fine with that individual then there is nothing that can be done about it.
I remember reading a post from Andy Nisbet a while ago, where he raised the important point that back in the days of step cutting up gullies, the climbers would await for the 'easiest' step cutting conditions in order to climb their route. This is the exact same situation today for those pushing the grades on hard mixed, whereby a new hard mixed route is a much 'nicer' proposition with cosmetic hoar than it would be under heavy rime - granted the big hitters do climb in both conditions; I remember vaguely the debate that ensued after Pete MacPherson and Guy Roberston climbed Super Rat in the Dubh Loch, only for a week later, a fantastic picture of Mr MacPherson on lead in Lochnagar climbing through 2 feet of very steep rime, can't remember which route unfortunately - whither the photo was to prove a point or not I don't know!
With respect to the photo of Mr Robertson on 'Parallel Grooves' last Friday, this photo was taken the following day:
Friday 1st March
Saturday 2nd March
Safe to say a wintery Lochnagar but again the issue of consistency. The rock isn't hoared but the crag is clearly in winter condition? I personally have no issue with Mr Robertson's ascent and have climbed myself in such conditions where the crag is 'black' but an ascent wouldn't have been possible without the frozen turf, iced cracks and neve ledges. Nor have I any issue with Mr MacLeod's ascent of The Snotter - he was completely open and honest about it, but at the same time I can understand why others would have an issue. So again, it is where the individual draws their own ethical line.
If some clear cut line can be found from this discussion, great, however I cannot see how that will ever be possible.
I'll let other climbers defend their own routes. But to be clear if we are concentrating on Snotter, then I wouldn't have written a blog about it, but had a word privately, this is something I did yesterday to another climber about another route - no double standards. Also I agree there are quite a few mixed first ascents that have been marginal or at times over the line (it is something that has happened throughout Scottish winter history).
It's also worth noting that the 'must be white ethic' is a very simplistic summary of the Scottish winter ethic. Different criteria are applied on different cliffs and rock types. Certain cliffs are known to hoar up very readily and so it would be expected that they should be climbed in that fully white style. Other cliffs are more problematic - the Shelter Stone for example is notorious for the top half hoaring up well but the bottom being much leaner. There were big debates around the first ascent of the winter steeple re conditions for example. Also Beinn Eighe the cliff where King of the Swingers is in the NW of Scotland, only ever hoars up lightly. The interpretation of how much light hoar is enough to justify an ascent is one that has had different answers from different climbers. A cliff like Beinn Bhan in the NW which relies largely on frozen turf is seen as in winter condition primarily when the turf is fully frozen. So if the cliff was relatively white but the turf unfrozen then the routes wouldn't be seen as in winter condition.
I suspect the Snotter has 'seemingly' been singled out because it was publicised alongside White Noise which was such a provocative route. Other ascents in fact have been 'ignored by the record books' - Simon describes on his blog Charly Fritzers first attempt on his route next to Happy Tyroleans for example.
I should state that all the posts here are my personal opinion and not those of my day job at Climb.
I’ve spent a fair few days on the Ben this winter in a variety of conditions. I was on the Ben the day The Snotter was done and I watched Dave attempt White Noise. I saw ascents of Sidewinder and Route 1 direct where pitches of the routes were climbed on bare rock, clearly to me, out of condition.
My overall feeling especially as I watched in wonder as Dave climbed White Noise was a sinking feeling of dread that the ethic of ‘Scottish (British) winter climbing’ that I grew up on, was being slowly eroded/changed.
The influence of global mixed climbing by dry tooling on rock, lowland dry venues and indoor tooling at walls all serve to change forever the way climbers approach winter climbing in the UK. Change is not necessarily a bad thing as technical ability of those climbing today is way way higher than I could achieve by serving my apprenticeship of climbing ice when it was there, mixed when it was not and nothing when conditions were out.
The question has to be do we want to preserve it or do we want to see it change into something else?
It’s interesting to see the reaction of visiting Euro climbers when introduced to our ethics. Worryingly, they seem to understand it better than some Brits!
The challenge for them is not physical but psychological.. the gear, the weather, the rime and hoar frost… and they all love it!
I remember a conversation with Godfrey Perroux on one of his many pilgrimages to Scotland with his clients. ‘Why do you do it? Why, when you have wonderful icefalls, guollottes and mountains in your back yard?’ The answer was simple.. the challenge is different, the ethical boundaries set by the community on fixed belays, bolts and conditions. His clients wanted to accept that challenge, they wanted to play within the boundaries and when they were met, not to accede to their way of beating the challenge.
This is not a dig at DM, many other top end ascents have shown little or no ‘whitening’ on large sections as shown by posts earlier. This is the way winter climbing is heading, pushing harder and steeper and a tipping point will be reached.
Personally, I don’t care for either ascent. (who care what I think anyway) I’ve been to the base of the Snotter when nearly formed. (2m short). No way could I have climbed the mixed section but the whole point of the route to me was the ice pillar. Maybe this is why it’s been left alone. V111, 8 is doable by many top end climbers over the years but they left it alone, what does that say? Maybe the pure challenge of waiting for it to be right has been missed and an opportunity taken to just get it done. But what is right? For this climbing is to exist in the UK our ethic has to change.
The issue here is that he said the crux was dry and that combined with the photo of him climbing the wall calls me to question the use of a 'scottish winter' grade.
Don't get me wrong, it looks like an excellent, and very hard, day out, its just that its in a different paradigm from what I know as 'scottish winter'
For those who haven't seen this photo, google the snotter 'dave macleod ben nevis', there are four or five photos just about at the bottom of the page, the most relevant seems to be on a Japanese site yukiyama.co.jp
you can design it though.....good luck
So yes if the crux was entirely dry then a Scottish grade isn't applicable and a continental mixed grade and water ice grade should be applied. But again this is where the inconsistency comes in as other routes have passed under the bridge no problems, why not this one? Because it is a prized route? So the real discussion really should be about whither or not continental style mixed climbing (climbing dry rock to access an ice feature) should be accepted? Obviously climbing dry rock with no ice features in sight should not be accepted. Granted it could start a slippery slope, but it could be argued with the hard mixed routes getting put up at present we are already on the slippery slope. I think an adaptation of the current Scottish Winter grade system may be in order....
I suspect this openness is more whats raising the hackles.
I am very happy to let you and some others above to have the last word on this and appreciate that you have come on here to explain your thoughts and at who they were aimed.
Over the ages has been plenty of criticism of routes climbed, and the climbers who climbed them, along with doubts about what has actually been climbed or not, and discussions about the suitability and future of anything from replacing pegs to chalk to knee pads to spurs in mixed climbing, to pads on trad ascents, to name but a few recent ones, with plenty of opinions on both sides.
But never, ever have I come across a specific blog such as yours that had as its principal purpose to disallow another person's climb because "it is an ascent by unfair means". The other blog was even more extraordinary. Please feel free to link me in the direction of one or two examples if you have any in mind.
