/ Lakes Winter Climbing: Who Cares?

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Martin Kocsis, BMC on 27 Oct 2011 - thebmc.claranet.co.uk
Hawkshead Brewery, Staveley
Weds 30th November 2011
7.45pm start

As winter climbing increases in popularity, people are beginning to feel there is a need to discuss and explore the issues that these activities bring into focus.

For instance, concerns have been voiced about the placing and removal of hammered-in gear on already existing summer routes, potential damage to rock and the environmental impact of climbing on frozen/semi frozen vegetation.

It would be good to have an open discussion about these issues and to hear the views of as many people as possible.

Additionally, there is the possibility of the BMC producing a “Winter/White Guide” that could set out the issues environmentally and perhaps even ethically when winter climbing. If any broader concerns or issues arise from the debate they could be used to steer what goes into the guide.

To start this process off, the BMC's Lakes Area team will be hosting a Winter Ethics Debate at Hawkshead Brewery. Everyone is welcome, and free and tasty food will be laid on by the team to get you through what will be an open, constructive and good natured debate.

There is a BMC news item here: http://www.thebmc.co.uk/News.aspx?id=4530

The BMC’s involvement is twofold: 1) to provide a forum to facilitate the debate where everyone can contribute. 2) to provide an impartial chair for the meeting (Nick Colton, BMC Deputy CEO).

Full details will be on the BMC Community website soon (if not now) and everyone is welcome. There will be a short AGM beforehand to elect the team (chair, BMC national council reps, club rep, secretary & access reps) for 2012. If you want to get involved, please get in touch with us here at the office.


Simon Caldwell - on 27 Oct 2011
In reply to Martin Kocsis, BMC:

Shouldn't the title be "Who cares and also lives locally?"
dan bulman - on 27 Oct 2011
hi martin,
i wont be going but would like to say that the damage on classic summer routes by axes and crampons looks terrible eg/ bowfell buttress.
but what can be done about that? its up to individuals to see the damage it causes and decide to stay away from it themselves.
thanks,
dan.
Nicholas Livesey on 27 Oct 2011
In reply to dan bulman: I agree with that Dan, Gillercombe Buttress is a bit of a mess too. There's no need for it really.
Steve Scott - on 27 Oct 2011
Dan wrote - "the damage on classic summer routes by axes and crampons looks terrible eg/ bowfell buttress"

Dan, this is probably THE best route of its type in the Lakes, an absolute classic ..... I have not yet climbed it in summer, but would enthusiastically repeat this superb and absorbing route in winter. Even hardened opponents of the mixed ethic agree this is a great winter climb. Remember it was climbed in the winter of 1937/38 and notable as this was the first grade V climbed by a woman; she made the second ascent of Steep Gill that same winter cycling from Kendal to Scafell and back to get to work the following day!

Our heritage in the Lakes is one of climbing hard rock in winter and summer. Napes Needle Christmas Day 1896 when no rock work was possible, by OG Jones and party. Much of the rock on Pillar and the Napes was explored in the winters between 1890 and 1913. Look at the explorations of Collie and the late Victorians ... many of the classic rock routes had first ascents in winter, and were repeated in summer condition (Engineer's Chimney; 1910). This pool of skill and talent was lost in the Great War, and subsequently not consistently matched until the 1950's.

Rock climbers are now claiming they have exclusive use of the rock and complain about the scratches, they need to accept that there are other valid mountain users and be tolerant.
Mixed masters don't keep carping on about vandal climbers who pull vegetation off the crag.
By the way, does anyone know what happened to all the nail marks?
Steve

thegoatstroker - on 27 Oct 2011
In reply to Stephen Scott,
Some valid points there, however....
The numbers of people involved in mixed climbing today presents a different set of conditions to consider. The climbers attempting the routes you mention back in the day were the elite few of a much smaller number of climbers overall. Today with modern tools a greater number of people are attracted to mixed climbing. This is partly due to the greater frequency of acceptable conditions compared to ice, partly because of the greater sense of security that rock gear offers - particularly on established rock climbs.
The number of people who enjoy these rock climbs as summer lines is far greater still, and it is this expansion of numbers which I think is key. The rare ascents of such climbs back in the day was not enough to damage these climbs significantly - they were astounding and groundbreaking it is true. Such are the advances in kit since then these climbs get over used because they are do-able by far more people.

