/ Are bolted abseils a bad thing ??

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Matt300 - on 04 Jun 2014
Just throwing this out as I am really on the fence with this. Should the Uk climbing scene move towards bolted abseils as they do in many other countries?? We often come along terrible abseils that you wouldn't hang your Christmas decorations off given the choice. Is it time to change ?? Is a metal plate bolted into the rock more or less enviromentaly friendly than tat ?? Would a chain or steel cable round a tree be better or worse for safety and the environment??

Im not Pro bolting all the country but wonder if the saftey of climbers on popular routes must come before ethics ??



mrchewy - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Matt300:

Too much tat looks a right mess but it's pretty easy to take some new with you, cut the old away and take it home to dispose of. Neater instantly.
Bob on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Matt300:

It's not quite a straight comparison - in France for example many local councils pay for the bolting of crags as it's seen as a means of attracting climbers to the area. These areas often have little history of climbing in the way that the Lakes or North Wales has so there's little if any trampling over existing ethics.

There aren't that many trad crags where abseiling off routes is the only option, usually it's just a convenient alternative to walking down. I'm fully aware that at some crags/areas such as sea cliffs you have to abseil in to the route.

There's a definite move towards less self-reliance among climbers, it's probably been going on for decades when compared to "the old days", by which I mean there's an attitude of "it isn't right, someone else should fix it" so rather than replace existing slings they'll just moan that it isn't up to their expected standard.

Ethics aren't a replacement for environmental concerns - we do more damage walking to a crag than any type of fixed belay does - they sit side by side with them and are a (the?) means by which we as a climbing community maintain some sense of continuity of experience.

I'm not anti-bolt and can see some situations where a bolt would be the better alternative to an existing rotting peg placement for example. It's a continuum rather than the black/white choice that so many think. There are areas that I think should be bolt free but equally others where bolts make most sense.
Matt300 - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Bob:

Nice reply Bob. Think you worded it much better than I did !!
GridNorth - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Bob:

Agreed, in the majority of cases the argument for placing any bolt is about convenience not safety. If climbers are unable to deal safely with a situation on a UK trad crag without resorting to power tools perhaps they shouldn't be there in the first place.
GrahamD - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Matt300:

The biggest drawback I see is that it encourages people to positions where they are not competent to be. I don't want people to be able to abseil into South Stack on only the skills they got from a climbing wall. I'd rather they were competent to make their own judgement.

There is no evidence that I know of that shows that bolts would make abseils safer. Most (all) abseil accidents are due to 'operator error'.
y2keable - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Matt300:

I've always been on the fence with this too. I climb mostly in the lakes and Northumberland and where ever I see a rusty peg or a stonking great chain, I've always thought it would be better if the BMC simply sorted out a bolt. It would look allot nicer (the chain on the top of Gimmer is an ugly mother) and in some cases be allot safer (I remember decending off an old peg on Scafell).

On the other hand they ARE trad crags, and the point of trad is that there are no permanent protection aids. A trad climber should assume that they may have to decend on a rope rope and that there may not be any tat to do it with. Even just for the purpose of a self rescue, I'd encourage everyone to take a nice long sling and screwgate on any long climb (just in case), but especially because even if you've climbed on that crag before and there was some tat to abb off, doesn't mean it'll still be their. Without a big sling, you're stuffed.

To bolt every abseil on every trad crag, I think would encourage some climbers to go under equipped... "I'll just leave my big sling down here, there's a bolt at the top to abb off". What about a self rescue then?

It would have to be iether all the crags/routes or none at all. I can just imagine a scenario with a wall-bred climber, living in his little bubble who's experienced trad friend has dragged him up a small handfull of climbs with bolts to abseil off. One day, without his experienced friend, he meets up with someone at a crag who he met at the wall (another indoor-wall-mong) and they do a route that niether of them have done before. The guide discribes the decent as an abseil but because not EVERY crag/route is bolted and because the tat has been removed by an environment purist, their nievety has them stuufed.
Matt300 - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Jayson Keable:
I think this is certainly not a black and white argument and bolting all abseils and dodgy belays is not the answer. Quite interested to see the differences in opinion!! Even if many of us are sitting on the same fence ;)
Jon Stewart - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Matt300:
In many cases, there is absolutely no reason to add a bolted abseil, for example where there is a bloody massive block to ab in off, or where one can scramble or walk off. Gratuitous bolting of this type should definitely be avoided IMO.

However, as trad climbers, we do have a strange thing about believing a load of disgusting rotten tat is better than something permanent and metal, and I simply can't see the logic in this. Examples from places I've been this year include Lower Sharpnose and Chee Tor. Neither crag is busy or attractive to beginners in any way, and everyone climbing there has the competence to keep themselves safe. Which involves adding more tat to the tat, and occasionally someone removing tat and adding bigger tat (static line) which becomes rotten and smaller tat is added...

Something permanent would be much preferable in these situations, just because it's less ugly. The experience of deciding how disgusting some disgusting rotten tat is before adding your own adds nothing to climbing a trad route - leaving these piles of crap around our crags is a weird and neurotic compulsion of trad climbers.

If I had the kit and know-how, and I could get agreement via a BMC-led consultation, I would happily start bolting the f^ck out of all the Chee Tor lower-offs for a start.
Post edited at 14:47
purplemonkeyelephant - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Matt300:

I really respect trad ethics. The idea that you can go to a crag anywhere in the world and put a route up is a very pure way of climbing.

On the other hand, having been at the top of climbs and found nothing but small boulders for a belay (missing stake, probably rusted and fell out from looking at the others), a tiny bolt would have been so much safer.

Having been to crags where the rock is literally shiny from climbers and the ground turned to mud around it, I can't see how bolts are much worse. I can't usually see them either until I'm staring right at them.

I'm very conflicted, but I think bolted belays are probably a good compromise. If it's so unethical, do you boycott climbs with them? I doubt many people would when some of the tastiest routes in the world have them.

Trad is so pure though.. dammit!!

Andy Say - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Jayson Keable:

'I've always thought it would be better if the BMC simply sorted out a bolt. It would look allot nicer (the chain on the top of Gimmer is an ugly mother)'

Alternatively get rid of the chain on Gimmer and walk down? I believe it is possible.

Relating to your scenario it would be interesting to work out how many trad routes actually NEED an abseil descent.
Jon Stewart - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Andy Say:

> Relating to your scenario it would be interesting to work out how many trad routes actually NEED an abseil descent.

Rather a lot of sea cliffs - it is a significant proportion of trad climbs. Which is not to say that they need bolts! The stakes in Pembroke for example, do just fine.
Bob on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to purplemonkeyelephant:

There's also the honeypot principle: if a crag is advertised as having convenient lower-offs or abseil points then it tends to become very popular causing erosion of the general crag environment. Sergeant Crag Slabs in the Lakes is perhaps the best example of this.

Convenience (even under the guise of safety) might not be in the best long term interests of climbers and climbing. I realise that this might sound elitist, but it's an almost inevitable consequence of climbing's increased popularity, putting people off certain crags (or rather not making them so attractive) might actually be the best solution for climbers if not for the individual.
Andy Say - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:
I'd class that as an abseil approach! I'll rephrase it. '...how many trad routes do you think you NEED to descend from by abseil'.