An article on David Lama's Red Bull team was critical of putting more bolts in and leaving tons of rope on Cerro Torre while filming, and rightly so. Can you point to a blogpost that disallowed his effort and claimed it was "an ascent by unfair means?" I don't think so. Followed by a guide book writer who said that he would not be recording the ascent in the guidebook? I don't think so.
Did anyone at the time come forward and say that Maestri should not credited with the FA of the (monstrous, grotesque) compressor route? I don't think so. Was the compressor route left out of the guidebook? I don't think so.
Its your blog, Mr. Parnell, as you can see from this thread you have many supporters on here, and you are of course free to say what you like on it (within reason). Go ahead and give your views on conditions ethics. But there are other, bigger, ethical considerations to bear in mind, such as respecting your fellow climbers and what they do. To me it is obvious they have gone AWOL in your blog and that still needs to be urgently addressed, and the sooner the better for you.
My purpose in this is not at all to protect DM, who as you say might not be too fussed, but to make it clear that not all people think it's fine for ascents to be publicly vetted by an ethics police, and that some will find it distasteful and disappointing when top climbers such as yourself indulge in it.
> Followed by a guide book writer who said that he would not be recording the ascent in the guidebook? I don't think so.
The guidbook writer didn't say he would not be recording the ascent.
Sorry, he said that
"The ascent was given a Scottish winter grade, but in my opinion it is not a Scottish winter route and I will not be recording it as such in the next edition if the SMC Ben Nevis guidebook."
Feel free to point me in the direction of the post in which similar is said about Lama or Maestri.
See my post above, stating that you will not record something as a scottish winter route (ie with a scottish grade) and saying it will not be recorded at all are not the same thing.
I, like you, originally interpreted this as meaning it would not be included, but given Simon's second post it appears this interpretation is incorrect.
That could be interpreted as meaning it will not be recorded with Scottish winter grade. To be fair, I think it is confusing and I certainly assumed initially it meant not recorded at all.
As to what I should do with my blog - it contains my opinions, I still stand by every word I wrote, it won't be deleted or amended like others. If you find that disrespectful, 'uncool', 'distasteful or disappointing etc. that's fine I can live with that. The world is made up of many opinions, and is richer for that.
Can't argue with that! And thanks for taking the time to comment here too. And BTW, your Norway trip looks awesome, v jealous!
Last post for me, I don't want to hog this thread any more. Thanks again. With regret I have to accept your decision.
One last thing though.
We are all agreed that Maestri did not do his first route to the top of Cerro Torre as claimed BITD.
We are also all agreed that his subsequent Compressor Route was a rape of the mountain.
Like I said though no-one at the time ever disputed his FA. Or came out specifically to say that it would not be recorded or be recorded as something other than the climb that it was, which is what has happened here.
I'm not sure if any others have the crux on the dry rock though, I may be wrong.
As for reforming the grading system if we start trying to debate that it will make this thread look tiny.
I'm tempted to say 'well that's a problem for your generation)' In fact I will...enjoy yourselves:)
Would it be OK to climb Tower Gap with campons and ice axes in Summer?
Oh for goodness' sake, man.
Out of the reasonably large number of examples UK climbing history affords of routes being written out of guidebooks I give you Alec Sharp on A Midsummer Night's Dream, one of Wales' greatest hard classics.
"I'm afraid that however good a route AMSND may be, it won't be going in the next guide until it's been led without the bolt. In fact, nothing on Cloggy which uses bolts will be described in any form."
They weren't, either. Rowland Edwards' Girdle of the West Buttress wasn't, for example, owing to the bolt ladder across the wall The Black Cleft.
What beats me about ignoramuses like yourself is why you do it. Surely you must realise you don't know anything about climbing history, so why do you shout so loudly about it? It's not as though there aren't plenty of other things you could shout about.
> Would it be OK to climb Tower Gap with campons and ice axes in Summer?
Yes? Why would you want to though?
> <Would it be OK to climb Tower Gap with campons and ice axes in Summer?>
Precisely. It wouldn't make sense; it would feel contrived and silly. And that is why the crags are not going to get overrun with armies of dry-toolers (I think people deserve more credit), and why DM's routes are not really a dangerous precedent; they presumably both felt to him like logical and uncontrived solutions to problems - yes, a bit controversial, but not exactly heralding the end of winter climbing as we know it.
I was hoping there might be some enlightenment on this issue with regard to the links I posted and climbs mentioned, e.g. Greg Boswell's "Crooked Smile" which he describes:
Start just left of the smirk below a steep bulge. There is an obvious icy fan hanging down from the lip of the big roof (when in condition) 1. 25m. Climb the short bulge up and left to a turfy band/break in the steep wall. Traverse the steep wall leftwards (Bold) to the thin Ice fan. Gain the ice with difficulty (tenuous) and climb the hanging pillar to the cave/ledge. Belay. 2. 40m. Step left out of the cave and delicately climb the steep ice to a large snowy ledge, at the back of the ledge there is another steep ice wall, climb this to its top and finish up the easy ground as for "The Smirk".
And on his blog it sounds like the rock just below and then getting established onto the ice fan represent the crux, which might make it quite analogous to Dave's climb of the Snotter, but I am most likely not aware of iced up cracks, frozen turf etc but on the face of it there doesn't appear much difference between the two routes pictures. I'm also still interested in whether anyone can enlighten further on the condition, and the crux, in some of the other routes I linked to and mentioned above.
Also, a question to those climbing at this kind of grade. When you read Dave's description of the climbing and Simon's interpretation that the crux is on the dry part of the route, do you appreciate what that means in terms of imagining what the climbing must feel like? I.e. do you have enough experience of dry rock to know what a scottish winter grade would mean in that context? Or is this issue with grading purely an attempt to define what's in and what's not.....?
Yes, I think that precedent setting is unlikely. The potential drivers for dilution of consistent ethics seem to me to be the want to climb routes of increasing difficulty and steepness, on increasingly mixed / rocky ground (increasing the chance of some dry rock), and the usual ones, such as increasing numbers of wall initiated climbers lacking much apprenticeship or historical awareness heading out to do their thing...
The difference in feel inspired by those two pics is immense.. ..not seen a right up on Parallel Grooves yet, but looking forward to it.
> Simon's interpretation that the crux is on the dry part of the route
To be fair I think that that comes from Dave's account.
I belayed and seconded Greg on that route, so I can probably fill in some detail. The initial bulge you climb to gain the turfy break was caked in crusty ice (on anything horizontal) that day so it was properly wintery - it might be harder without the ice actually, as the crust was making otherwise flat hooks feel more secure. To get to the ice from there, there were maybe three moves before you could get tools into it. One was on a small chockstone, the other two a piece of frozen turf and a (dry) hook / torque thing. The actual crux came once you had your axes into (thin) ice to the right of the main smear, doing a steep pumpy move / lockoff left to acccess thicker ice and more secure climbing from the thin ice placements. From there, pure ice climbing to top. Your feet were perhaps on more dry rock than your axes, but for me it was fair game as a winter route without question.
I still don't know a definitive answer to your question as to whether it's a "scottish" route. Both tools and feet were on dry rock at brief points but the difficulties mainly involved ice and Udlaidh feels like a bit of a "continental" venue to me so it seemed quite in the spirit of things there. I never know what counts these days. Best not to worry about too much and just get on with enjoying your climbing perhaps......
