/ NEWS: Randall and Whittaker - In Europe and Going Wide
"...the route is really sustained overall, with a really good nausea factor. The top-out consists of a filthy squeeze chimney, which just adds to the experience..."
Read more at http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item.php?id=57006
Sounds like great fun!
Maybe I've missed it Jack, (probably have... ) but it might help readers to know that Craig was killed in an accident in the mountains last year. I never met Craig, but we did have email contact on a few occasions after H and I made the second ascent of his Madagascar route in 1999. At that time I told him about the retro bolting of TB, and I could sense the sadness in his reply. This is just one of the reasons why the re-climbing of this route and the removal of the bolts is so important. Anyone thinking about re-retro-bolting it, should think again.
Mixed feelings about this, the route was originally climbed on trad gear but it is in an area where the norm is too bolt almost everything therefore it got bolted then a couple of English climbers bob along and strip the bolts. Some might say what right do two foreign climbers have to go and strip the bolts it seems a little disrespectful to me, everyone on here would be up in arms if a couple of french climbers came over here and messed around with some of our routes or disrespected our ethics now wouldn't they...
I think you need to do a little more research..
> I think you need to do a little more research..
Maybe i do, i understand that the first ascent was done on trad gear and that now unfortunately the first ascentionist has past away so therefore restoring the route to its original state is a respectful thing to do. I also read that Stevie Haston repeated the route on trad gear. Then some french came along thought it to be an unclimbed line, bolted it then proceeded to frig the shit out of it. Which as some will rightfully think is attempting to bring the route down to their level, which maybe so but isn't the ethic in the area to bolt even lines that can be protected by trad gear? I maybe wrong and if i am please tell me. It doesn't really bother me either way as im not really a fan of offwidths and i especially dont climb E7 overhanging offwidths either. It jst seems rather cheeky of Randall and Whittaker, did they get permission from the locals first? If so then its fine.
Locals maybe guardians of an area, but they don't own the place.
This is about respect for other climbers, climbing ethics and the environment: you don't take a motorised drill, penetrate the rock, hammer home steel, to a climb that has been done clean using hand-placed gear.
That's a universal ethic wherever you live, often ignored, but just plain wrong wrong wrong.
You either get it or you don't. I'm not trying to persuade you or convince you.
And I think you should come here and see, and not spray from Chesterfield. I can see the crag as I type. I also gave the hangers to the (French) guy who established the local website and he was completely in favour of what has happened. And permission from locals.... After 20 years living here and establishing about 200 new routes - including the sport routes at this crag - often with bolts donated by the communes of Chamonix and Vallorcine and the Compagnie de Guides de Chamonix - I'm as local as they come. Tom and Pete have my full support. I watched them on the route and have about 120 photos of their labours. Believe me when I say, climbing that route on gear and not bolts is the way it should be done. You say it isn't the local ethic... this is just untrue. Michel Piola has established many routes on certain valley crags that lend themselves to natural protection and these get done regularly and have remained in their original form. So why not this one?
Jon de Montjoye
I wasn't trying to rattle cages i just wanted to understand a bit more about the local ethic and what is and not acceptable in the area thats all. It just looked a bit like 'Brits sprip bolts off local classic becuase they could so there' i don't doubt a thing you've just told me about the local ethics and local climbers opinions on this. I just get a bit wound up about the trad vs bolt debate that rages on here a fair bit and how people go around stripping bolts then others bang them back in etc etc. I know climbing politics and ethics are far from perfect and lots of climbers have very different views on the subject, i just hope that someone, who has different views to yourself, doesn't come along and bolt it back up because they beleive it should have remained a sport route and then the saga continues. My personal opinion, for what its worth, is that the route should never have been bolted in the first place as it was done on trad gear and should have remained that way. But we all know it's not that simple especially in areas where trad and sport lines co-exist.
> environment: you don't take a motorised drill, penetrate the rock, hammer
> home steel, to a climb that has been done clean using hand-placed gear.