The Pylon King on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Matt300:

Personally i think a bolt anywhere should be an absolute last resort.
Jon Stewart - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to The Pylon King:

> Personally i think a bolt anywhere should be an absolute last resort.

Is it just bolts because of their association with bolt protection, or is it all metal/permanent stuff. Are chains better or worse than piles of rotting crap in your opinion? What's the rationale?
Jon Stewart - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Bob:

> There's also the honeypot principle: if a crag is advertised as having convenient lower-offs or abseil points then it tends to become very popular causing erosion of the general crag environment. Sergeant Crag Slabs in the Lakes is perhaps the best example of this.

Thing is, some crags could do with more traffic, others less. I would imagine that really it's quality and nature of the routes at SCS that has made them popular, not just the lower-offs. I don't know the crag and didn't follow the debate but I'm vaguely aware that the option was chosen as to protect the hillside from a scree-slithering scar developing?
The Pylon King on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

I just have a bit of an issue drilling holes into rock. Tat is easy to replace without doing any damage. I guess i am only really talking about natural crags.
GridNorth - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Matt300:

I'm with The Pylon King on this. I only leave tat when I have no other choice and then I feel bad about it. We all have an impact on the environment and it's naive to claim otherwise. My climbing a route has an impact on that route but I would argue that in itself it's neglible. I always aim to leave a place as nature intended and if we all followed that rule the countryside would be a much better place. As a native American once said:

Tread lightly, take only pictures, leave only footprints, kill only time.
Ian Parsons - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Andy Say:

> I'd class that as an abseil approach! I'll rephrase it. '...how many trad routes do you think you NEED to descend from by abseil'.

At risk of further complicating your question it might be worth splitting these into two categories:

1) - where the need is absolute, ie short of reversing a route it's the only way down (Ilam Rock, Cerro Torre, etc);

2) - where there's no physical need but it's a conditional part of an access arrangement, ie where access to a crag doesn't extend to the ground above it.
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jimtitt - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to GridNorth:
As a native American once said:

> Tread lightly, take only pictures, leave only footprints, kill only time.

That was in between starting prairie fires to stampede thousands of bison to their doom so he could eat a couple I guess?

The problem is he didnīt know that the most valuable habitat is the top edge of the cliff but we know that nowadays so in a lot of places ab points at the top of the cliff are compulsory to save beating the crag top and descent gullies to death.
Post edited at 16:34
GridNorth - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to jimtitt:

I agree. If we cared that much we would just not climb at places where this was an issue and preservation is to me a valid consideration but the ethos of the saying is still a good principle to aspire to.
Bob_the_Builder - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to The Pylon King:

Ignoring bolted abseils for a moment, couldn't many of the tat heaps be replaced responsibly with a steel cable? Some crags are kept pretty tidy but others are awful.

Steel cable is less visually intrusive and lasts longer.

I think peoples' ideas that bolted abseils increase risk because of wall-only climbers is severely overstated. Guides could say "bolted abseil" vs a regular old "abseil" or similar, and at the crags you are always responsible for yourself so it is somewhat irrelevant anyway. If the 'wall-ee' sees his experienced trad partner ab off grotty tat he will do that same on his own, perhaps not realising there was a clean new piece under all the crud when his mate did it. Similar issue really. Such is the nature of rock climbing.
Ramblin dave - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Bob_the_Builder:
> I think peoples' ideas that bolted abseils increase risk because of wall-only climbers is severely overstated.

The idea that there's a serious risk of gormless indoor climbers meeting sticky ends seems a bit overdramatic, but it does seem like something that will add to the expectation that crags will be pre-prepared to be as safe and convenient as possible, and undermine the culture that assumes that you'll take the rock as you find it and use your skill and judgement to get safely up and down it.

In any case, I think the real point is that drilling holes in rock is generally not something that we should do lightly, and specifically something that we shouldn't do just to save the bother of walking or scrambling down or of setting up an abseil off stakes or natural gear (in the case of approaches) or of occasionally tidying up some tat.
Post edited at 17:24
Jon Stewart - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Ramblin dave:
> The idea that there's a serious risk of gormless indoor climbers meeting sticky ends seems a bit overdramatic

Certainly does. The places where a permanent chain or bolt ab point are the best option are so and few and far between that it would be impossible for them to have an impact on climbing culture. Anyone getting to the stage of climbing where they encounter a permanent ab station will have already learnt the necessary skills to set up an ab themselves or scramble off.

Take Lower Sharpnose for example: haven't done Lunakod but that looks like it could do with something better; the North Fin doesn't need anything (although the new peg above the Out of the Blue is useful); Fay and Break On Through could do with permanent lower-offs. You'd still go to the crag with exactly the same rack, but you wouldn't be leaving crap all over the place - you couldn't rely on the permanent kit because, should it be placed, would offer a choice of HVS or E4.
Post edited at 17:37
GrahamD - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Ramblin dave:

> The idea that there's a serious risk of gormless indoor climbers meeting sticky ends seems a bit overdramatic,

I think its only the counter argument to those who claim that bolts are 'safer' without any explanation as to why they think this is so. In fact bolts may not be safer for the reason stated above.

Personally I can only go by what I've observed - the only two abseil accidents where someone was hurt that I have witnessed have been at 'safe' bolted crags.
Iain Peters - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

The Middle Fin now has a chain ab/belay from the rabbit's ears pinnacle above Lunakhod.
Bob_the_Builder - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Ramblin dave:

Fair enough.

I think a steel cable to replace tat makes more sense than a bolt. It sits in the same position on the "fixed gear" spectrum as normal cord and tape tat. Isn't there one on the Cuillin traverse?

Safety issues remain the same but less unsightly. Jon's point about them being rare mostly negates your concern about expectations. They definitely shouldn't be put in unless totally necessary. Overworn ab points where walking off is possible should be dealt with through education.
Jon Stewart - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Iain Peters:

> The Middle Fin now has a chain ab/belay from the rabbit's ears pinnacle above Lunakhod.

Ah good! The gradual elimination (by non-replacement) of pegs on the routes in the SW together with the addition of such belay chains makes for a very sensible way of preserving the strong trad ethic IMO.
chris j on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Certainly does. The places where a permanent chain or bolt ab point are the best option are so and few and far between that it would be impossible for them to have an impact on climbing culture. Anyone getting to the stage of climbing where they encounter a permanent ab station will have already learnt the necessary skills to set up an ab themselves or scramble off.

> Take Lower Sharpnose for example: haven't done Lunakod but that looks like it could do with something better; the North Fin doesn't need anything (although the new peg above the Out of the Blue is useful); Fay and Break On Through could do with permanent lower-offs.