It may be a little late to post this as most people left seem reasonable but;
I think we ought to remember that this whole debate has arisen because of a disagreement over acceptable conditions and grades between two of the most active and enthusiastic climbers in Scotland both of whom are passionate about Scottish winter climbing. It is not about egos and who has done the first ascent of this or that, or is x route harder than y route. It is about the direction in which the spoort is going. There are no conspiracies or plots to do one or the other down.
Both of these men have deep personal integrity, but both are human and humans are sometimes intemperate, express themselves awkwardly or let their enthusiasm run away with them.
This whole discussion started because of Dave's honest reporting and Simon's honest response in not ducking the issue.
I am great friends with Simon and have a passing aquaintance with Dave. I have a massive respect for both them and for their opinions. I respect their opinions even when I disagree with them (and that happens with both) as those opinions are based on reason and experience.
Can we leave out the personalities and just discuss the issues?
As I said I hope that is now an unescessary rant!
I don't much about that route Erik except it looks scary, but I suspect that that is one where the crux is the ice
> I still don't know a definitive answer to your question as to whether it's a "scottish" route. Both tools and feet were on dry rock at brief points but the difficulties mainly involved ice and Udlaidh feels like a bit of a "continental" venue to me so it seemed quite in the spirit of things there. I never know what counts these days. Best not to worry about too much and just get on with enjoying your climbing perhaps......
Thanks alot for that response. It certainly sounds like through the crux section isn't just dry rock, but then, as you say, how much is too much, and is a more continental approach justified? Totally agree with the latter, though, and its good to see that that is clearly what Dave has been doing too!
> Frankly this comment betrays such an enormous ignorance of climbing history as to make it clear that your views are those of a total imbecile.
A fantastic riposte in comparison to the rather more measured responses of others :-)
And that's as near as I'm going!
Very interesting blog post by Guy Robertson:
He has hit the nail on the head, couldn't agree more!
Guy's comments nicely sum it up.
Pity he can't spell fazed or cognoscenti, but yes, interesting.
shame he has a pop at ukc armchair pundits for focussing on white noise because, actually, I think the majority of this thread has in fact focussed on the snotter - and debated many of the points he himself raised - admittedly he has put it quite well, albeit with bad spelling ;) As he says, White Noise seems an aberration and confuses the real issues (if there are any at all) around the snotter. It seems the debate on ukc followed the same route as him to be honest.
> He has hit the nail on the head, couldn't agree more!
Yes. It's about the aesthetics (ie it feels logical) and that does not necessarily mean the whole route has to be white. Perfect common sense. Obvious really.
He says he thought it is ironic that the focus of debate had been on the Snotter, when the aberration is actually white noise.
Good to see the alternative view, which I was pretty sure was out there! Though I wasn't judging (and rather trying to reveal apparent inconsistencies in acceptability and criticism) I should probably apologise for highlighting "parallel grooves", which I'd seen on Pete Benson's photostream, so sorry to Ian and Guy on that one. In any case, I agree with Guy and like the fact that this brings the debate back to an aesthetic and logical appeal to an ethic based on weaknesses up rocks due to ice, with some bridging on dry rock not being deemed out just because its dry, or involves the crux.
> Pity he can't spell fazed or cognoscenti, but yes, interesting.
Yes that completely ruined the article for me. Can't believe he would make such basic errors. It ment i could hardly understand the article.
What a stupid comment!
he says (referred to White Noise),,
"as reflected in the climbing community’s total disinterest in the route (UKC armchair pundits excepted, of course). "
he also spent 95% of his blog talking about the snotter, which is more or less reflected on this thread.
so, whilst (I think) we all agree the aberration is white noise, just like ukc he spent almost his entire blog discussing the snotter.
There was similar on facebook as well - struck me as a bit of a cheap shot and a way of avoiding a debate. Firstly, as there are people like Ian and Roger contributing to this thread, or Neil - who it turns out belayed Greg on one of the routes under discussion, and others like Erik, Fergal and Robert who seem to have done a shed load of Scottish routes to a high standard, including new routes between them, it's hardly like it's a bunch of people who only climb the 5+s at Portland discussing it. Secondly, a lot of people on this thread agree with Guy's position; and thirdly it seems that who he is really arguing against is Simon Richardson not us "armchair pundits"! With Simon being the Nevis guide editor and with his reports for Climb and his blog, have sort of made him the 'journal of record' as much as the SMCJ these days. It was his position on the Snotter that Guy seems to be taking exception to.
Toby <posting from a sofa, not an armchair; but I have been ice climbing this afternoon!>
an interesting dynamic this one, some clear splits in the scene, pretty bloody ridiculous if you ask me.
Fergal, bet you feel vindicated by Tony Stone and Wry Gob joining the fray, was a close run thing you getting drowned out by the parnells of this world :)
Erik what are your views on all this? I'm beginning to wonder if I'm a dinosaur and have missed some fundamental change or I'm ahead of my time in accepting M and D grades.
I don't follow the problem with white noise as long as it has a D grade, I doubt it will catch on, but if it does then its fewer on the hill.
I think Simon is a little unfairly in the firing line for expressing his view, too many people going for the man not the ball.
I was going to post some views on dry rock here, they're on Guy's blog but I'm not sure I'll bother as there is so much wilful misinterpretation.
It's a pity as there is a proper debate to be had here as to where is the sport going, do we want it to go there, and does our grading system adequately describe what is going on.
I had a bit of an eyeopener at Martin Moran's crag in the summer when I found I could climb harder cracks with tools than without!
It seems along time since I waded up to Rev Teds gully in the late 70s.
UKC Armchair quarterback here! I do feel that most of the time, I am in a majority of one on this site, it can be frustrating and there is a lot of uninformed opinion, but I am passionate about climbing.
This debate got me fired up, because I feel Dave has suffered an injustice, this route should be recognised for what it is, an outstanding line, climbed by one of todays most prolific exponents of hard cutting edge climbing, end of.
You mentioned Foobarbundee, on the first ascent tension was used to get onto the smear, fine bit of line banditry from Hesildon, plucked from under the nose of Martin Moran, who was working in the corrie that day...or so the story goes.
I'll have to post my own dry rock views, wait one. I've somehow got to retrieve them from Guy's blog.
At the risk of getting ripped to pieces.
I was trying to come up with a definition of my own philosophy this morning and this is what i came up with.
Dry rock is just that, it does not include icy cracks, frozen turf, heavy powder (but does iclude the light stuff you can brush off), the rock beside the bit of ice or turf you happen to be climbing.
If you want to give a route a winter grade the dry section should be significantly easier than the crux and not significant in length compared to the length of route.
Others may disagree, please note that if you do I won't thik that you are evil and I would hope you would feel the same about me.
These are my views and not those of the FSB, CIA, MOSSAD or the SMC.
Now given that I don't think most routes on Mainreachan Buttress would ever have a problem with being 'scottish winter' ones, if they didn't then yes I would be looking at least at a composite grade.
