/ Bolted cracks

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jon on 20 Jan 2009
About 15 years ago I bolted a good but small crag here in Vallorcine. I never publicised it as it's on private land. It has half a dozen routes from 6a+ - 8a+. At the left end is a grossly overhanging off width. A few years later an American by the name of Craig Luebben (who invented the 'Big Bro' expanding tube chock) came along and climbed it using his tube chocks, and grading it 5.12c - or 7b+ in French Francs. Just a few years ago a marauding team of climbers from Argentiere discovered the crag and the 'unclimbed' (read unbolted) crack, which they bolted and laid siege to it. I'm not sure if anyone has managed to climb it since. It is now equipped with loooong slings so it can be frigged easily. (As someone has already pointed out in a comment on the photo, they couldn't even get that right...) A grade of 8a+ has been put about! This goes to show that homo erectus francais has a way to go before he gets anywhere near the Yanks. http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=106567

How do you feel about it? Or, to put it another way, how would you feel if you found a line of bolts along side one of those big Curbar cracks? (apart from relieved, that is...)
M. Edwards on 20 Jan 2009
In reply to jon: Jon, what we have done from the very beginning, when we first moved to the Costa Blanca, was climb with the locals. Take them trad climbing on new routes, to show them what can be done without bolts, and remember, they did not have their own trad gear over 20yrs ago, climbing shops just did not stock gear.
This has done a number of things, mainly we have sympathy for the trad routes we have put up, and most importantly, it has encouraged many to climb cracks in a trad style. There are obviously some who have bolted perfectly protect-able cracks here, this is not a perfect world. But I think climbing with the locals has held back the tide of over bolting.

Sadly, I have experienced vocal wishes from one ex-pat wanting everything bolted, and to quote "Everyone who visits us only wants sports climbing..". I'll never forget that one.
mynyddresident - on 20 Jan 2009
Looks like a fun crag, where abouts in Vallorcine (roughly) is it? Just wondering as i lived there for several months last year.

I agree it should have been left for trad only ascents however it's the norm isn't in France, to bolt everything.
jon on 20 Jan 2009
In reply to mynyddresident:

If you click on the photo, the details are shown below it. That will tell you exactly where it is. Craig called it Thai Boxing. I emailed him and told him of the fate of his route and he was very sad. He said it was possibly one of the best off widths he'd ever done - and this from the acknowledged expert on them...
jon on 20 Jan 2009
In reply to M. Edwards: In the valley here there just aren't many routes that can be protected solely with natural protection, the gneiss and granite is not like higher in the mountains, it's very compact. This crack, and the thinner one next to it are very rare examples. Incidentally, the young French guy who was getting nearest to it last year is a 8b sport climber who, as his first crack routes did the Rostrum and Astroman last summer - so no slouch. My point (one of them) was the remarkable gap between the two nationalities when it comes to cracks!
Strife - on 20 Jan 2009
If it's bolted you could still climb it trad style, so what's the big deal?
Chris the Tall - on 20 Jan 2009
In reply to jon:
Look at it from the other side

They didn't realise it had been climbed - as you said you didn't publicise it.
The rest of the crag is bolted, so it was natural to assume it hadn't been climbed. Furthermore bolting, regardless of the oppurtunities for trad gear, is the norm in France.
These guys wanted the challenge of the line, clearly pretty tough, without the additional concerns of placing and trusting gear. Climbing for climbing's sake - not hard to relate to surely ?

And finally, not only would you require unusual gear (i've never heard of tube chocks), but you would require quite a few of them. Would it be worth the investment of well over 100 euros (at a guess) for gear you wouldn't need elsewhere

P.S. No amount of bolts would ever get me tempted to try a crack like that, neither in France nor at Curbar !!!
Matt Vigg - on 21 Jan 2009
In reply to jon:

To someone brought up on trad it might seem wrong but not to someone who's only ever sport climbed. We have the same situation here in Greece, I did a perfect jamming crack recently and it a line of bolts up the side of it, it felt wrong to me and perfectly normal to my Greek climbing partner.
In reply to jon: There was a picture of Stevie Haston climbing that route in OTE years back. I remember because his cam wasn't big enough so he stacked it against a paper back book. I remember thinking that this seemed unlikely to work.

I'm 99% certain of this unless there is another offwidth called Thai Boxing somewhere in the French alps.
In reply to jon: Incidentally, I did the first ascent of crack route here in Finland, which was subsequently retro-bolted, reclimbed and renamed by the topo writer who credited himself in the topo. He knew I had done the route, but claimed I had hadn't his permission to climb it. He believes the crag is his club's crag.
Doug on 21 Jan 2009
In reply to jon: Unfortnately (at least from a UK perspective) bolting cracks seem normal practice in France. I remember my visit to Martinswand in the Vosges after reading how Jean Claud Droyer has cleaned all the old pegs and led everything on nuts (its a granite crag). I guess my first visit (early 90s)was some 10 years after he'd been active there and everything had been bolted. I was horrified as it was the first time I'd ever seen bolts placed alongside easy to protect cracks on routes at severe or VS
jon on 21 Jan 2009
In reply to TobyA:

Stevie asked me once if I had any projects that maybe a bit hard for me! As there were 2 lines which had so far resisted my attempts (though I could do all the moves etc.), I directed him to the crag. A bit later he told me he'd done them at 8a and 8a+. Stevie then took Craig there. I guess the crack was too hard for him...? But I think, and maybe wrong, that the book incident (it was Hemingway) was not on that crack, but somwhere in the mountains.
jon on 21 Jan 2009
In reply to Chris the Tall:

I agree entirely - and I have bolted close on 200 routes here, so no worries there. My point, apart from taking the piss a bit at the expense of the French, was the enormous gap between the crack climbing abilities of the Americans and, well, just about everyone else! The photo , by the way doesn't do the crack justice... it's even bigger and more of a monster than you can imagine! By the way look up Big Bros.

jon on 21 Jan 2009
In reply to jon:

Oh, I forgot, Stevie predicted that the French would fill the crack in with concrete and then bolt it. He was half right. Thank heavens for small mercies.
Al Evans on 21 Jan 2009
In reply to jon: Possibly a side issue, but in the UK while most trad routes are 'generally' considered sacrosanct (not always) hard aid routes are considered easy game for retrobolting, like I said, its a side issue.
jon on 21 Jan 2009
In reply to Al Evans:

Yes, but I guess hard aid routes are considered less perfect than hard trad and are not treated with the same respect. Also that the very nature of hard aid is that the gear is so dodgy, a free ascent might just be unjustifiable without bolting.
I must say it's interesting, I thought there'd be far more 'digusted of Sheffield' replies. I should also point out that I have no personal interest in the crack - I'd rather have all my teeth pulled...
jon on 21 Jan 2009
In reply to Chris the Tall:
> (In reply to jon)

>
> And finally, not only would you require unusual gear (i've never heard of tube chocks), but you would require quite a few of them. Would it be worth the investment of well over 100 euros (at a guess) for gear you wouldn't need elsewhere
>
I got exactly the same feeling at Indian Creek. We did Generic Crack with 2 no. 3 friends as we hadn't got 11 of them. Never again. Went somewhere else!

These are Big Bros, by the way...

http://www.alpinist.com/doc/ALP23/tool-users-big-bro
Hardonicus - on 21 Jan 2009
In reply to jon: Dude, it's France, do you know how much rock they've got? They can afford not to be precious about it...

In England it is a different matter of course.
jon on 21 Jan 2009
In reply to Hardonicus:

What you mean is: not in my back yard...? Which side of Right Eliminate would you like them? But, sadly, you're right.
In reply to jon:
> But I think, and maybe wrong, that the book incident (it was Hemingway) was not on that crack, but somwhere in the mountains.

Could well be - perhaps the photo was of him on Thai Boxing but the article refered to the book on another route. I'm just sad that I remember these things at all! :-)
jon on 21 Jan 2009
In reply to TobyA:

If you hadn't said the last bit about being sad, I'd have gone and looked it up. I daren't now.
John2 - on 21 Jan 2009
In reply to jon: There was nothing at all sad about your revelation that the book was a Hemingway. I mean, you'd hardly protect a route that hard with a Mills and Boon novel, would you?
jon on 21 Jan 2009
In reply to John2:

Probably better than Rosalind Pilcher, I'll admit.
Chris F - on 21 Jan 2009
In reply to TobyA:
> (In reply to jon)
> [...]
>
> Could well be - perhaps the photo was of him on Thai Boxing but the article refered to the book on another route. I'm just sad that I remember these things at all! :-)

Pretty sure the book pic was on the Grand Capuchin.

Chris F - on 21 Jan 2009
In reply to jon: Is that the crag with the holds that were bolted onto it btw? I visited a crag up the opposite side of the Valley to Valloricne once back in the mid 90s
Al Evans on 21 Jan 2009
In reply to Chris F: There's a great F6b with a stuck on hold on Pego, without it, it might just (just) be possible at UK 7a.
jon on 21 Jan 2009
In reply to Chris F:

Yes, I think it was Grand Cap or Adolphe Rey. There is a piccie of Stevie on TB in OTE July 96 (Oh God...)

No it's not that crag. That's the Renard. Le Couteray is same side of the valley but the other (upper) end
jon on 21 Jan 2009
In reply to Al Evans:

The crag he's talking about has a 40m 7a+ which has six resin holds in its first 10m. It goes without them at 7c+ or 8a depending on your height.
Al Evans on 21 Jan 2009
In reply to jon: Does seem a bit excessive, Jon are you getting old, Mark and you and me would never have wasted our time on a forum like this in the old days (not that they existed :-) Only joking Jon :-)
jon on 21 Jan 2009
In reply to Al Evans:

What's a bit excessive - the resin holds, the free grade or the fact I'm sat here on a sunny day? If it's the holds I can tell you why...
jon on 21 Jan 2009
In reply to Chris F:
> (In reply to TobyA)
> [...]
>
> Pretty sure the book pic was on the Grand Capuchin.

You, sir, are absolutely right. It was the Grand Cap - but the book apparently was the Haute Savoie telephone directory. As for Hemingway, I was just idly speculating...
Chris F - on 22 Jan 2009
In reply to jon:

> No it's not that crag. That's the Renard. Le Couteray is same side of the valley but the other (upper) end

Renard sounds right. See to remember some quite noce steeper lines.

TomPR - on 22 Jan 2009
In reply to jon:

Hi Jon, looks really good! I remember this from an old Haston article, which I always have sat on my kitchen table.

Is the crag still private? I.e. is it ok for people to climb there at the moment?

Cheers

Tom
Chris the Tall - on 22 Jan 2009
In reply to TomPR:
You really should get some psychoanalysis on why you have such an urge to climb this sort of thing !
jon on 22 Jan 2009
In reply to Chris F:

Yes, very good crag that we bolted in 1993. Unfortunately closed due to a catastrophic rockfall a few years ago. Still climbable but extremely dangerous. Any rockfall eg from aninals above the crag gets channelled by the couloir above. It's like sitting in the end of a gun barrel.

In reply to TomPR:

It's still private. People still go, but they keep their heads down.
jon on 22 Jan 2009
In reply to jon:

Oh, and it's extremely badly bolted - just look where they are... but why would you want to climb that?

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