Not stalking you around UKC but Break on Through doesn't need a lower-off, assuming you have the skills to get up there. When I seconded a friend on it, he lowered me down the north side, I stayed tied in and weighted the rope while he abbed off the south side. We then pulled the rope over the top, didn't take a great deal more effort than pulling a rope through a lower-off.
Bob on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

'Twas ever thus, some crags wouldn't be popular even if every route was given three stars. The routes at SCS are good, there's no denying that, but how popular would it have become if there hadn't been lower-offs or any chance of placing lower-offs other than bolts? Sure people would have gone up there but it wouldn't have become so popular as one of the reasons was "you can get loads of routes done".

The crag became popular and when one of the lower-offs disintegrated the popularity meant that a path developed so then there was "demand" for a replacement. If it hadn't become popular then it's possible that there'd be no path and no demand for a bolt.
Jon Stewart - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to chris j:

> Not stalking you around UKC but Break on Through doesn't need a lower-off, assuming you have the skills to get up there. When I seconded a friend on it, he lowered me down the north side, I stayed tied in and weighted the rope while he abbed off the south side. We then pulled the rope over the top, didn't take a great deal more effort than pulling a rope through a lower-off.

Good for you, sounds like a faff to me. I don't like lowering a second or being lowered off from the top of a route - a decent chain belay is a way more sensible option IMO.
chris j on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> a decent chain belay is a way more sensible option IMO.

But is still another piece of litter that isn't actually needed in this particular location. I have no issue with chains or rope lower-offs with maillons where they are the only viable option but if there is another way that doesn't need in-situ gear I prefer to avoid it.
The Ex-Engineer - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to various:
I am with Bob and Jon on this.

I abhor excess tat in the mountains and on crags. On just one day I removed a dozen plus slings etc. from Cloggy - see http://www.mountainproject.com/images/2/26/108190226_medium_7dafda.jpg

IMO for very well established or essential abseils, stainless steel chains with forged abseil rings are a much better long term solution. In other locations, existing tat should be actively removed.

I am glad to hear a chain has been put in place at Sharpnose.
Post edited at 21:14
In reply to Matt300:

There aren't so many places in the UK where they are really needed, but in a few places it doesn't seem that bad an idea to me anymore. I wrote this years ago http://lightfromthenorth.blogspot.fi/2007/07/superior-ethics-or-littering.html
Andy Say - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Good for you, sounds like a faff to me. I don't like lowering a second or being lowered off from the top of a route - a decent chain belay is a way more sensible option IMO.

You might 'not like it' but why not bite the bullet and accept that that is just the way it is? There's been a few routes I've done where I didn't like the lack of protection. I could accept that or just walk away. Why must all routes be equipped so that they are in a state seems 'sensible' to everyone?

PS - Just bloody walk off!
Iain Peters - on 05 Jun 2014
In reply to Andy Say:

> There's been a few routes I've done where I didn't like the lack of protection. I could accept that or just walk away. Why must all routes be equipped so that they are in a state seems 'sensible' to everyone?

> PS - Just bloody walk off!

Jon was not commenting on the lack of protection on a route, merely the belay/ab station at the top. In fact most of the routes on the S face of the Middle Fin at LS may well lose their original pegs in the near future.

Currently the state of fixed gear all along the N Coast of Devon and Cornwall is being re-assessed by the various people checking routes for the new CC definitive guide, and wherever alternatives are available pegs are being removed and in some cases (e.g. Eroica) re-graded for a clean ascent.

At Compass Point the very popular E1 Crimtyphon, which is currently protected by at least 4 pegs, has been climbed at the same grade without clipping them, so some, at least may well disappear in the near future, likewise the top peg on Tydomin which is long gone with no change in grade.

Walking off the Middle Fin might be terminal given the state of the surrounding cliff face and ridge!
Toerag - on 05 Jun 2014
In reply to Matt300:

Things would be a lot better if the guidebooks were more explicit in the route descriptions i.e. telling people there is no belay so they know to pre-place one from above to lower off from.
Bob on 05 Jun 2014
In reply to Toerag:

Guidebooks take time to produce and also have a lifespan during which time a whole host of things may change, rockfall, rotting/missing pegs, etc.

There has to be an assumption of some competence and adaptability on those using a guidebook. I've simul-abbed off one of the fins at Lower Sharpnose as the tide was coming in and we didn't have enough time to get out abseiling individually.
rgold - on 05 Jun 2014
In reply to Matt300:

In the U.S., we don't have the trad traditions of the U.K., and we have a lot of climbable crackless granite as well, so bolting has always been more prevalent though not necessarily less controversial. Indeed, places like Tuolumne Meadows have high concentrations of climbs that everyone recognizes as trad, but the protection consists entirely of bolts hand-drilled on the lead by the first ascent party. These ascents, many of them very daring on the first ascent and still challenging for subsequent ascents, form a background for bolting arguments that is much more ambiguous than in the U.K.

That said, the bolting of belays on multipitch routes has significantly altered the skills needed for the routes, the time required to do them, and most significantly has all but eliminated the commitment aspects of being high on a wall. This lack of commitment encourages inexperienced parties to start up routes they would, in other circumstances, probably have spent another year or two preparing for, since bailing at any pitch is easy. These parties move slowly and inefficiently, clogging the route and causing traffic jams behind them, and then interfere with everyone below when they decide to retreat. Moreover, the engineered rappel paths encourage parties to do just portions of routes, never intending to finish the climbs. Again, these descending parties interfere with ascents, sometimes in a dangerous way.

Perhaps much of this is not so relevant to the U.K., with its preponderance shorter routes. The example of the Gunks, at most 300 ft high, may be more to the point. The Preserve bolted some routes as a way of eliminating some particularly large build-ups of tat and as a way to save trees that were obviously in distress. It turned out to be a learning process, again with unexpected and unintended side-effects. Here are, I think, some of the lessons learned.

1. Bolts placed at the top of popular routes will create two-way traffic on those routes and subject ascending parties to the annoyance and danger of being hit by thrown rappel ropes and dropped gear.

2. Bolted stances will encourage climbers to do two things:
(a) Not go to the top, creating the problems of two-way traffic lower down.
(b) Use bolts at the first-pitch anchor for top-roping the first pitch, thereby tying up the climb for long periods and creating sometimes nasty conflicts with parties who would like to lead the route.

3. The ecological effects of bolts can be trickier to anticipate than it might seem at first. In the Gunks, where you can walk off every climb, walking off has virtually ceased to be a method of descent, with consequent beneficial effect on the cliff-top ecology. However, this effect has been balanced by a substantial increase in erosion at the cliff base, not only because parties now ascend and descend to the base, but also because they hang out there, top rope, and throw their equipment around. Preserve volunteers now devote a huge amount of effort in mitigating the cliff-base erosion effects. As for those rappel trees that were going to be saved, they've been killed anyway, because the bolters typically placed bolts right next to the trees, and it turned out that what kills the trees is soil compaction from hoards of climbers, not the rappel loads on the trees.

Of course, most of these effects in the Gunks happen without bolts too, as the rappel culture overwhelms the old go-to-the-top-and-descend ethic of bygone days. There is a Reader's Digest mentality that demands only the best parts of the climbs and disdains spending time on offensively easy finishing pitches. You can't blame all this on bolts. But I think bolting has greatly accelerated the process.