Erik your example is a little disingenuous as Mainreachan is rather different from the rock on snotter and I cannot imagine a photo taken on Mainreachan ever showing the same extent of clean dry rock. But then again its examples like that that test a theory so nice pick!
Nothing wrong with banditry!
I only use M grades as an example of a not 'scottish winter' one, no reason why you shouldn't have VII,6,5b or something like that.
I do think that the new tools have done for the present system as front points and twin axes did for the one before.
I don't think I'm with you on the crux not mattering, open to persuasion though, will consuder it at work tomorrow!
Can you pick any holes in my 'dry rock' definition?
you're not wrong, I'm regretting sticking my head above the parapet!
So where is that? Sounds useful; some dry-tooling giving more relevant practice for winter climbing than Newtyle would be good!
Serious question to Ian P. and others (not trying to start anything up, legitimately wondering): when British climbers go to Alaska (and elsewhere) and give FAs a Scottish winter grade, does it mean those climbs had to have been done in "Scottish winter conditions" or is that just out of habit/familiarity? Because I've seen some pics of Alaska routes given grades like VI/6 that featured tons of bare rock and water ice (which of course is pretty typical of Alaska alpine on Denali, mountains in the Ruth Gorge, etc.).
Its up beyond Loch Carron, unless you're into gross overhangs, which I'm not it is probably no more relevant than Newtyle.
As I seem to be in a minority of one in being concerned about the use of 'scottish winter' grades to describe dry rock (please see my definition) I'm going to bow out.
I've said what I think, it doesn't seem to chime with anyone elses views and I'm not sure if more than a few actually read them anyway.
That photo of leading up to the ice still looks more like a continental mixed route to me than 'scottish' one, no harm in that, but anomolous, in my view, to give a 'scottish' grade.
Erik I think you're wrong about the crux not being the dictator of the grade but am happy to amicably disagree, and entertain the thought that I may be wrong, as you do consider things.
> Can you pick any holes in my 'dry rock' definition?
Do you conceive of an upper limit of difficulty and restriction in the available new routes at the highest grades climbed 100% on ice (ie non-dry as per your dry rock definition)? Is there not some inevitability in increasing the climbing on "dry rock" as our best ice climbers seek out new ice lines in Scottish winter?
Also, when ice weaknesses often define the lines that are tackled is it not inevitable that crux sections will not infrequently occur on dry rock between those ice features? If such routes are not given Scottish winter grades, is there not a risk that you jettison the associated ethics and perversely encourage the egress into a new approach into such routes with perhaps a continental or new grading approach? And in so doing rendering the Scottish winter grading system historical? Whereas, it seems to me that despite all this discussion, there is no desire of climbers to subvert the ideals Scottish winter ascents.
"I do think that the new tools have done for the present system as front points and twin axes did for the one before."
Good point Roger. I also think it is the type of top end new routes that are doing for the current grading system. Snotter has been climbed - it can't just be forgotten about, and in my opinion nor should it be.
So,for the sake of debate, a suggestion...
Where there are sections of bare rock within a winter route, why not combine a Scottish Grade with a Mixed Grade? eg. VI,5/M5 ?
Can of worms opened...
I know I said I was bowing out but Andrew you have no idea how good it is to find that there is another human being who doesn't think I'm talking nonsense!
Erik I've just spent a boring morning and have come around to your view about difficulty but then lose you again as I've also come back to the conclusion that it's the crux that dictates the grade but then the most difficult bit of climbing isn't necessarily the crux (ok it is in sport).
I remember a route I did with Jon Lyall on Cul Mor, Cul Cats VII,6, after John had done what was the most difficult pitch I was then horrified to find that the next rope length was sustained 5/6ish ground with I think one rubbish runner. That pitch was the crux but not the most difficult if you see what I mean.
So then I would need a definition for 'crux' and the whole thing starts to look like 'The Winter Grades(Scotland)Act 2013' and if any such act ever existed I would happily and pointedly breach every provision it had.
either I'm misunderstanding you or you me. My definition is trying to exclude everything except rock which you would happily climb in your rockshoes. Everything that isn't that is in. (but bear in mind this is a work in progress)
Your second paragraph describes exactly the oucome that I would hope to avoid but fear we are heading towards.
I do find though that if I preface my thoughts on this matter with 'Meanwhile in Yorkhill Childrens Hospital/ Damascus/ Afgahnistan' a sense of proportion emerges and I stop fearing things.
Plenty of other people talk nonsense on UKC so I don't see why you shouldn't either! He! He!
No, seriously, you're not talking nonsense - the climbing is oustripping the grading system and the idea that more routes of this nature (eg Snotter) are not going to be climbed is fanciful. It requires a rejigged grading system to accommodate them - not just say it didn't happen, nor that it won't happen again in the future.
In reply to yourself and Erik about the "crux" issue - I've always thought the notion of a crux on a winter route to be a bit spurious to be honest because it depends so much on conditions. NEB is a case in point - when I did it the Mantrap (supposed crux) was built up and easy, the 40' Corner was bare (M3!?) and I found it hard. However, I have to agree with Erik that the crux should be defined by the hardest technical climbing...hang on, I think I've just argued against myself there...
Boldness required - new grading system required...
The loose use of the term M grade (by me and others) has also caused a diversion in this debate.
I am not trying to say that routes such as snotter should have M grades, I'm trying to say that they do not fit in the current system, and if we use that system to describe routes such as snotter then it will end up being used to describe routes such as white noise.
My argument is that snotter is far from the norm of scottish winter. In this route, according to Dave MacLeod's account, the crux was crossing the dryrock wall to reach the 'grade VI ice'.
Given that the sections of route that were clearly scottish winter were VI then the VIII,8 was given for the dry rock.
If that is acceptable use of 'scottish winter' grading for that route then it is acceptable for all and will be used as an example by others.
If that is acceptable why shouldn't white noise get a winter grade?
I am arguing for a modification of the grading system to take account of routes like snotter, I don't argue that it should somehow be extirpated. The problem with a whole new grading system is that it would cost a fortune in time and money. So a 'scottish grade plus' is my view.
If that was adopted then routes like white noise would never get into the scottish winter system.
To make myself clear on that issue I don't think white noise shoild be extirpated either. (or any other route)
It is a great pity that Dave Macleod took down the pictures that illustrated the debate and replaced them with one that sheds no light on the issue. It is also a great pity that Simon, given that he decided to comment instead of simply not including the route on his blog, didn't report the route, show the pictures and then use his blog to put forward his arguments.
Both actions have, I believe unintentionally, turned (within the pointless world of winter climbing) an important point of debate into an unfocussed argument.
This has resulted into a great deal of huff and noise.
problem is, now may be the time!!!! :)
(I meant to delete the last line of my last post, unecessary)
Same problem exists on multi pitch summer rock climbs though, where an "easier" pitch might provide the actual crux through boldness.
In the very odd route where it creates a real issue, it might almost be worth giving individual grades to different pitches in the description (you could theoretically have a route at VII,7 in the guide where the two hardest pitches are respectively V,7 and VII,6)if you wanted to give the extra information but the text normally does an OK job of that anyway. Not sure how you would change the system to fix it without just adding loads of extra detail / numbers...