There are plenty of places where mixed climbing can happily be enjoyed by the (relative) few, which will not trash 3* classics for the many.
Lots of potential and existing lines can be found on crags and routes which will never be popular summer classics due to vegetation or wetness - both of which make them even better for winter!

I don't have a solution as the situation relies on people considering others and putting the greater happiness over their individual desires which does not seem to be something folk are much good at these days.

I would say though that the adventurous climbers who look beyond the obvious classic rock lines will do themselves and the rock bumblies (like me) a big favour, it would be nice to think they would want to.

Cheers all hope it's a constructive evening.
Exile - on 27 Oct 2011
In reply to Toreador:

It's never going to be convenient for everybody is it! I would also argue that most of the people putting up new routes in the Lakes are local and I suspect that any concensus reached, (if it's possible,) will be related to what is and isn't fair game from this point onwards. It is local for me so I'll let you know!
Steve Scott - on 27 Oct 2011
In reply to thegoatstroker: You have hit the nail on the head - too many climbers, and so few crags to climb. The increase in the popularity of climbing and the desire to try new disciplines has created unbearable pressure - there is only one f-in Bowfell.

Steve
thegoatstroker - on 27 Oct 2011
In reply to Stephen Scott: Ha! There aren't too many climbers, they just need the exploratory spirit to look elsewhere for equally worthwhile days out. There are loads of other good lines already that don't follow classic summer routes, which see few ascents due to peoples tunnel vision, lack of imagination and desire to get a runner in every few feet.

That's without the potential lines that remain to be claimed at IV and V which may have escaped the notice of the modern mixed-masters. I reckon there is still loads to be done, but it is so much easier to follow the herd (and the scratches).

The mixed climbers can co exist with the summer rock crowds ( and many will be both) but there has to be some acceptance that "anything goes" is an unneccesarily selfish and short-sighted attitude.
Mike Nolan - on 27 Oct 2011
In reply to thegoatstroker: Is it as selfish as the view that Summer climbers are somewhat more entitled to a line than mixed climbers?

Don't get me wrong, most of my time is spent Summer climbing, but I don't think it's fair to imply that Summer climbers have more of a right to be there than Winter climbers.
thegoatstroker - on 27 Oct 2011
In reply to Mike Nolan: I know it's a drag having to consider the effects of your actions have on others but you should.

Do those who like to leave their litter on the hill have as much right to do so as the rest of us to enjoy the hills unlittered?

Do those who like to shit outside bothies have as much right to use them as the good sod-cutting majority?

There are responsibilities in the hills as well as rights.

Ross McGibbon - on 27 Oct 2011
People just need to use some sense - what will make for a good mixed route is not the same as a good rock route.

Last year we picked off a great line by reading a rock crag description that said it was spoilt by too much vegetation. Bingo! A light went on in our heads!
And no-one else was on the crag on a cracking, below zero day.
Mike Nolan - on 27 Oct 2011
In reply to thegoatstroker: No need to have that kind of attitude with me. I'm just saying perhaps the wrong way of dealing with this is to make mixed climbers sound like the bad guys, we/they have just as much right to be there as you.

Comparing them to people who 'like to leave litter' is also a bit of a false comparison, winter climbers don't go out on a mission to damage rock, in fact I might even go as far as suggesting the number of summer climbers on a route over the course of a year do as much damage, in terms of erosion, than the 'relatively small' number of winter climbers.
thegoatstroker - on 27 Oct 2011
In reply to Mike Nolan: Sorry if that was a bit sarky, but I don't think it is a false comparison.
People don't go into the hills on a mission to leave litter, they are out to have a nice time but when it comes to a choice "shall I put that sticky wrapper/banana skin/empty bottle securely inside my nice rucksack or shall i just tuck it inbetween those rocks?" they decide to disregard the effect on others enjoyment.
Similarly when we go climbing we have a choice. I am not saying winter climbers delibwerately go out to scar rock climbs, but we know it happens.