> That's a universal ethic wherever you live, often ignored, but just plain
> wrong wrong wrong.
I wholeheartedly agree with the ethic that you outline. It isn't respected universally though and certainly not in Britain. There has been pretty widespread retrobolting of routes that had "been done clean using hand-placed gear". Clarion Call?
I guess this could just descend into a symantic argument over the definition of 'widespread' but I have to disagee with your ascertion. I can't think of any routes on crags that were not already predominantly sport crags that have been retro bolted. Of those that have been retro bolted I can't think of any routes that didnt already rely on fixed gear predominantly for protection that have been retro bolted, certainly not my definition of widespread.
Wasn't Clarion Call bolted first and *then* stripped of its bolts? And were the pegs Nick Dixon used for his boltless ascent hand placed?
Clarion Call is not the same at all. It was first done by Gary G with bolts. Paul Mitchell (I believe) took them out. Nick Dixon climbed it with an assortment of bits of steel, threaded with tat and hammered into shallow placements. One of those bits of steel came out in my hand as I swung across and grabbed it while rapping down to look at it. It's hanging on my wall in front of me as I type this. The same thing had previously happened to Douggie Hall, though he was probably on the sharp end. I searched for decent nut or peg placements and there just weren't any. The lower lip of the horizontal crack that Nick had hammered his 'peg' into had broken off so putting it back was impossible.
After a lot of cajoling, I was persuaded by the Monday Club crew to use Chris Hardy's drill to place a bolt. I led the route placing a small RP low down, then the bolt, then a peg at the top backed up by a nut. The two nuts were placed during the ascent. Over a period of years the other bolts appeared and the route is back to how it was on the first ascent. A long way round to say that ethically there's a world of difference between CC and TB.
totally agreed. I wasn't trying to suggest they were the same thing. I was merely refuting Mick's comment about a universally accepted ethic. Clarion Call probably wasn't a great example, it just came to mind. I didn't even know you'd had any involvement with its history (I certainly wasn't having a dig).
There has certainly been extensive retro-bolting of crags in Britain. A number of Yorkshire crags for starters (eg. Robin Proctor's Scar). It may even have been a good idea to retro bolt these.
I certainly don't agree with the bolting of obvious crack lines ( as I said originally). But there is no "universally accepted ethic", and bolting of cracks on the continent is not exactly a rare occurrence.
,penetrate the rock, hammer home steel, to a climb that has been done clean using hand-placed gear.....I'm not trying to persuade you or convince you.
Not sure what the unbiased might say about that let alone Freud
> Hi Jon,
> totally agreed. I wasn't trying to suggest they were the same thing. I was merely refuting Mick's comment about a universally accepted ethic.
Like I said, "often ignored"
In any climbing area, once a climb has been established, there are those who respect how it was established, using fixed gear, or hand placed etc...
Then there are those that don't respect that.
These things aren't written down, or set in stone, but the retrobolters know that they are sinners and will burn in the eternal fires of hell.
> ,penetrate the rock, hammer home steel, to a climb that has been done clean using hand-placed gear.....I'm not trying to persuade you or convince you.
> Not sure what the unbiased might say about that let alone Freud
That was the toned down version.
I always suspected you had a bit of religion in you.
> I always suspected you had a bit of religion in you.
A bit, I'm riddled and infected with far too much of it.
Perhaps it would be better if more ethical in-situ pro had been used....
like chockstones ...... :)
Do you think there is a market for custom carved chockstones? Foamed concrete light weight ones for long routes?
Would be a hell of a lot cheaper than the $100s to buy 8 O/W sided cams.
> Locals maybe guardians of an area, but they don't own the place.
> > You either get it or you don't.
I’ve got to admit Mick, I don’t get it. I mean the bit about having to respect the first ascensionists' style of ascent over local consensus. Surely a local consensus on the best form of protection for a route is the most important issue. A good example is the Cad on North Stack Wall, impressively climbed bolt-free by Jimmy Jewel back in the day, who then respected the consensus by replacing the bolt after his ascent.