Grading systems cannot be perfect as it is the attempt to condense many factors as one or two numbers. The current Scottish winter grading system works well enough and people are used to it even if using the same grade for ice, turf, snowed up rock and gully routes will always miss something.
The alternative would be to add more letters and numbers and for example a route might then be graded as ice 4, turf 7, snowed up rock 4, boldness 3, route length 5, drytooling 4, 'traditionality' -3, post route chat potential 11. I think the Scottish winter grade plus some text to point out unusual features of the first ascent and/or the route works much better.
The current system should also suffice to describe Dave's recent routes in a way that is fair for all parties. To make an armchair grading attempt for the Snotter, it might be VI,6 overall for the ice plus some text saying that during the FA 6 m of overhanging rock were drytooled at a mixed grade of M/D8(?) to reach the freehanging ice sheet. In the history section of the guidebook it could be added that this ascent was much discussed as the Snotter was seen as a last big ice problem on the Ben and drytooling part of the route was controversial at the time (we don't know yet whether it will still be controversial in the future).
Maybe one could even record two FAs/routes if a route can vary greatly. So why not add an entry into the guidebook for the team that climbs the Snotter as a freestanding ice column? Currently first ascents and first free ascents are already recorded for the same route so this would not be that unusual and would be fair to those who feel that the Snotter should have been climbed as a pure ice route.
Anyway some precipitation, temperatures down to -8 degrees at 900 m plus some strong Easterlies should mean classic Scottish winter conditions tomorrow!
Our obsession in this country with every inch of the rock being "wintery" is just wierd. Like Guy said (and most people know) it's obvious if a route is a winter route or not when you climb it. The Scottish grading system isn't used because it describes our conditions in a way no other can, or because they are so unique (because they are not). It is just used because it is the system we have always had here for describing our winter climbs and because it relates to the summer system so folk understand (??!) it.....
It is maybe worth remembering also that many foreign M routes involve frozen turf, clearing snow, iced cracks and all the other stuff we like to pretend we have a monopoloy on too. M-grades cope fine with all that, just as the scottish system can handle a few feet of dry rock now and then. It's all just winter climbing.
I'm not sure that follows. Its one thing having a gradual egress into the occurrence of "dry rock" in ice routes, and even "dry rock" cruxs, driven by our best ice climbers seeking out new challenges in the Scottish winter on lines defined by ice, its quite another to say that this is synonymous or inevitability leads to an abandonment of the Scottish winter ethic, and an inevitable emergence of routes such as white noise. In contrast, I think that the former is just the natural consequences of a continuation in the style and spirit of Scottish winter climbing.
Yes, but the line is defined by ice features (ice being the weakness that makes the route what it is) that are bridged by an intervening region of dry rock. It happens that this is the crux, but why does that mean that the route isn't deserving of a Scottish winter grade? The VIII, 8 was given for the route as a whole, yes, extrapolation reveals that this occurs on the dry rock before grade VI ice, but that is extrapolation that deliberately tries to drive a wedge between a characterisation of the route as a whole, and the quality of the crux.
> If that is acceptable why shouldn't white noise get a winter grade?
Because it seems generally agreed that it isn't remotely in the spirit of Scottish winter climbing. Dave himself says its a clear dry tooling route.
Well what would you propose?
Can't argue with that!
I'm not so sure that that is true. Its highlighted a difference in view, and a possible breakdown in the applicability of the Scottish winter grading system. That's an important start isn't it?
but I have to point out that this thread must be bizzare to any non climbers, a bunch of grown up profressional men and women arguing about snotters! :)
> I'm not sure that follows. Its one thing having a gradual egress into the occurrence of "dry rock" in ice routes, and even "dry rock" cruxs, driven by our best ice climbers seeking out new challenges in the Scottish winter on lines defined by ice, its quite another to say that this is synonymous or inevitability leads to an abandonment of the Scottish winter ethic, and an inevitable emergence of routes such as white noise. In contrast, I think that the former is just the natural consequences of a continuation in the style and spirit of Scottish winter climbing.
If you accept that the hardest climbing on a route defines the grade then the grade in the snotter is for dry rock. If that is accepted using the system we have why should anyone bother to wait for any other route to come into condition? Competition for lines will, in my jaded view, lead to an erosion of ethics using the snotter as justification.
> Yes, but the line is defined by ice features (ice being the weakness that makes the route what it is) that are bridged by an intervening region of dry rock. It happens that this is the crux, but why does that mean that the route isn't deserving of a Scottish winter grade? The VIII, 8 was given for the route as a whole, yes, extrapolation reveals that this occurs on the dry rock before grade VI ice, but that is extrapolation that deliberately tries to drive a wedge between a characterisation of the route as a whole, and the quality of the crux.
I'm sorry I'm not sure what you mean there!
> Because it seems generally agreed that it isn't remotely in the spirit of Scottish winter climbing. Dave himself says its a clear dry tooling route.
It may not generally be accepted now but there are all sorts of people waiting in the wings. In the not to distant past there have been attempts to normalise pre-placed gear 'logical progression' and I think 'tempest' and bolts. Both concepts didn't make it but that is not inevitable and do remember that White Noise was described as 'harder than Cathedral', perhaps sa sloppy comparison but a comparison that others may take further.
Please note again, I do not say that either of those routes should not exist.
> Well what would you propose?
> Can't argue with that!
> I'm not so sure that that is true. Its highlighted a difference in view, and a possible breakdown in the applicability of the Scottish winter grading system. That's an important start isn't it?
Yes but I thought we might have got to the debate without the rancour!
Quite! at least its not Menage a Trois and I'm sure there are way worse.
Are you aware of any other scottish winter route where the grade has been determined by dry rock resulting in achange of grade from VI to VIII or the equivalent difference?
I don't think you have read my posts, and are setting up and are arguing with 'straw men'. If you do you will see that I do not argue that a route cannot have dry rock and set out why I consider it anomolous to give Snotter a 'scottish winter' grade alone as that system currently exists.
No one as far as I am aware has at any point in this debate argued that every inch of the rock should be wintry.
I think you will find that the scottish grading system is set up because it describes our approach to climbing. Its current form is certainly not the system we have always had and it was not designed to relate to our summer system. It was designed because the old system no longer adequately coped because of a change in techniques caused by a step change in technology.
Winter Routes were graded I - V, and the guidebook and reputation gave you all the information you needed. Winter climbing meant winter climbing, eg, the routes were covered in snow and ice, and it was all about having a blast, freezing your gonads off, and eating spindrift, followed by a luke warm brew while sheltering from the wind at the side of the CIC, to be followed by many beers in the pub later, where the conversation would be of adventure, laughs, and who had thawed out first - grades were irrelevant, as everyone knew they changed from one winter to the next.
I even enjoyed the old summer Scottish grades, where VS meant anything from VS to XS, and half the fun was finding out which end of the scale it was. Either way it was always about the climbing, and being out on those magnificent crags - and the scenery.
Nowadays you need a degree in binary algorithms and advanced maths to figure out what the bloody grade means.