So perhaps when faced with the question "shall we go and climb that 3* classic VDiff or that unknown mossy line with a name we've never heard of?" there is more up for consideration than our rights.

As for the effect on the erosion of the mountains - they will all end up as seabed one day - that's not the relevant context here is it?

Oh dear I'm coming over as a stroppy arsehole, I just think there is another way where everyone can have their challenges and their enjoyment in these crowded wee mountains.

did you get up Helvellyn btw?
Franco Cookson on 27 Oct 2011
In reply to Martin Kocsis, BMC:


I'm very interested in this debate, but am outside the UK for this winter. Can the guidelines that you come up with be written up, so I know what I'm flouting..
Franco Cookson on 27 Oct 2011
In reply to thegoatstroker:

There's not a lot of rock in the lakes that will offer VIII+ climbing and does not already have existing rock routes on it.
Merlin - on 27 Oct 2011
In reply to Martin Kocsis, BMC:

I can't believe people care so much about some scratches on rock, or have the time to spare to go to a meeting about them - which from this thread, it is is fair to assess that no clear conclusion will be drawn.

No one seems to whinge that much about polishing, perhaps the scratching counteracts it :)
ice.solo - on 28 Oct 2011
In reply to Martin Kocsis, BMC:

its quite simple really:

get more people winter climbing and restrict summer access.

scratches the routes a lot more, but balances it out with fewer summer climbers to whine about it.
Simon Caldwell - on 28 Oct 2011
In reply to Exile:

The summary of the agenda doesn't sound like it's restricted to new routing.

Anyway, I'm saving my last day's holiday for some winter climbing. I doubt I'd contribute anyway, as I don't have any strong feelings about any of the 'controversial' areas, but would have liked to be there to listen.
rka - on 28 Oct 2011
In reply to Martin Kocsis, BMC:

I started rock and winter climbing in the lakes over 30 years ago and have witnessed what I consider the vandalism of classic climbs by "mixed climbing" (just take a look at the engineers slab routes).

With the increase in gear technology in terms of hardness/toughness of current tools the damage inflicted on the rock using current climbing techniques is unacceptable. I advocate not abandoning mixed climbing but change how we climb. Severe damage is caused by cold welding picks into thin cracks/flakes and hard crampon points scarting down walls/slabs. I have seen very few climbers where being terrified made them a neater climber (those who have climbed with me over the years have born witness to my own ineptitude!)

We appear to be in the same position aid climbing was when nut technology replaced pegs. Repeated peg insertion trashed placements, what were once knife blade tips eroded into flared pods. Mixed climbing is not too far removed from aid in that physical contact is mediated by technology. Probably less damage would occur if modern aid techniques were used in winter on these classic climbs.
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Dave Ferguson - on 28 Oct 2011
In reply to Franco Cookson:
> (In reply to thegoatstroker)
>
> There's not a lot of rock in the lakes that will offer VIII+ climbing and does not already have existing rock routes on it.

You're right up to a point Franco but there are plenty of really vegetated cargs in the Lakes that would make great winter venues. examples include: Green Crag, Eagle - Buttermere, Honister Crag, Boat Howe, North Buttress, Hutaple + many more.

Why aren't lakes winter climbers using these crags to push the boundaries of mixed climbing? Its not as if they are not steep enough. Summer climbers rarely use them and there wouldn't be an issue if such venues had axe and crampon scratches amougnst the vegetation.

There is no need to make a mess of classic summer routes on south facing crags like Gimmer and Esk buttress, I just don't get why certain winter climbers are out to cause so much aggrevation


thegoatstroker - on 28 Oct 2011
In reply to Franco Cookson:
> (In reply to thegoatstroker)
>
> There's not a lot of rock in the lakes that will offer VIII+ climbing and does not already have existing rock routes on it.

You are right Franco, but there are not a lot of people climbing VIII+ even with the amazing new axes available. It is the greater number of people climbing maybe IV to VI whose activity is trashing summer classics.

If there were scratches all over summer E2s there would hardly even be a debate but because it is only wrecking VDiffs thats OK.