So, the point is that in taking the very local focus on making this or that stance safer, it is easy to lose track of or totally fail to anticipate the global changes in climbing behavior that the bolts will bring. Be careful what you wish for, and beware of the consequences.
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Robert Durran - on 06 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> However, as trad climbers, we do have a strange thing about believing a load of disgusting rotten tat is better than something permanent and metal, and I simply can't see the logic in this.

The tat is certainly more visible/unsightly, but it has the merit of being placed there by individual climbers going about their own business for their own descent and then either being used or replaced or removed by other individual climbers. Chains and bolts, on the other hand are placed by people for OTHER peoples' convenience and therefore could be said to be against a longstanding spirit of self sufficiency. Can you se the logic now? There is a perfectly respectable argument both ways.
Tom V - on 06 Jun 2014
In reply to Robert Durran:

I'm surprised you are prepared to accept any remnants of gear on a crag, given your objection to stone sculptures and the like. Unless the vanity of climbing a route for self satisfying purposes outweighs the vanity of decorating a bit of beach by shuffling a few stones around. As for myself, I can put up with both and don't regard one as being more justifiable than the other.
Robert Durran - on 06 Jun 2014
In reply to Tom V:

> I'm surprised you are prepared to accept any remnants of gear on a crag, given your objection to stone sculptures and the like. Unless the vanity of climbing a route for self satisfying purposes outweighs the vanity of decorating a bit of beach by shuffling a few stones around.

This is a fair argument. I could argue that tat has served a purpose, but environmental art has not, but I accept it is a weak argument.j
mbh - on 06 Jun 2014
In reply to Robert Durran:

What if I placed the chain and bolt, but used them myself before I left them for others to use? They get something that is likely more reliable than any tat I might use then leave behind, but either way, both cases were placed for my convenience in the first instance, then left as a gift/annoyance to others.
johncook - on 06 Jun 2014
In reply to rgold:

Excellent input to this thread. No histrionics, no guessing at consequences. Just a bald statement of facts. Thanks.
Robert Durran - on 06 Jun 2014
In reply to mbh:
> What if I placed the chain and bolt, but used them myself before I left them for others to use?

If you are prepared to carry a chain and/or bolt kit (purely with your own use in mind of course) rather than a bit of ab tat when you go cragging then good luck to you. On second thoughts forget the bit about the bolt kit; bolts are fundamentally different to chains.
Post edited at 21:44
Jon Stewart - on 07 Jun 2014
In reply to Andy Say:

> You might 'not like it' but why not bite the bullet and accept that that is just the way it is?

Because it isn't? There's a bunch of tat there to lower off!

> There's been a few routes I've done where I didn't like the lack of protection. I could accept that or just walk away. Why must all routes be equipped so that they are in a state seems 'sensible' to everyone?

What a load of crap - never implied anything like this. Have another read.

> PS - Just bloody walk off!

From BOT? What a ludicrous, time-wasting, needlessly precarious and completely eccentric way to finish the route. A crap idea.
Jon Stewart - on 07 Jun 2014
In reply to rgold:

An excellent post as always. I don't support (relatively) permanent abseils except in places where it's already established that abbing is the normal and sensible way off, evidenced by a massive pile of tat. Adding bolted ab points willy-nilly would change the character of crags and the skills needed to climb them, which is not desirable.

I abbed into Wen Zawn today and obviously there was a massive pile of tat and a load of crusty old biners to choose from. About 50% of the tat was rope - so intended to be left there for a while. I think it's pretty daft that for something that's going to live outside and be used by hundreds of people to dangle their lives off, that we choose it to be made of an inappropriate material and to employ utterly suboptimal 'design'. It's the single approach used for quite a few truly classic routes, and because of some neurosis or other, we prefer it to be a heap of shit instead of something sensible. All very strange.

On the other hand, when I abbed into Yellow Wall, the situation was much better: there's a block with no tat on to ab off. Perfect.
Misha - on 07 Jun 2014
In reply to Matt300:
I think it would be a good idea on some crags where the descents are long and/or unpleasant and the existing ab stations are or will eventually become dodgy. One obvious place is the right wall of the Cromlech (those trees are gonna go one day) plus may be the area left of the Foil to save the tedious walk off there. Another is the Mot - all the descents are unpleasant and whereas there are a couple of old peg/tat ab stations they are getting well worn. Another is Cyrn Las as the walk off is a right pain but you'd have to find a way down that doesn't interfere with existing routes/stated. No, I'm not trolling! It's just common sense.

I appreciate this isn't a popular view and I'm all for trad climbing but I also like to get off a route quickly to have more time to do another one!

The one place I wouldn't want to see any bolted ab stations is sea cliffs because on sea cliffs rigging an ab is part of the experience. Whereas on inland crags I don't really see the walk down in tight shoes as part of the experience - it's just a pain!

Also, a few discretely placed ab stations will be less environmentally damaging and visible than an increasingly mushed up descent gully.
Post edited at 01:54
Misha - on 07 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Chee Tor - yes, some of them could do with bolting, others are ok as they are.

Lower Sharpnose - I can't remember what there is off the North Fin. The Lunakhod ab on the Middle Fin had the biggest collection of weathered tat and literally exploded screwgates that I had ever seen when I was there a few years back. I think it's recently been replaced by a galvanised chain?
Misha - on 07 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:
I've not yet come across any sea cliffs where you couldn't rig an ab with trad gear or using in situ stakes. Where were you thinking of? Stakes are of course vital at Pembroke, Swanage and a few other places like bits of Baggy.
Misha - on 07 Jun 2014
In reply to chris j:
Interesting, presumably you weren't concerned about any sharp edges? Also, what if the tide had cut off the passage round the outside of the fin? This would have been amusing!

Misha - on 07 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:
Did you go to the very bottom from the promontory or down the slab? Seem to recall there are some blocks and/or gear to set up a good ab point down the inner face of the promontory, if you take some rigging rope. What did you do, T Rex?
needvert on 07 Jun 2014
I like installed rap anchors. Given a tree, or a feature of some sort, or two stainless glue ins installed in a sensible place...I'm going to prefer the latter.

If someone else wants to spend their time and money to install them, and they provide me with utility, that's ok with me.

(Side note: Is a prevalence of shitty rap anchors the reason a segment of UKC is terrified of abseiling?)
GrahamD - on 07 Jun 2014
In reply to needvert:


> (Side note: Is a prevalence of shitty rap anchors the reason a segment of UKC is terrified of abseiling?)

I doubt it. Abseil accidents happen because people make mistakes, not because anchors fail. A dose of abseil fear is a healthy thing.
Mark Kemball - on 07 Jun 2014
In reply to Matt300:

Some discussion about this when Iain and I replaced the Lunakhod tat with a chain - see http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?n=576391 http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=233734 and http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=233729 this was discussed at the last SW area BMC meeting and we are planning to produce a list for the next meeting of proposals for similar abseil points on the Culm. The intention is to replace existing tat where an abseil decent is required (i.e. no walk off possible).
In reply to GrahamD:

> Abseil accidents happen because people make mistakes, not because anchors fail.