Now where did I but my carpet slippers and my pipe :-)
I have read and not commented because I wanted to have clear ideas. I still don't.
The grading system as it stands has always worked for me. I never really had nasty surprises. If anything when I was surprised it always was with overgrading (not often).
I want to point out one more point -which I think relates to what hwacherhage says: in the UK you have a tradition of very descriptive guidebooks. I mean the text tells you a lot.
The continent doesn't: I'm looking at a serious WI5+ route of 300m description just now. 8 pitches, starred. description is shorter than quatzvein scoop on udlaidh! Crux described as "Freestanding, then narrow gully, magnificent" not even a pitch length.
Surely a grade and a text (the British way) can tell you a lot.
I have no real argument to put forward regarding the snotter and whitenoise.
Couldn't agree more I wish I hadn't got inolved in this but I'm kind of stuck!
Actually Erick I think Hwackerhage may well be right!
I know and I have to keep reminding myself that, it's to easy to get carried away by argument and lose perspective (meanwhile on the North/South Korean border...).
It was a lot better when the kit was rubbish.
> Are you aware of any other scottish winter route where the grade has been determined by dry rock resulting in achange of grade from VI to VIII or the equivalent difference? ... No one as far as I am aware has at any point in this debate argued that every inch of the rock should be wintry.
The also seem to be lots of of hard "mixed" routes that get done these days in conditions which are only really cosmetically different from dry tooling (ie rime only, little snow, no clearing needed). They probably need re-defining too if you think scottish grades shouldn't be used to grade drytool routes / sections. The grade may not change from VI to VIII but it often changes from VS to VIII......
It is so a copy of the summer system.. Both have an overall grade attempting to include seriousness and feel etc, in combination with a tech grade for the crux section to try and provide extra information. Both used to be a simper one grade system with a max grade (HVS and V). Both got expanded and had technical grades added to prevent crushing at the top grade. If you can't see how they are now the fundamentally the same system using different notation, I don't know how else I would convince you.
> It was a lot better when the kit was rubbish.
Yep - bring back molecord breeches, Galibier boots, those Norwegian wool sweaters that weighed more than a fully loaded tranny van when wet, Orange Helly Hansen cags, Dachstein Mitts, Canvas Sacs with a bin liner inside, Salawa bendy crampons and straight pick ice axes :-)
> Apologies then, I thought that was why you felt the grading system needed modifying. As to why I thought that, just supposing Dave had climbed the Snotter on a cloudy afternoon with the rock lightly rimed up, would you still be proposing to give it an M grade? If not, then surely it's because the hardest climbing was on dry rock that you think it needs a new notation to describe it? I still think that if you think it needs changing on that basis then lots of other things probably do too, Cathedral, Super Rat (maybe?), Anubis all spring to mind and there must be loads more which have featured relatively black crux sections over the years.
My apologies too if I came across as tetchy, I've been on call and have been dragged out of bed on 6 of the last 7 nights!
I've caused some confusion I think with my loose use of 'M' grade when what I really mean is it would be anomolous to give it a'scottish grade' only for the reasons I've previously given. It may well be that the simple solution proposed by Hwackerhage would suffice.
I can't see that Cathedral (photos of Greg Boswell), Anubis (Dave Macleod's gripping account) or Super Rat (would it be any easier without the roof and photos) fall into the same category at all .
There is without doubt a debate to be had there, I don't think that it is the same one as this. I'm formulating my views as to exactly why I think that and will get back to you.
> It is so a copy of the summer system.. Both have an overall grade attempting to include seriousness and feel etc, in combination with a tech grade for the crux section to try and provide extra information. Both used to be a simper one grade system with a max grade (HVS and V). Both got expanded and had technical grades added to prevent crushing at the top grade. If you can't see how they are now the fundamentally the same system using different notation, I don't know how else I would convince you.
I don't think it is, I had some input into its design and took part in the debate. At no point did anyone say lets copy the summer system.
I do see your argument though and have to accept that there has been a tendency for people to assume a hard tech grade must involve a high front number . That has been an issue that was divisive in the original debate and can still be seen in different peoples grading now.
Get Erik B started on this one! (Erik just to be clear I was on the losing side)
Good example, will get back to you, but my initial view is that if it's a first ascent you 'sulk your way home' (that sums it up really well).
If that's not the case then I think James Edwards may well have cause to murder me, 42 hours walking in and counting........
> Yep - bring back molecord breeches, Galibier boots, those Norwegian wool sweaters that weighed more than a fully loaded tranny van when wet, Orange Helly Hansen cags, Dachstein Mitts, Canvas Sacs with a bin liner inside, Salawa bendy crampons and straight pick ice axes :-)
I used to particulary enjoy thawing the boots over the exhaust pipe :)
Adding to my last, the route might not be a no no but a 'scottish winter' grade based on dry bit might be.
>I think people are taking this far too much to the extreme, the only risk I see is if some idiot climbs essentialy a dry tool route and somehwere there is a tiny drool or globule of ice,therefore giving justification. This person would quite rightly be ridiculed, so I really think your worry about this is something not to worry about and that perhaps you are maybe allowing your sharp legal brain to look at this at far too granular a leve
I would hope you're right but the 'approaching the ice' photo causes me concern that it might be used to justify your exampl. I fear people may not always be as honest as dave was in his account and then those case justify more and next you find someone tooling Club Crack (though of course that might have ice in it and rime up.........;-))
I'm glad you think I have a sharp legal brain a woman in the cells last week would disagree with you!
I can't believe I'm letting myself get drawn into this level of introspection. However.
The Snotter follows a fine tradition in Scottish winter of crossing dry rock to gain the raison d'etre of the route, ie the ice. Its first ascent should stand, as should its grading by DM. Precedent has been set time and again in the past.
Guy has been open about the nature of some of the climbing on Vapouriser and Super Rat.
Dave H and Chris C were honest about using tension on Fubarbundee.
Mick F used aid on Ice Bomb.
Martin M made, to quote the guidebook, "some radical moves up the smooth corner until usable ice" was gained on The Ayatollah. I recall the picture in a mag at the time showing a decidely brown section.
Other examples exist of routes that have, as in the above cases, been accepted without the need to adjust the grading system.
So why is The Snotter so different?
If it is sour grapes then people should realise that an ice route effectively gets a first ascent each season it forms.
I think talking about grades is a red herring in terms of the Snotter. The main thing should be is it acceptable to climb in these conditions or not? If it aint then fine but if it is then treat it as a bona fide winter route because genarelly speaking that's the sort of ground it covers and that's the overall challenge.
In the case of White Noise the same debate should be had in terms of whether it's acceptable to climb in these conditions or not. I find myself more in agreement with MacLeod here (that there aren't many of these roof routes about and that they can co-exist happily on the same mountain as traditional routes without taking anything away from the latter). As long as bolts aren't used of course.
If White Noise is allowed it should certainly be given a D grade though.
I agree with others that MacLeod's ascent of the Snotter should not simply be erased from history but if the consensus is that it's not an ethically acceptable ascent then simply changing the grade doesn't seem the right solution. A better solution might be just a note in the SMC journal / new guide saying the icicle has been climbed but gained by dry mixed moves at VIII,8. When a truly white ascent takes place (if this is deemed necessary) a description could appear.