The Cutting edge climbers will do whatever the hell they like, they have made this clear. But those who (in greater numbers) follow their example are the ones who will do the real damage. It is those people who I appeal to to have a thought for others and go have an adventure somewhere where you won't contribute this damaage.

I'll be hoping to do some IVs and Vs myself this winter, but I'll use my imagination and do lines that won't be ruined for next summer as a result.
Franco Cookson on 28 Oct 2011
In reply to Dave Ferguson:

Cause the lines are better. I hardly know any of the crags you listed as suitible venues, but the ones I do know are all small and are home to winter climbs already- EG. North Buttress.

I'd encourage anyone who thinks that lakes winter climbing is somehow silly or evil to go out to Engineers Slab on a full-on winter day. It's one of the best winter crags in the UK. (that's from only limited winter experience, but seems as good as the gorms or the ben)

At the end of the day both pursuits cause damage and have equal claim to the rock. Neither pursuit makes the other one impossible or even lessens it, so they can and do exist perfectly side-by-side.

The locations of 'hard' routes should be a major part of the discussions as in a few years a large proportion of winter climbers will be opperating at VIII+, so that needs to be factored in. The activity is very much still in its infancy.
tom290483 - on 28 Oct 2011
In reply to Mike Nolan:
> (In reply to thegoatstroker) No need to have that kind of attitude with me. I'm just saying perhaps the wrong way of dealing with this is to make mixed climbers sound like the bad guys, we/they have just as much right to be there as you.
>
Mike, we are bad boys that why we do it. Embrace it! ;-)
tom290483 - on 28 Oct 2011
In reply to Franco Cookson:

a very sensible post franco. austria has changed you....
Jim Crow - on 28 Oct 2011
In reply to Martin Kocsis, BMC:

Martin, you're a very naughty man..........and a vicar should know better!!
Erik B - on 29 Oct 2011
In reply to Franco Cookson: actually I agree, modern winter stuff in the lakes is an embarrasment
butteredfrog - on 29 Oct 2011
In reply to Dave Ferguson:
> (In reply to Franco Cookson)
> [...]
>
> You're right up to a point Franco but there are plenty of really vegetated cargs in the Lakes that would make great winter venues. examples include: Green Crag, Eagle - Buttermere, Honister Crag, Boat Howe, North Buttress, Hutaple + many more.
>
there wouldn't be an issue if such venues had axe and crampon scratches amougnst the vegetation.
>
> There is no need to make a mess of classic summer routes on south facing crags like Gimmer and Esk buttress, I just don't get why certain winter climbers are out to cause so much aggrevation

Has anyone told Natural England yet?

Also what about all the polish on the classic routes from the rock shoe wearing hordes/herds.

Cheers Adam
mux - on 04 Nov 2011
In reply to Erik B:
> (In reply to Franco Cookson) actually I agree, modern winter stuff in the lakes is an embarrasment

sorry but I cant agree, the harder routes I have done there although few in number have been very good, and I am sure there is plenty of scope for harder stuff. Sadly I dont have the local knowlege of whats fair game and would make a good winter line, but I am sure that the local lads or lasses have their eye on plenty of new hard stuff.

the chaps at ground up had a debate just like this before producing the Welsh Guide and I think it worked well and produced a decent ethical statement.... it also gave me a good excuse to get pissed but that wasnt mentioned in the book.

LakesWinter on 12 Nov 2011
In reply to Dave Ferguson: I agree with leaving alone south facing crags with many classic rock routes on, I think crag aspect is important in deciding whether it is fair game in winter.

For instance I'm not in favour of recent winter ascents of Asterisk, D route and the like on Gimmer, regardless of whether they had snow on or not. The winter line of the crack is different in my view as it faces NW and takes a different line in the central section to the summer route.

Pavey Ark has plenty of vegetated steepness that is suitable for winter climbing, whereas doing an ascent of a classic rock climb like say Capella would be out of order in my view.

The real question comes with regard to places like Scafell - is it in order to effectively dry tool up a classic line like Central Buttress? Is that any different to a 3 starred mixed route like Pisgah Buttress, which is also an established summer line?