The latter can be the former. My one climbing friend killed in accident, died after his abseil anchor failed. Obviously he made a mistake in trusting it but the anchor failed - no getting around that.

chris j on 07 Jun 2014
In reply to Misha:

> Interesting, presumably you weren't concerned about any sharp edges? Also, what if the tide had cut off the passage round the outside of the fin? This would have been amusing!

Not really, I don't recall the edges being overly razor-like but then it was a few years ago. Hoping to get up there again this month so maybe I'll change my view...
alex_arthur - on 07 Jun 2014
In reply to Matt300:

No like all bolts they are great, and there aren't enough of them
Jon Stewart - on 07 Jun 2014
In reply to Misha:

> I've not yet come across any sea cliffs where you couldn't rig an ab with trad gear or using in situ stakes. Where were you thinking of? Stakes are of course vital at Pembroke, Swanage and a few other places like bits of Baggy.

I agree - ab stations aren't needed to access routes that I can think of (except stakes), it's descents for routes that finish in inconvenient places that I think would be best off with chains a la Lunakod.

> Did you go to the very bottom from the promontory or down the slab? Seem to recall there are some blocks and/or gear to set up a good ab point down the inner face of the promontory, if you take some rigging rope. What did you do, T Rex?

Don't know about the other side but the slab doesn't need all that crap leaving there - I can't understand what's wrong with using your own sling and krab. I didn't feel I had the 'authority' (or a knife) to remove it though...

The tides were a bit crap - didn't go out very far so after finding 20,000 Leagues bird banned, we decided to Zeus from the ledge. On abbing down the slab, it started raining, so we escaped up Wen. It didn't rain after we started climbing, so it was a bit of a non-event. Did The Moon (3rd time for me) after that. Saw Tim on Syringe on Thursday (we were on Hypodermic, which is worth doing).

I'm not that keen on doing T Rex - fine if someone else leads the big pitch, but I'm not doing any damp chimneys. Same goes for loose chimneys - Rat Race (I'll be doing the damp 5c on that).
Jon Stewart - on 07 Jun 2014
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Chains and bolts, on the other hand are placed by people for OTHER peoples' convenience and therefore could be said to be against a longstanding spirit of self sufficiency. Can you se the logic now? There is a perfectly respectable argument both ways.

Yes, I can see the logic, but it's an argument of principle and I'm much more of a pragmatist. What I want to do is have the best possible day at the crag, and that means preserving the trad ethic but without negotiating shitey descents, getting embroiled in complicated faff, or littering the crag with old slings and biners just for the sake of some abstract principle.
Misha - on 07 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:
Though there are probably few equivalents to Lunakhod. May be a few other places on the culm but otherwise you can generally walk off from sea cliffs. The other one that springs to mind is the Old Man. The collection of frayed tat on the stances (and old back/stuck rope on the first pitch) is pretty impressive. There is enough in situ gear (nuts and pegs) not to need bolts but if I ever go up there again I will take a knife and some new tat!

Bad luck the other day! I'd like to do Rat Race. T Rex is awesome, especially with the direct finish, which isn't actually the hard (E3 not 4). Get Tim on it, he said he hadn't done it. Eszter might be interested as it's sort of a crack, though more of a chimney and lay back really. I was telling her about it.
Misha - on 07 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:
Exactly, pragmatism, not misdirected idealism. Long, complex descents have their place in the Alps but in the UK there are no epic descents that are very much part of the experience, just lots of relatively short ones that are a pain to have to negotiate and add nothing to the day.
rgold - on 07 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> [...]
>
> Yes, I can see the logic, but it's an argument of principle and I'm much more of a pragmatist. What I want to do is have the best possible day at the crag, and that means preserving the trad ethic but without negotiating shitey descents, getting embroiled in complicated faff, or littering the crag with old slings and biners just for the sake of some abstract principle.

I really don't think it is all that easy. If you consider, for even a moment, the entire notion of trad climbing, what is and isn't "permissible," what does or doesn't "count," you will, I think, have to agree that the entire enterprise is governed by a host of abstract principles, and one of the primary ones is preservation of risk, a concept that is nowhere more explicitly enshrined then in the UK. When you speak of preserving the trad ethic while still having "the best possible day," I think you are obliged to confront a very slippery slope that leads to places only the most dedicated sport climber would condone.

I think what you are saying (and I don't necessarily disagree) is that the abstract principles of trad climbing ought to apply not to the entire experience, but only to a certain portion of the experience, namely the ascent itself. An opposing position is that trad climbing is about coping with whatever hand nature deals, in every aspect of the endeavor and not more narrowly on just the ascent. The climb consists of getting to the base, making the ascent, and getting off the top, and the experience of that totality of challenges is what makes the "day," not simply the portion of that day devoted to getting up the route. This second perspective embraces the "annoyances" and "inconveniences" of the first perspective as part of the package and not something to be eliminated by engineering tricks.

In reality, it isn't possible to take an absolutist position. Personally, I think there is a place for chains or cables to replace tat, and a place for bolts to replace unreliable anchors, but I think the decisions are and should be difficult to make, should be subject to argument, and most of all should be subject to restraint in principle. I feel I've seen and continue to see the unfortunate side-effects of the pursuit of "the best possible day," and think that climbers should cast a very jaundiced eye on convenience arguments, which as far as I can tell end up establishing an ever-increasing "baseline," which then serves as the starting point for demands for even more convenience.
Jon Stewart - on 07 Jun 2014
In reply to rgold:

> When you speak of preserving the trad ethic while still having "the best possible day," I think you are obliged to confront a very slippery slope that leads to places only the most dedicated sport climber would condone.

I don't see it this way. "The best possible day" means climbing routes that give the most intense, satisfying experiences, not "getting the most routes done in the quickest time" or anything like that. Having "the best possible day" means being generally self-sufficient and having to put some effort into finding routes and the ways to access them, but not having these "administrative" elements take over. I don't think the best faff-climbing ratio is necessarily the lowest (although others might take that view). If you value the trad climbing experience in a broad sense, then there is no slippery slope to be confronted. Seems to me that Mark Kemball and co. in the SW appear to be taking precisely this approach: the question is, how do we maintain these crags so that the experience of climbing them is as rich and fulfilling as possible? Not, what are the strict traditional rules that we must comply with?

> I think what you are saying (and I don't necessarily disagree) is that the abstract principles of trad climbing ought to apply not to the entire experience, but only to a certain portion of the experience, namely the ascent itself.

Not exactly. I'm saying that the abstract principles of trad don't actually exist in any form that can be articulated or followed; trying to follow them just ends up in shooting yourself in the foot. Pragmatic decisions about using a peg or bolt here or there are made throughout trad climbing, and it is all the better for it. Chain or bolted ab stations where that's a sensible option and solves a problem should be part of this pragmatic approach.

> An opposing position is that trad climbing is about coping with whatever hand nature deals...This second perspective embraces the "annoyances" and "inconveniences" of the first perspective as part of the package and not something to be eliminated by engineering tricks.