In that case, please could you explain in what way(s) you do not think it is analagous. I'm intrigued!
Really? It is not true of either system. eg HVS 5c and IV,6 are both reasonably common. Though obviously the tech grade does have input to the overall grade.
Personally, although it certainly has it's uses, I feel the introduction of the two tier system has fostered a sometimes regrettable obsession with numbers at the expense perhaps of just getting out there and getting stuck ito the gnarl when "everything" was a V and the reward was in getting out again alive!
Roger, that made laugh at the thought of Jamesey clocking up 40 odd hours of walking for a route you keep deciding isnt in nick! brilliant! please keep doing it! :)
Indeed. You could even apply it to mixed route every time rime forms or falls off. Shows the absurdity at one level of the whole thing. Best just to get out there and go climbing and sod what anyone thinks (my car broke in Tyndrum today....Grrrrrr....).
Maybe you copied it by accident then ;) Try this game for example (at any grade):
E2 5a - Often very bold, possibility of death from the crux moves.
E2 5b - Bold, or maybe just very sustained with lots of moves at the grade.
E2 5c - Benchmark, average moves and gear or sustained and good gear.
E2 6a - Cruxy, but well protected and probably not sustained.
V,4 - Often very bold, possibility of death from the crux moves.
V,5 - Bold, or maybe just very sustained with lots of moves at the grade.
V,6 - Benchmark, average moves and gear or sustained and good gear.
V,7 - Cruxy, but well protected and probably not sustained.
If you didn't copy it on purpose, then the end result has panned out to be amazingly similar on it's own over time anyway.
Agree with this, in that I often feel the amount of attention (esp new) routes get is dependent much more on their number than whether or not they are actually really good quality or adventurous routes. Only a problem if you care what the media does or doesn't pump up though, and mostly doesn't affect me anyway - I was too busy having the grade 5 and get out alive day today to care.
That's the one! Why shouldn't V,7 be sustained, as long as its well protected! It's still easy to leave without danger.
I have great sympathy for Rober Durran's view and Erik B.
It may well be I'm in a minority of 1 concerning the relationship of winter to summer grades. If that is so its a pity as I think summer grades have far too much E for physical effort rather than commitment.
This is a different debate.Sorry I started it especially as it appears I lost then and will lose now!
I think you've missed the point here. There isn't an issue as to whether or not snotter is an excellent route, the issue is that of the precedent in giving a 'scottish winter' grade VIII,8 to a route which going by the first ascentionsists account is VI,6 with some hard rock climbing. If that is so the the 8 at least has been given for dry rock climbing.
None of the examples that you give have a grade based on the dry rock.
There is no issue about whether or not the first ascent of 'snotter' should stand, of course it should, it's been done it would be absurd to suggest otherwise.
Its all about how one should grade it and if using the 'scottish winter' system would subvert that system.
Or indeed about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
> It is so a copy of the summer system.. Both have an overall grade attempting to include seriousness and feel etc, in combination with a tech grade for the crux section to try and provide extra information. Both used to be a simper one grade system with a max grade (HVS and V). Both got expanded and had technical grades added to prevent crushing at the top grade.
Would you advocate individual pitch grades?
Here's one for you:)
You find a brilliant two stepped line of granite grooves on sunkissed rock. It all flows at E1 5b or so. Then, to your disappointment you find a barrier wall between the lower and upper grooves, it is soaking wet, you do your best but end up aiding it on nuts at about A2. You then continue up the fantastic grooves above. Its one of the best routes you've ever done.
What grade is it?
Good point. I think the modern winter grading system is essentially a copy of the summer one (and no the worse for it!) but wouldn't like to see individual pitch grades. Too much information and open to too much variation with conditions etc.
> Here's one for you:)
> You find a brilliant two stepped line of granite grooves on sunkissed rock. It all flows at E1 5b or so. Then, to your disappointment you find a barrier wall between the lower and upper grooves, it is soaking wet, you do your best but end up aiding it on nuts at about A2. You then continue up the fantastic grooves above. Its one of the best routes you've ever done.
> What grade is it?
It's E1 5b/A2. Until someone else does it clean, eliminates the aid and re-grades it.
> That's the one! Why shouldn't V,7 be sustained, as long as its well protected! It's still easy to leave without danger.
Because doing sustained climbing with grade 7 moves thrown in is a lot harder than just doing one move of 7 in isolation (obviously?), and the overall grade is currently trying to reflect that. My understanding of the current system (for mixed at least) is that a well protected route with just maybe one 7 move beside or below gear would get V,7 (like the first pitch of Fallout corner, if you pretend it's a stand alone route) one with more sustained difficulties gets IV,7 (as many do), and if it's super pumpy (White Magic) through the crux, or a bit bold then VII,7. What's wrog with that? There is a clear increase in difficulty at each step (ie, fewer people can climb the route) and the grade reflects it.
This may seem like a strange question, but how do you think the "front" grade comes about? My view is that it is currently based off the technical grade of any cruxes, either + or - one or two depending on gear, scariness, sustainedness etc. How do you think it works?
Oh and no, I'm not advocating individual pitch grades. It has probably not been clear from my random scribbling but I'm advocating doing nothing at all as I think the existing system works (fairly) well and the whole "issue" of the Snotter isn't actually an issue at all. It just gets VIII,8 in my world.
> This may seem like a strange question, but how do you think the "front" grade comes about? My view is that it is currently based off the technical grade of any cruxes, either + or - one or two depending on gear, scariness, sustainedness etc. How do you think it works?
Using technical 7 as a base.
X,7 you and your second are likely to die
IX,7 you are likely to die
VIII,7 you are likely to get hurt
VII,7 you may well get hurt
VI,7 you are unlikely to get hurt (badly)
V,7 you are very unlikely to get hurt
IV,7 you would have to make a serious error in placing gear to get hurt
The problem I have with that is the question I asked about the E1 5b and the aid.
Because the first ascentionists made it clear that the difficulties other than the dry wall led to a VI,6 grade then the VIII,8 grade must derive from that pitch. Which is a bit like giving my E1 5b,A2 a grade of E3 6a because its atypical crux made it harder than E1 5b.
If it is accepted that a dry crux can determine the grade why does anyone bother to wait for Hurting to be in wintry condition?
If it is accepted that dry rock can be the foundation of a 'scottish winter' grade then what is the difference between that grading sysem and M or D grades?
Would you have a problem with me drytooling a 30m HVS before finishing up 100m of IV,4 ground and grading it VI,7?
Does it matter? Outwith the limited world of scottish winter no, but within in it yes (otherwise why all those thousands of views).
OK. I think I do too, I just also think it takes into account sutainedness and pumpiness as well as seriousness in the same way the summer system does (which is why sustained 6a is E5 or E6 rather than E3). I guess if that's not your view then safe VII,7 would seem strange indeed. Safe VIII,8 is not that uncommon though, which makes me think I'm right?