Should there be a moratorium on new winter climbs being done on 2 and 3 star rock climbs where the winter climb takes the same line? (E.g. Bottrills slab would be ok as the winter line is different than the summer line).

Should south, SW and SE facing crags be restricted for new winter routes? As Franco has alluded to the problem comes not on climbing a V Diff in winter but more on climbing an E grade route, where breaking or scratching down one small hold could make a big difference to whether the route is climbable in future at the grade.
LakesWinter on 12 Nov 2011
In reply to MattG:

Oh yeah, in reply to the OP obviously climbing in 'semi-frozen' conditions is out of line and should clearly be stated to be out of line in the new guide.
Franco Cookson on 12 Nov 2011
In reply to MattG:

I can get my head round the aspect argument even less than the altitude one. If a crag is in condition, then why would how much sun it gets make a difference? Or is it just that winter climbers should be made to suffer in the shade? At what point does the aspect become unacceptable? Is the BMC going to decide on the exact compass bearings that deem a winter climb acceptable?

I also don't understand the quality argument. Destroying a 1 star route (if that's what you think winter climbing does) is just as bad in my eyes as destroying a 3 star route; and then we get back to the old why does rock climbing take priority over winter climbing argument.
LakesWinter on 12 Nov 2011
In reply to Franco Cookson: I was just posing questions; I'm not really sure what I think yet overall, though I can't see the appeal in winter climbing a south facing route on Gimmer that's also a quality rock route - should the Lakes go down the Welsh route of saying no classic rock routes to be climbed in winter?

I think the aspect argument really comes down to if a crag is often in winter nick and only sometimes in summer nick shouldn't anything on it be fair game? E.g. Gable Crag, parts of Bowfell, whereas winter climbing does wear routes down faster per ascent than rock climbing so wouldn't it be a good idea to not winter climb popular, frequently in condition rock climbs, like D route or Asterisk on Gimmer?

What would you think if someone climbed Eliminate A on Dow using tools with a load of powder snow floating around?
Franco Cookson on 12 Nov 2011
In reply to MattG:

Funny you should mention that... I'd probably think very similar to if I heard someone had done it as a summer rock route- a shame that man had to go into the hills and damage a very sensitive environment, but the rewards that that person got from ascending the route probably outweighs the damage caused to the natural environment.
LakesWinter on 12 Nov 2011
In reply to Franco Cookson: Well, it was done in the 1970s anyway. If I was going to pick one over the other I'd always pick winter climbing, it's just better in every way.
Frogger - on 12 Nov 2011
In reply to Martin Kocsis, BMC:


I remember the thread (last year?) about two guys having a winter bash at a route on Millstone. There was outrage on UKC... perhaps because Millstone is so well established as being a summer rock crag.

I've seen another example of disagreement more recently: some people think it's bad ethics to top rope classic summer routes (even without muddy walking boots on), yet this practice must have no impact on the route at all.

So where do you draw the line?

My thoughts are that, no matter what you do when you're out, if you are damaging the rock significantly, you probably shouldn't be doing it. That said, I wouldn't automatically assume that winter climbing does have a significant impact on summer routes. Some analysis of how much damage can be caused might help before the debate begins.





highclimber - on 12 Nov 2011
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNrdI1nUPmM this video should get the argument started! I think my thread title where I intially posted this was a little too cryptic to get attention!
kevin stephens - on 12 Nov 2011
In reply to Dave Ferguson:
> (In reply to Franco Cookson)
> [...]
>
> You're right up to a point Franco but there are plenty of really vegetated cargs in the Lakes that would make great winter venues. examples include: Green Crag, Eagle - Buttermere, Honister Crag, Boat Howe, North Buttress, Hutaple + many more.
>
> Why aren't lakes winter climbers using these crags to push the boundaries of mixed climbing? Its not as if they are not steep enough. Summer climbers rarely use them and there wouldn't be an issue if such venues had axe and crampon scratches amougnst the vegetation.
>
Pushing the the boundaries of Mixed climbing is not the same as pushing the boundaries of dry tooling with some decorative hoar frost. OK Snicker Snack (E3 finger crack, Gable) may not be in rock climbing condition much of the year but no excuse to trash it by dry tooling. OK the first winter ascentionist may have taken some care to minimise damage but it now seems fair game to anyone to have a go with the promise of well protected flailing and trashing
Franco Cookson on 12 Nov 2011
In reply to kevin stephens: Your reply just shows that you have taken no time to read both sides to the debate.
kevin stephens - on 12 Nov 2011
In reply to Franco Cookson:
Unfortunately I couldn't attand the meeting but I have read this thread (and similar threads) carefully before replying to the post above; I don't understand your reply?
I referred specifically to Snicker Snack as a quality technical rock climb for which repeated dry tooling would ruin finger holds (rather than add cosmetic scratches). In this case there can surely only be one side to the argument.
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Franco Cookson on 12 Nov 2011
In reply to kevin stephens:

A quick read of this thread would show that a strong counter-argument was made, that whilst winter climbing may damage summer rock routes aesthetically, summer climbing damages the substance of winter climbing. I feel that regurgitating the negative effects of winter climbing on summer routes, without confronting the issues raised on summer climbing's effect on winter routes, is being deliberately obtuse and unhelpful.
Dave Ferguson - on 12 Nov 2011
In reply to Frogger:
> (In reply to Martin Kocsis, BMC)
>
> My thoughts are that, no matter what you do when you're out, if you are damaging the rock significantly, you probably shouldn't be doing it. That said, I wouldn't automatically assume that winter climbing does have a significant impact on summer routes. Some analysis of how much damage can be caused might help before the debate begins.

This is the nub of the problem (assuming you think there is a problem). I was pleasantly surprised when climbing on gimmer this summer as there is almost no evidence of steve ashworth and woody's winter ascents of asterix and D route. Good technique obviously pays dividends, and one isolated ascent doesn't appear to do much damage.

Compare this to gable where routes like engineers slabs and Jabberwock are scratched up badly, probably not by skilled technicians like Steve and Woody but more likely by hard mixed winter wannabees, thrashing and pedaling around. This is what I don't want to see on popular south facing crags like gimmer. The problem as I see it is that by publicising ascents on South facing crags like Gimmer and Esk Butress, the mixed winter wanabees will make just as much of a mess as has been made on gable.

I did the nose of Sgurr nan Fhidhler as a rock route in April and the top few pitches were beginning to get badly scratched up, complete with hammered in nuts littering the cracks. How many winter ascents has this had I wonder? less than 20 I'm sure. Now I'm not suggesting that the nose of the Fhidhler should not be a winter objective, it obviously makes a fine winter expedition. But I wouldn't wish this level of damage on Gimmer, Esk or even the East Buttress of Scafell. This is the issue.

Franco and I will have to agree to disagree on this, he obviously doesn't mind if Icabod, Black Sunday or Kipling Groove get scratched up in winter.

I do.
kevin stephens - on 12 Nov 2011
In reply to Franco Cookson:

Actually I was referring to an example for which winter climbing of a summer route could change the substance of a summer route, whereas as far as I can see rock climbing the routw would not detract from its claimed winter ascent.

I would suggest your argument is far more "obtuse and unhelpful" in seeking to polarise the argument, whereas previous evolution of climbing ethics (eg sport vs trad) have been arrived at by consensus of what the agreed boundaries are. My example of Snicker Snack was to propose such a bounary, I would be just as interested to read of route suggestions from keen winter mixed climbers which should have vegetation preserved.
Franco Cookson on 12 Nov 2011
In reply to kevin stephens:

Vegetation removal by rock climbers is inevitable on a ledged crack line like Snicker Snap. This damages the natural state of the winter line.
kevin stephens - on 12 Nov 2011
In reply to Franco Cookson:

So mixed climbing depends on vegetation on the ledges rather than the climbing? That's just the same as saying the turf sod on Idwal's Suicide Wall should be reinstated. A warthog would be far better in winter than Preston's original tentpeg for the summer FA, plenty of good small pockets for hooking too.

If we've established one thing it's where we agree to disagree...
Franco Cookson on 12 Nov 2011
In reply to kevin stephens:

I don't agree that we should disagree. I think you should agree with me.

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