Sometimes the first ascensionist simply gets it wrong. A good example of this is Stevie Haston’s dry-tooling routes in Valsavaranche. The crux sections of these routes are actually quite short and Stevie decided to use pitons to protect them. In a 4-foot roof you have about 5 rusting pitons all linked together with rotting tat (the numbers may be slightly wrong but you get the gist). All this gear gets in the way of the climbing and, more critically, if a climber falls off and these 15 year-old pegs blow, then said climber will probably end up spending the rest of their days in a wheelchair. Now Stevie didn’t have to deal with that when he climbed it because the pegs were brand new. Rumour has it that Stevie doesn’t want the routes bolted out of respect for his ethics, and as far as I know the locals have complied so far. Personally I can’t help feeling that placing a few bolts would be a much better solution. In fact I might just do that if ever I go back and can be arsed (not much chance, I’m a lazy sod!).
So anyway, onwards to the Thai Boxing saga. Craig Luebben admirably climbs a very difficult crack protecting it with an uncommon form of protection which he admirably invented. Respect! The locals think this is great but don’t have the gear in question. The local ethic is for bolting valley crags so they do so and the crack becomes a bit of a test-piece, providing fun, sport and Yosemite-training for the valley’s climbers. Craig wasn't going to climb it again anyway. Everybody wins.
Several years later two Brits come along with another form of unusual protection - very large cams. Now these cams are expensive and you need several of them to protect the route. Luckily for our boys they’ve been given a load of them by their sponsor. Now they could have done a Jimmy Jewel; led the route with their cams, had a good time, felt a warm inner glow at not having used the bolts and moved on to something else. But instead they decide to spoil the fun for the locals by stripping the bolts.
What was the point of that? I suppose the boys get publicity, their sponsor gets publicity, UKC gets a story and a certain section of the British climbing community gets a warm glow inside because “we’ve shown the froggies wot climbin’s all about”. Great, but what are the locals left with – a climb which they can’t do any more without a huge logistical effort to get the gear. Tom, Pete, Wild Country and UKC win; the locals lose.
We will burn in hell together!
All the best
ps Jon’s a mate but we’ll have to agree to differ on this one. However I would just like to say that every climber that I know feels indebted to him for the vast amount of work he has put into developing the cragging potential of the valley. Luckily not everybody’s a lazy sod like me. Rich111 (other TB thread) is out of order.
pps Bollox my beer’s just frozen in the fridge while I’ve been typing this.
On another note you can see a bolt is still in place in one of the pictures, did they climb it first on gear to make sure they could do it, and then cut the bolts?
Tom and Pete climbed the route for themselves and maybe their sponsors. They like wide cracks. They removed the bolts for Craig and no-one else. That might sound a bit sentimental and soft, but that's what they told me. That's why they they didn't do the same thing with the gear in the other crack, even though they climbed that in the POURING rain (you remember what it was like last Friday... er, I mean the Friday before!) on natural gear, nothing big, just regular medium Friends and nuts. http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=150935
Apart from taking some photos, I had nothing to do with Thai Boxing, I even missed the ascent and removal of the bolts as I had to go over to Arolla. I asked them for the hangers and then gave them to Gilles, who, incidentally was very much in favour of what they'd done. I'm not going to say any more as I seem to be getting shit on from everywhere!
That's exactly what I understood. I knew you had nothing to do with stripping the bolts but I got the feeling that you approved. That's fine by me. God wouldn't it be boring if everybody thought like I did. Vive la difference and all that. Anyway I'm definitely not giving you any shit over it. I only mentioned you 'coz you got a totally unjustified slating on the other thread.
Keen to climb by the way so give us a call if you have some time free.
> I’ve got to admit Mick, I don’t get it.