It's not quite the same though. In the summer example, the climbers switch from free to aid climbing, two completely different styles,graded differently. In winter, the switch is from free climbing with ice tools on white rock, to free climbing with ice tools on black rock so not really a differnt form of ascent in the same way. People may think the white / black bit is important but for the purposes of determining grade it's all the same thing really.
Because as others have said the reason to climb the Hurting is the rock, so without the white it won't feel wintery and you might feel a bit silly using axes at all. Also the photos would be rubbish. The reason to climb the Snotter on the other hand is the ice, even if the ice isn't the crux section so taking axes up it even when the rock is black seems perfectly logical to me.
I keep saying this, but there kind of is no differnce between them. People describe dry 'M' style pitches abroad(esp in the mountains)with scottish grades all the time and visiting foreigners have described scottish routes as M6R or whatever. There is nothing fundametally different about the systems, both sytems can descibe both styles of climbing perfectly well. It's not our grades which drive our style of climbing here, it's our history.
> Would you have a problem with me drytooling a 30m HVS before finishing up 100m of IV,4 ground and grading it VI,7?
No. But Ian Parnell and Simon might. On a bad mood day.
Ok next question, what happens ton the VIII,8 grade for snotter if Jimmy goes up and finds that pitch blootered?
If the grade stays the same then the whole winter system seems a little farcical as logically other routes such as hurting would maintain there grades if dry. If the grade goes up then how was the VIII,8 ever the right choice?
There must be a way of fitting this route in without creating inconsistencies.
Saw an incredible line on, Wednesday overhanging crack dripping ice going into an impending wall.
Do you think I should sell it's location on e-bay ;)!
> OK. I think I do too, I just also think it takes into account sutainedness and pumpiness as well as seriousness in the same way the summer system does (which is why sustained 6a is E5 or E6 rather than E3). I guess if that's not your view then safe VII,7 would seem strange indeed. Safe VIII,8 is not that uncommon though, which makes me think I'm right?
> People may think the white / black bit is important but for the purposes of determining grade it's all the same thing really.
So why not grade for the ice?
Seems perfectly logical to me to.
What's not logical in my view is to use that section of the climb for the basis of a 'scottish winter' grade.
> I keep saying this, but there kind of is no differnce between them. People describe dry 'M' style pitches abroad(esp in the mountains)with scottish grades all the time and visiting foreigners have described scottish routes as M6R or whatever. There is nothing fundametally different about the systems, both sytems can descibe both styles of climbing perfectly well.
What do you mean by 'kind of no difference between them'?
You would seem to have a lot of experience using them could you explain what you see as the similarities and the differences.
(it's a question not a trap!)
Agree absolutely, unfortunately we use grades to describe our climbs.
(Why is that, why not just have descriptions..?
> No. But Ian Parnell and Simon might. On a bad mood day.
Hey ho, Cul Beag here I come!
It doesn't value physically 'over' commitment. What it does is take into account the fact that either thing can make a route harder overall to climb. That is what the grades are for right? To give an idea how hard the routes are to climb without falling off and / or getting hurt.
A route with massively sustained climbing at technical 7 (or whatver) will be harder than a route with only one move of the same grade after a rest. Therefore much fewer people will be able to climb it. If a grading system doesn't take this into account in any way, then it's not providing a very good picture of the difficulty of the route.
I am 100% sure people do grade based on sustainedness anyway, as otherwise Sioux Wall would be grade V, White Magic grade IV, Darth vader Grade IV since they're all short and well protected at 7 or 8. And they're not.
Come on Roger, this is so obvious as to barely merit an answer and various people already have. If the route is pure rock bottom to top, then the rime is the only thing making it winter at all, so without that you;re not left with much (personally I don't find the pure rock style scottish routes that inspiring because, even with some rime they still often feel a bit like a contrived exercise in drytooling to me. Each to their own though).
The Snotter just isn't like this, it's basically an ice route with the ice determining the line, where you have to cross a (hard) little bit of rock to link up the ice features. In this case, I don't care what condition the rock is in as a route that is mostly made of and has it's line provided by ice is clearly a winter line regardless what the teeny bit of rock looks like.
Well, you could use a split grade like VI,6 / mixed VIII,8 to get to the ice if you preffered. Most folk just want a single grade to keep things simple I guess..
Fair enough, I can see how you could feel that way so we'll just have to agree to differ on that.
> You would seem to have a lot of experience using them could you explain what you see as the similarities and the differences.
> (it's a question not a trap!)
Not loads at all, but i have done a bit of 'M' mixed abroad (Norway and Colorado)and some of was it on trad gear rathen than bolts. What I meant was that both systems often have to describe the same terrain (some of the "M" stuff I did in Colorado was iced up snowy crack climbing on trad kit)and attempt to describe both technical difficulty and seriousness (to some extent). Both do a reasonable job of letting you know (in conjunction with a guidebook description) what you're getting into so there is nothing fundamentally different about them to me. They are just two different notations come up with independently both describing quite similair climbing.
I may be misinterpreting you, but you seem to be saying 'M' grades are just for dry rock and 'Scottish' grades are for snowed up rock. To me, it's not like that as both often describe either situation in the real world. For me, Scottish grades are for routes in Scotland, and M grades are for routes elsewhere and that's it, just like E grades vs any of the other worldwide trad grading systems.
To be fair I do still like our way best, as the main failing of the M grades is that they don't tell you as much about whether the route is sustained or cruxy, unlike the Scottish one ;).
> Come on Roger, this is so obvious as to barely merit an answer and various people already have. If the route is pure rock bottom to top, then the rime is the only thing making it winter at all, so without that you;re not left with much (personally I don't find the pure rock style scottish routes that inspiring because, even with some rime they still often feel a bit like a contrived exercise in drytooling to me. Each to their own though).
But it does if its only the rime that makes that winter, why is it a different to the rock pitch on snotter.
I must say i agree with you about the lack of inspiration there.
> Well, you could use a split grade like VI,6 / mixed VIII,8 to get to the ice if you preffered. Most folk just want a single grade to keep things simple I guess..
But what would be 'mixed' about the VIII,8 bit?
> Not loads at all, but i have done a bit of 'M' mixed abroad (Norway and Colorado)and some of was it on trad gear rathen than bolts. What I meant was that both systems often have to describe the same terrain (some of the "M" stuff I did in Colorado was iced up snowy crack climbing on trad kit)and attempt to describe both technical difficulty and seriousness (to some extent). Both do a reasonable job of letting you know (in conjunction with a guidebook description) what you're getting into so there is nothing fundamentally different about them to me. They are just two different notations come up with independently both describing quite similair climbing.
> I may be misinterpreting you, but you seem to be saying 'M' grades are just for dry rock and 'Scottish' grades are for snowed up rock. To me, it's not like that as both often describe either situation in the real world. For me, Scottish grades are for routes in Scotland, and M grades are for routes elsewhere and that's it, just like E grades vs any of the other worldwide trad grading systems.
I think it's my misunderstanding of 'M' grades that causes the confusion I was using them as a short hand way of describing dry rock. My issue is that a scottish grade can't be used to describe pure dry rock (I do not mean it has to be all white, there should be some advantage in having axes though)
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