I agree with this to an extent and I'm not calling for everything to be made quicker and safer and easier so I can do more routes in a day: I agree that that would detract hugely from the trad climbing experience. But I'm a pragmatist who thinks it's ridiculous and self-defeating to pretend that this position is how things operate, when in fact the crags I love are full of old pegs, in-situ threads, tat, stakes, etc that all contribute to me enjoying the routes rather than detracting from them. We like the "damage" and "nannying" when it suits us, but some of us get stroppy about the suggestion of permanent ab stations and suggest ridiculous, treacherous choss-scrambles as an alternative (although I don't think Andy Say actually realised what he was suggesting re. walking off Break On Through!).

> In reality, it isn't possible to take an absolutist position.

Exactly. The absolutist position about "the faff and danger being integral to the experience" is inconsistent and silly. Trad climbing doesn't stick to incontrovertible principles, it's an each-case-on-its-merits game hopefully resulting in the best day at the crag through discussion and activism such as that of Mark et al in the SW.

> I've seen and continue to see the unfortunate side-effects of the pursuit of "the best possible day," and think that climbers should cast a very jaundiced eye on convenience arguments, which as far as I can tell end up establishing an ever-increasing "baseline," which then serves as the starting point for demands for even more convenience.

Demands from whom, met by whom? The people who say "I want an ab station because I can't be arsed to set up my own anchors with some nuts and a sling" are not people with the wherewithal to start drilling bolts into the rock. I'm not scared of thickening wedges and slippery slopes because the people most involved in these decisions are the most passionate members of the trad climbing community, and they understand what "the best possible day" means, and that isn't "the most convenient possible day".
rgold - on 07 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

I'm not sure we actually disagree about much of this. Your statement about the definition of trad climbing reminds me of Justice Potter Stewart's famous opinion in Jacobellis vs. Ohio (1964). Referring to pornographic content, he said, "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description, and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it..."

Add to this your claim that

>I'm not scared of thickening wedges and slippery slopes because the people most involved in these decisions are the most passionate members of the trad climbing community, and they understand what "the best possible day" means, and that isn't "the most convenient possible day",

and we can hope that you will have community standards most everyone can agree on.

But I don't think it has worked this way in the U.S. You don't need some kind of trad certification to place bolts, and a whole new ethic, born of sport climbing (where it makes sense), is the concept of community responsibility, which means that individual climbers have a responsibility to make things "safe," according to their private version of what that means, for the entire "community." (This ethic makes climbers who put up bold routes into sociopaths!)

I'm not convinced that "the most passionate members of the trad community" have been able to control the tiller in this new environment, most especially if the increase in convenience anchors continually resets the baseline, as I called it above, for what is acceptable.

It all this works better in the UK, that's wonderful. But I think it worthwhile to proceed with great caution, because it is very hard, perhaps impossible, to go back.
dr evil - on 07 Jun 2014
In reply to rgold:
What's wrong with this definition;

trad = no bolts

Jon Stewart - on 07 Jun 2014
In reply to dr evil:

The fact that there are loads of trad climbs with bolts in?
dr evil - on 08 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:
Well according to the definition I have proposed the routes you have in mind are not trad. I would guess you are going to trot out some hybrid exceptions like the ormes or high tor which do not represent the majority of the trad climbs in the uk. What is wrong with trad = no bolts?
Jon Stewart - on 08 Jun 2014
In reply to dr evil:

> What is wrong with trad = no bolts?

It completely misclassifies loads of routes - Darius is not a hybrid route, it's a trad route that happens to have a crap old bolt in it. There are bolts peppered all over trad crags, especially in quarries. It doesn't make them sport routes, or hybrid routes or anything else. They're trad routes with the odd crap old bolt in.
dr evil - on 08 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:
Crags like high tor and quarries whilst offering quality climbing do not represent the experience of what is uk trad.

Gogarth = no bolts
Pembroke = no bolts
Llanberis pass = no bolts
Ben Nevis = no bolts
Creag an dubh loch = no bolts
Etc

And yes I'm aware there are old historical bolts in those places such as the bolt on the first belay of pagan which like the pegs are an anachronism and will rot away.

The only logical argument against trad = no bolts is that you are uncomfortable with the concept of crags without bolts. Are you?
Post edited at 00:46
Jon Stewart - on 08 Jun 2014
In reply to dr evil:

> Crags like high tor and quarries whilst offering quality climbing do not represent the experience of what is uk trad.

That doesn't mean anything.

> Gogarth = no bolts

> Pembroke = no bolts

> Llanberis pass = no bolts

> Ben Nevis = no bolts

> Creag an dubh loch = no bolts

> Etc

Well done.

> And yes I'm aware there are old historical bolts in those places such as the bolt on the first belay of pagan which like the pegs are an anachronism and will rot away.

So historical bolts aren't bolts? What's your point?

> The only logical argument again trad = no bolts is that you are uncomfortable with the concept of crags without bolts. Are you?

I don't know what you're trying to say, it makes no sense.
dr evil - on 08 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:
Sorry the last sentence should read;

The only logical argument against trad = no bolts is that you are uncomfortable with the concept of crags without bolts. Are you?

Jon Stewart - on 08 Jun 2014
In reply to dr evil:

I don't understand your point. Do you think I don't like Stanage, or Gogarth, or Scafell because they don't have bolts, and I'd really like it if they had some?

The logical argument against trad = no bolts is that it's manifestly false. That's not an opinion, that's just describing the world that exists in reality.

Are you saying that you think as a policy, from now on, if we as a community consider a route, or crag or area to be trad, then we shouldn't place any bolts? Most people would agree with that, but there are still exceptions. There's a new bolt of some sort in the ground at the top of The Sun (didn't look like a peg to me) which is very discreet and makes the belay slightly better. It makes no difference to anything, except slightly improving the belay. No one's removed it because it doesn't have any negative impact, just a very small positive one. So there's no value in a hard and fast rule about no bolts ever, because it's all a bit neurotic and people want the character of trad routes to remain that way.
dr evil - on 08 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:
Are you saying that you think as a policy, from now on, if we as a community consider a route, or crag or area to be trad, then we shouldn't place any bolts?

Yes dude :-)
Jon Stewart - on 08 Jun 2014
In reply to dr evil:

It's a radical proposal ;)
rgold - on 08 Jun 2014
In reply to dr evil:
> (In reply to rgold)
> What's wrong with this definition;
>
> trad = no bolts

Perhaps it might work in the UK (although I doubt it), but certainly not in the US, as I thought I described in my first post, and not in, say, the Elbsansteingebirge, which is surely one of the fountainheads of trad climbing.

Of course, you could just invoke it as a definition, but only at the expense of ignoring a very extensive collection of very bold and adventurous climbs, done ground up without any kind of preinspection, and with absolutely no certainty about when and where protection might be obtained. If they aren't trad then the concept is in far more trouble than I thought.

But this is really a distraction, because the discussion wasn't about bolts for protection, it was about bolts for rappel anchors. If I bolt a rappel on the right side of an extensive cliff, are you going to say every climb (or, for that matter, any climb) on the cliff is no longer a trad climb?