It's OK. Read Royal Robbins, and his great philosopy, of improving on a first ascent as regards style and even protection. I'm sure you have.
This off-width can still be climbed by locals, it hasn't been stolen, they can top rope it, or borrow some gear if they want to lead it - and what a great challenge to lead it without bolts! The rewards would be far higher than if it was a clip up.
It's not about generating copy, or increasing readership, or sponsorship - easy to level that at us.
We are passionate climbers, who love climbing and climbers, we climb a lot and there is no conspiracy.
This is a great story about a great climb and bucks the trend of the McDonaldisation of climbing, surely the French can appreciate that - at least some I am sure.
Now don't get all edgy on me. I never suggested that UKC was involved in some masterplan to strip bolts on the continent, get easily researched news' items and promote their advertisers' products. I suppose rule n°1 of internet scrapping is to undermine your adversary's credibility though, so fair game.
I haven't actually read the Royal Robbins article that you mention. I'm sure it's interesting but I do wonder what a 1960s, American big wall climber's opinion has to do with ethics on a French sport crag in the 21st century. I agree that historical perspectives are important but there are plenty of older climbers in the Chamonix valley who can give us that (like Jon for example ;-)).
It seems to me that the climbing community puts way too much weight behind the idea that the first ascensionists decisions are sacred. If the first ascenionist is motivated by the experience then he shouldn't really care what happens to the route after he's done it (unless he's a local and plans to climb it regularly). If he's motivated by ego then, yeah, I can see why he would want the route to stay in it's original state as a testament to his skills and bravery. Unfortunately that means that everybody else is held to ransom by an individual's ego - not an ideal state of affairs in any community.
Take this crag in Vallorcine. It seems to me that there would be a very good case for stripping the 7b+ (that Tom impressively flashed on natural gear) of its bolts as the gear required is widely available. If consulted I'd argue this point with the locals, but would defer to the consensus judgement if it was different. In any case, I could always do like Tom and lead it on natural pro anyway (well, except I'm not good enough!). Your point of view however implies that it's fine for this particular route to be bolted because that's what the first ascensionist dictated.
Now TB is the complete opposite. The first ascensionist decided to do it on removeable protection, but suitable gear is very difficult to get hold of (I don't know anybody with a cam as big as that green one in the photo). So basically the locals are now stuffed. Shoving a large cam into a crack is not particularly difficult or clever and offers just as good protection as a bolt so why not ...er, just use bolts. The challenge doesn't really change much at all.
The idea that the first ascensionist dictates the rules for ever obviously doesn't give the best result on this crag. That's why I don't 'get it'.
However the most disturbing part of this whole episode is that it wasn't even Craig who decided that the bolts should go, but a couple of visiting Brits who were given a rack of large cams by a company which has no long-term involvement in the area.
Also, don't get the idea that Brits are the only people with a sense of rock-climbing ethics. The bolts on 'The Untouchables' - a route on the Trident - were stripped a few years back (and the route down graded from 7c+ to 7a+!). This was generally applauded because :
1) The work was so well done that you honestly can't see where the bolts have been.
2) The local ethic is no bolts next to cracks in the high mountains.
3) The gear is easily available (mid-size cams).
4) It was done by someone from the local climbing community.
None of these points are relevant to the de-bolting of Thai Boxing.
So all in all I'm not convinced that this story bucks the trend of the McDonaldisation of climbing at all. Foreign climbers backed by foreign companies impose their culture on a local community while getting a free ride on the publicity wagon. Sounds familiar?!
If Tom, Pete & Wild Country really want to buck that trend they could donate the necessary cams to Vallorcine town hall to be lent out to any climber interested in doing the route. Now that, I am sure, would be appreciated by all.
Go on, tear me apart.
All the best
Me edgy ; o )
I agree. It's often used as a justification to retrobolt gear routes.
This has been done in the UK. Old climbers who put up first ascents 40 years ago are often 'visited' by those infected with the bolt virus and forced under duress to sign scraps of paper giving permission for their routes to be retrobolted.