We now have, in places like Yosemite and Red Rocks in Nevada, substantial multipitch climbs with bolts at the belays. Some of these have bolts on the route for protection, but some do not. Are any of these trad climbs? A number of them aren't sport climbs by any stretch. Is there some other designation, and if so, how does a new category (plaisir climbs?) solve any of the issues under discussion?
GrahamD - on 08 Jun 2014
In reply to TobyA:

I'm sorry to hear about your friend - but the majority of accidents on fixed abseils come from daft things like clipping onto the tail or off the end of the rope.
chris j on 08 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> I'm not scared of thickening wedges...

I never thought I'd be a boring old fart droning on about wedges...

But, I'm afraid of wedges as I've read Frank's mission statement on his profile:

"We need new bolts and pegs, and many more bolted lower offs than we currently have, especially on trad crags" Admittedly as out of context as I can quote it as he's specific to Peak lime there but from an influential voice at the BMC?! No wonder he doesn't believe in the wedge, he is the wedge!

I'd note he justifies this in the name of pragmatism as well. I worry that if you hand everything over to the prgmatists and the voices of reason without any swivel-eyed loons fighting for the ideals then shortly after you lose the soul of the sport and end up with a sanitised remnant.

Next question for the masses - Rowland and Mark Edwards - vandals of Cornish granite with convenience bolts for lower-offs, or environmentally aware visionaries with lower-offs to protect sensitive crag environments ad reduce dangerous faff...?
In reply to GrahamD:

> but the majority of accidents on fixed abseils come from daft things like clipping onto the tail or off the end of the rope.

I'm sure that's true, but you didn't say that originally. Anchors can and do sometimes fail. Making sure you're not abseiling off a shit anchor is obviously fundamental to abseiling safety, I don't have any point I'm trying to make beyond that.

ads.ukclimbing.com
dr evil - on 08 Jun 2014


> We now have, in places like Yosemite and Red Rocks in Nevada, substantial multipitch climbs with bolts at the belays. Some of these have bolts on the route for protection, but some do not. Are any of these trad climbs?

By my definition, no.

But you can't really compare the US version of trad with the UK version. US trad = bolting ground up eg Bachar-Yerian
John Stainforth - on 08 Jun 2014
In reply to rgold:

Thanks for your excellent contributions to this thread. In the US, there are really three categories - trad climbing,trad with widely spaced bolts (which feels very trad, and nothing like sport climbing) and sport climbing. That middle category, so widespread on granite in the US, is virtually absent in the UK. Usually in the UK, the crags are so small and broken up that walking or climbing down is relatively trivial.
Robert Durran - on 08 Jun 2014
In reply to John Stainforth:

> Thanks for your excellent contributions to this thread. In the US, there are really three categories - trad climbing,trad with widely spaced bolts (which feels very trad, and nothing like sport climbing) and sport climbing. That middle category, so widespread on granite in the US, is virtually absent in the UK. Usually in the UK, the crags are so small and broken up that walking or climbing down is relatively trivial.

Yes, and I think many of us believe that, due to the nature of the rock and tradition of UK climbing there should be no place for the middle category in the UK.

As for the trad=no bolts thing, it is a perfectly sensible idea if applied in the sense that no new bolts should be placed on trad routes and existing ones should be chopped or left to rot away (and of course there are trad routes with the odd old bolt in them at the moment!)
Jon Stewart - on 08 Jun 2014
In reply to chris j:

> "We need new bolts and pegs, and many more bolted lower offs than we currently have, especially on trad crags" Admittedly as out of context as I can quote it as he's specific to Peak lime there but from an influential voice at the BMC?!

Each case on its merits. Do you climb on Peak trad limestone? It could do with more traffic, and new bolts and pegs would help. If all the in situ gear was chopped or just left to rot, lots of good routes would be lost.

> I'd note he justifies this in the name of pragmatism as well. I worry that if you hand everything over to the prgmatists and the voices of reason without any swivel-eyed loons fighting for the ideals then shortly after you lose the soul of the sport and end up with a sanitised remnant.

That's the nature of being a swivel-eyed loon ;) You can't see that pragmatism understands the pros and cons and takes each case on its merits. So where the result would be detraction from the sport, the ideal is upheld, but where the result is enhancement the ideal is sacrificed, leading to the best possible outcome.


Misha - on 09 Jun 2014
In reply to dr evil:

There's a whole world of difference between bolts for protecting route and creating stances and bolts for designated abseil points. The latter does not detract from the trad ethic in my opinion, it just makes it easier and quicker to get off the crag so you can go and do another (trad) routes.
Jon Stewart - on 09 Jun 2014
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Yes, and I think many of us believe that, due to the nature of the rock and tradition of UK climbing there should be no place for the middle category in the UK.

Slate, surely? A unique style that has a small but significant place in UK climbing.


Robert Durran - on 09 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Slate, surely? A unique style that has a small but significant place in UK climbing.

Fair enough. An acceptable anomaly safely contained in a few quarries.
dr evil - on 10 Jun 2014
In reply to Misha:
> There's a whole world of difference between bolts for protecting route and creating stances and bolts for designated abseil points. The latter does not detract from the trad ethic in my opinion, it just makes it easier and quicker to get off the crag so you can go and do another (trad) routes.

Actually there is not a whole world of difference. Your argument is one of convenience. Bolts on belays or routes both involve drilling an unnatural hole in the rock. The belay is part of the climb. I can accept your opinion but my opinion is different. My opinion is trad. = no bolts.
Post edited at 03:29
AlanLittle - on 10 Jun 2014
In reply to rgold:

> a new category (plaisir climbs?)

The term is already taken: used in Switzerland & Austria to describe moderate grade climbs that are more densely bolted than the average indoor route.

rgold - on 10 Jun 2014
In reply to AlanLittle:

Yes, I know what plaisir climbs are in Europe; my suggested appropriation of the term for the multipitch U.S. routes with trad protection but bolted belays was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but with a little bite, since those routes have been made a lot more convenient and substantially less committing and so seem to conform to the plaisir concept, no?
Misha - on 10 Jun 2014
In reply to dr evil:

Yes indeed, I'm all for convenience, I hate long walk offs in tight rock shoes! If it's an Alpine route or a sea cliff, getting down (off the route or to the bottom of it) is part of the adventure. Whereas on UK inland crags getting down is just a nuisance. But we'll have to agree to disagree.
mockerkin on 10 Jun 2014
In reply to Matt300:

> I'm not Pro bolting all the country but wonder if the safety of climbers on popular routes must come before ethics.

>> Do you mean ab. bolts at every difficult part of a climb? For sport OK because they have bolted the world so if they want to retreat from a difficult position they have many bolts already.
Trad is a different question. It is more difficult and dangerous if you follow trad ethics, so you should be prepared and know where and how to ab off when you are in difficulties, using trad protection, not bolts. But as has been said, how many trad routes do you need to ab off when you have climbed the route, most you just walk off. The only reason I can see for trad routes having a bolted ab point is at the top for top roping. If you use trad methods it means that you need to know rock, not bolts or indoor. Then when you find yourself on a route without bolts, e.g. a less used crag or overseas crag you know how to get out of a bad situation.




mockerkin on 10 Jun 2014
In reply to Matt300:

I'm not Pro bolting all the country but wonder if the safety of climbers on popular routes must come before ethics.