Beer and drugs are often used to persuade the geriatric climbers, and if that fails I've heard of knuckledusters being used.
Sounds like you might be entitled to police protection Mick.
> We will burn in hell together...
Nice post. I don't necessarily have an opinion on the matter, but I thought that was really well argued.
An interesting and well written post Neil.
Ok, just going to write a quick reply as firstly, I'm more bothered about climbing outside that getting into internet debates (please feel free to call or email me if you really need to talk about any issues in earnest) and secondly I'm away in Italy at the moment climbing.
1. We didn't get given any big cams by Wild Country. We are passionate climbers, we love climbing and therefore we have bought a couple of big cams over the years (i.e. 15 years) and borrowed a couple more off friends.
2. How many "hardest offwidth in Europe" are there?? Not many. Would be a total shame to have our only example reduced to a clip up.
3. The only reason for removing the bolts was because I thought it was the right thing to do. You'd be mad for thinking I'd do that for sponsors or UKC.
Jon - really sorry for the hassle you've got! Thanks for explaining the situation. We're away in Orco Valley now for 2 weeks so apologies for any further grief by posting this.
If anyone wants to borrow any big cams off me, you're very welcome.
Only posting this to provide info - nothing else.
As Derbyshire Ben observes, very well argued. You nearly had me agreeing with you! Except that the thick carpet of moss that is (now) at the foot of Thai B is whitness to the number of ascents that route HASN'T had over the last few years, so I don't think the community has been robbed as much as you'd like to think. I'm a little surprised and disappointed that T and P haven't been on and put their side themselves. However....
Now, this really deserves its own topic, but I doubt anyone but us would see where it was coming from, and I couldn't address it to you, so maybe it's better tacked onto this thread. The ethics (and rivalries) around here are not quite as cut and dried as folks would like to / been led to think. There are so many examples of deviations from the accepted 'norms'... I'll just list a few.
Firstly when it comes to 'locals' and whether to equip or not, there's the example of your mate Pallandre. Now François isn't really a local... (Marc Ravanel refers to him as 'le parvenu'...!) but he's opened a number of great routes on the Brévent, of which two either use little or no insitu gear. The Brévent isn't really a mountain crag (or the rest of the Aigs Rouges, for that matter), so why not bolt them. At much the same time, François deemed it necessary to destroy one of my routes at Bouchy to produce a competition route for the guides selection test - smashed my bolts and re-routed/bolted the route two or three metres to the left, so that it gave the desired grade. He then denied it when I angrily turned up at ENSA and then later said that all he'd done was take the hangers off. They were sheared off.
Back to the Brévent, Piola was in the process of opening a route called Fin de Babylone. He waited till a party on Poéme à Lou got out of the way and then chucked some rocks down, having warned the other team. Sometime afterwards, quite late, another team started up PàL but stubbornly refused to get out of the way, pretending they were foreign and couldn't understand. It turned out it was Serge Koenig, who then telephoned the PGHM and reported MiPi. A helicopter then flew up to observe the scene. Eventually things sorted themselves out. The next day MiPi left a note at the access to PàL warning folk not to do that route, or at least be cateful, while he finished the cleaning. He subseqently received a letter from the Maire telling him he was banned from new routing for the rest of the summer in the Aigs Rouges. Previous friction between SK/J-FH and MiPi on the Peigne routes, Dimanche Noir and Faut-il Brûler les Prophètes is well documented.
MiPi himself has a whiter than white ethic of ground up new routing - except when he does it en rappel(!) in the Passet Valley.
... I've just completely lost my train of thought, (there was a point to my ramblings, but it's escaped me for the moment... ) so I'll leave it at that
Maybe Rich's mistaken statement about TB being originally done with wooden wedges, might provide a logical solution... seriously!
Obviously ignore the last sentence of my first para now...
good to see Craig's work is admired and respected worldwide.
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