>> Do you mean ab. bolts at every difficult part of a climb? For sport OK because they have bolted the world so if they want to retreat from a difficult position they have many bolts already.
Trad is a different question. It is more difficult and dangerous if you follow trad ethics, so you should be prepared and know where and how to ab off when you are in difficulties, using trad protection, not bolts. But as has been said, how many trad routes do you need to ab off when you have climbed the route, most you just walk off. The only reason I can see for trad routes having a bolted ab point is at the top for top roping. If you use trad methods it means that you need to know rock, not bolts or indoor. Then when you find yourself on a route without bolts, e.g. a less used crag or overseas crag you know how to get out of a bad situation.
Jon Stewart - on 10 Jun 2014
In reply to dr evil:

> The belay is part of the climb.

If getting a decent belay is a memorable part of the climb, then I don't think that adds to it. Plenty of pragmatic trad climbers agree, and bang in new pegs (e.g. top of The Strand, Out of The Blue) or even a bolt (The Sun). No one seems to object strongly enough to remove them, in contrast to what happens when bolts appear to protect the climbing on routes (e.g. Mad Dogs And Englishmen). I think there's a consensus that there's a world of difference between bolts to protect climbing - which changes the experience of route - and the odd sneaky bolt when the belay would otherwise be shite or undue hassle. It is just a matter of being pragmatic rather than dogmatic.

> I can accept your opinion but my opinion is different. My opinion is trad. = no bolts.

Fair enough, but that doesn't really say much about what trad climbing is and how we should deal with the various issues around fixed gear on the crags. What place does fixed gear in general have in trad? Should pegs be replaced or removed or left to rot? Is it a good thing when someone puts in a load of new threads on a route or are they doing other climbers out of the joy of hanging on getting pumped while fiddling in slings that won't go through the holes? What should we do with piles of rotting tat at ab points?

chris j on 11 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Plenty of pragmatic trad climbers agree,

I have issues with this word pragmatism. Lots of people use it when they have wildly different ends in mind. You've used it to describe the approach in the SW (as I understand it this is to not replace/actively remove fixed gear in routes and selectively replace historical tat with chains at lower-offs/ab-points), Misha uses it to mean "lets have nice convenient lower-offs at inland crags to save getting sore toes walking down", Frank 'Let's bolt the Peak' The Husky describes his approach as pragmatic. Wildly different ends... The word pragmatic mostly seems to be used on here to mean "I don't want the status quo and I want a banner which is hard to argue against". "You're dogmatic, I'm a pragmatist" can more or less be read as "I don't agree with your values and I want to impose mine on you".

> or even a bolt (The Sun).

That's a shame if it's true, I recall from many years ago that building a belay from the dry stone wall and tiny sticking up rock flakes at the crag top was an essential part of the experience!
dr evil - on 12 Jun 2014
In reply to Matt300:
Is there a bolt at the top of The Sun at Rhoscolyn?

gurumed - on 12 Jun 2014
In reply to Robert Durran:

> [...] due to the nature of the rock and tradition of UK climbing there should be no place for the middle category in the UK.

You seemed to be ok with the lower offs in Ratho Quarry...
Robert Durran - on 13 Jun 2014
In reply to gurumed:

> You seemed to be ok with the lower offs in Ratho Quarry...

It really would help if you read what I was referring to. Not that there is much chance you would understand it if you did.
Robert Durran - on 13 Jun 2014
In reply to Misha:

> There's a whole world of difference between bolts for protecting route and creating stances and bolts for designated abseil points. The latter does not detract from the trad ethic in my opinion, it just makes it easier and quicker to get off the crag so you can go and do another (trad) routes.

The challenge of an individual pitch remains the same, but bolted belays, especially on long routes, by largely trivialising retreat, remove a lot of the climb's commitment and give a very different feel to the route. I've enjoyed this style of climbing in the US (I havn't generally bothered with it in the Alps because I go to the Alps for, well, alpine climbing!), but don't see place for it in the UK.
Jon Stewart - on 13 Jun 2014
In reply to chris j:

> That's a shame if it's true, I recall from many years ago that building a belay from the dry stone wall and tiny sticking up rock flakes at the crag top was an essential part of the experience!

I did it pre-bolt too and made a belay out of indifferent wires and cams in the barely sticking up rock. It was not an essential part of the experience, it was completely bland and I would never have remembered it had I not been recently and seen that my mate had clipped something metal in the ground.

I can't see what possible difference it makes to anything.

Robert Durran - on 13 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> I did it pre-bolt too and made a belay out of indifferent wires and cams in the barely sticking up rock. It was not an essential part of the experience, it was completely bland.

I thought that building the belay was the most memorable part of a very overrated route.
Jon Stewart - on 13 Jun 2014
In reply to Robert Durran:

I did it when graded E2 as an E2 leader - it was right at my limit and very memorable. Having done it again recently, it's a bit easy for E3 so doesn't really deliver in difficulty, but I think it's a great route with exciting positions and a tricky crux. A superb pitch up there with say, many Pembroke routes. Centrefold is better though, and more like E3.

Taking your comment at face value I understand that some people do genuinely enjoy faffing with gear on the ground as much as, or more, than they enjoy climbing a route. For them it is indeed a shame that someone has made it about 50% easier to make a belay.
Robert Durran - on 13 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:
> Taking your comment at face value I understand that some people do genuinely enjoy faffing with gear on the ground as much as, or more, than they enjoy climbing a route.

I don't particularly enjoy faffing with gear; I just thought the route was awkward and not particularly interesting. Agree Centrefold is better, but I suppose the rock there and Gogarth just doesn't do it for me; neither aesthetic to look at nor to climb on.
Post edited at 23:28
Jon Stewart - on 13 Jun 2014
In reply to Robert Durran:

I really like Rhoscolyn and find the rock seems to suit me. Not quite so much the weird greasy open flared non-cracks of Main Cliff.

After I returned from Pembroke last year I went to High Tor and it seemed so incredibly crap that I almost couldn't be bothered to put my harness on. Similarly this year I went to Gogarth after Pabbay...

That doesn't mean that High Tor and Gogarth are completely shit, just that they're not nearly as good as Pembroke and Pabbay.
Robert Durran - on 13 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> After I returned from Pembroke last year I went to High Tor and it seemed so incredibly crap that I almost couldn't be bothered to put my harness on. Similarly this year I went to Gogarth after Pabbay...

Yes, I remember going to Gogarth main cliff the week after my first trip to Pabbay and finding it a scruffy and uninspiring little crag. I've never really got over it, but at least Positron didn't seem intimidating! But Pembroke always lives up to expectations, even after the 8 hour drive in the "wrong" direction.



dr evil - on 14 Jun 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> I can't see what possible difference it makes to anything.

That is the problem

Is the "metal thing in the ground" a bolt?
Jon Stewart - on 14 Jun 2014
In reply to dr evil:

> Is the "metal thing in the ground" a bolt?

Didn't look like a peg from where I was stood.

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