/ NEWS: Pat Littlejohn and Tim Neill Strip Bolts out of Gibson Routes
Pat Littlejohn and Tim Neill have been to Craig Arthur on the Clwyd limestone in Wales and removed some recent bolts that affected the classic traditional routes of Manic Mechanic and Friday the Thirteenth.
Pat commented to UKC:
"Craig Arthur is a major crag offering high quality trad climbs as well as sport climbs, which until recently had co-existed pretty well. I hope things can now ‘settle down’ on Nemesis Wall and there will be no further need to remove bolts placed on outstanding trad climbs."
Read more at http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item.php?id=68535
Worth mentioning that Friday the Thirteenth is Pat L’s own route. And, on the subject of Huntsman’s Leap, the long-forgotten Witch Hunt episode (never quite understood the name of this route; you’d have thought it would be a GG route). And, of course, Lundy, and…..no, perhaps on reflection it’s better not.
Has Mr Gibson made any comments about this whole affair? Even with his, ahem, rather colourful history, I found this story rather depressing.
Good work fellas. The crag was/is becoming very overcrowded with poor sport routes at the detriment of the much greater quality sport routes. Strong Image!
Really, Manic for example snakes and wanders across the face of Nemesis wall, it is not even a good line, it is really a sport route with copious amounts of fixed gear. It was originally engineered with chipped holds, bolt, pegs and tat. There is even an aid peg mid-way through the final crux.
Perhaps the remarkable lack of climber feedback on UKC for a supposedly classic 3 star route from the eighties gives a clue.
There is a whiff of a wind up, or an attempt at a publicity stunt going on here.
There was a lot of discussion about it at the time it appears on Nick Bullock's blogg. I think it's a good thing that the bolts have gone.
They're probably out there doing something instead, i.e. climbing...
I for one fully support what Pat did.
My recollection of the last thread was a concensus for removal and comments of what would Pat say.
I like this comment:
"bringing to light one mans fragrant disregard to other people and their feelings and ignoring local policy and respect for established climbs"
The long and short of it is that GG has shown no respect for these routes. I think GG just needs to show some understanding for what he's doing and where. Folks are glad for the bolts but in the right place.
If GG isn't showing the respect and engaging in dialogue then it's right that more direct action is taken in response
More power to Pat.
Is that based on looking at the topo or on personal experience? Genuine question, because I think that a lot of trad climbs follow lines of weakness that are not necessarily a 'good line' on paper. I'm not disputing your other points about fixed pegs and chipped holds - that's a whole other discussion!
I first attempted a ground-up lead of Manic Mechanic in 2003, I didn't get that far! The bolt on the grey ramp at the bottom was missing and the ramp itself was covered in thick lichen. I abandoned. The following year I abseiled the line. The peg on the upper roof had an in-situ 2 foot tape threaded through the peg but the tape itself had completely worn through due to the wind blowing it against the rock. The finishing jugs above the peg were unusable as they were covered in Dandelions. Lower down several of the in-situ pegs were threaded with tape slings which were all in poor condition. There was another bolt about half-way up, an old hand drilled Troll bolt from memory that was severely corroded. I discussed all of this with the first ascentionist and the bolts were replaced, the pegs tidied up and the route re-cleaned. After this I climbed the route in a less than satisfactory head-point style. I then tried Tres Hombres the route to the right but my ground-up attempt was defeated again by very poor in-situ gear and dirty exfoliating rock. I had one more blast this time on Smoking Gun the plum central line of the wall but was defeated again when a foot hold that looked solid collapsed! With the permission of the first ascentionist I re-cleaned the route, replaced the bolts, and actually added a new direct finish. After this my love for what should have been one of the best walls on Clwyd limestone waned as I became disillusioned with the faff of having to heavily re-clean and re-gear the routes just to make them climbable in the same state as they were in when fist done. It seemed a real shame that these brilliant routes were so neglected. I am sure there are some much better and bolder climbers than me out there who could have coped with bad slings, bad pegs, corroding bolts and dirty exfoliating limestone.
Within the last few years GG has added 30+ new sports routes to Craig Arthur, I have done nearly all of them and I can honestly say the majority were not very good at all and I'm trying to be polite. However the following routes are/were in my opinion excellent 2 to 3 star climbs, these are; Masquerade (7b+), About Time (7b), Black and Blue (7b) Oblivion (7b), Relentless (7b+)and Mercury Rising (7b+). The final three routes are all on the Nemesis wall and they all cross/interfere with the original "trad" routes that I have described above. I thought all three of these routes were excellent and worth three stars. They were clean, well bolted and obviously popular because they were all chalked up.
I can see see the arguments on both sides here but wanted to present my own experience of this wall from someone who has been there and done the routes in question. Needless to say this debate will rumble on, some climbers will probably go out and climb Manic and Tres Hombres which are now quite clean as a consequence of their recently departed sport route "twins", but in a few years time nature will take over once more and I dare say this excellent wall will revert back to the state I experienced it in 2003/4 which seems a real shame.
In my opinion the debate should be broader than the good versus evil arguments of sport versus trad that I've heard ad nauseam for years. The routes on the Nemesis wall were all climbed using predominantly in-situ gear be it pegs, threads and bolts. As a consequence the majority of the first ascents were done in a red-point rather than ground-up style, Littlejohn's Friday the 13th is probably the only exception but I am guessing. The original routes on this wall had more in common with modern day sports routes when they were first climbed than pure traditionally protected climbs. How should the climbing community take responsibility for climbs such as these on a long term sustainable basis? I would really like to know the answer!
Maybe whenever someone feels the urge to retrobolt something they should instead channel that energy into some good old public spirited cleaning?
Personally I feel each case has to be looked at separately and judged on its own merits, unfortunately. I definitely think there can be a case for retro-bolting trad routes on crags that have fallen out of use or where the routes are completely reliant on rotting pegs (or both). I also believe the first ascensionists' views should be treated as equal to other climbers', but no more important - they must still go with the consensus view.
I don't know Craig Arthur so can't profess a view on this situation. However some of the views above are typical hyperbole from people who just jump on the band-wagon without understanding the logic.
I'm definitely against retro bolting trad routes just because they have fallen out of use. If fixed gear is unreliable why can't it be replaced like for like as it sounds Lee has done on MM. I climbed Survival of the Fastest many moons ago with in-situ peg that has now gone and not been replaced as there are good runners nearby. I dream't of climbing some of the harder routes to the right and was disappointed to read of the new bolts affecting the existing climbs. So I'm glad they have gone its just that time has crept up on me now and I think the routes may be out of reach.
Being a local I hold the same opinion as Lee on this debate. The crag hardly see's traffic, even on a weekend you'd be surprised to see anyone there.
Nemesis Wall, being the best wall there finally became more accesable when Gary added Oblivion, Relentless and Mercury Rising. Yes, they cross old miandering trad routes, but these trad routes quite simply don't get climbed and they were in a right state. Rotting pegs, tat and bolts, hardly pure trad lines.
The only reason this came to light is because Nick decided he wanted to climb the routes and realised the wall had changed, ranted about it on his blog which resulted in Pat removing the bolts. Great... the trad routes will now see no traffic and again Nemesis wall won't get climbed on.
This isn't just another Sport vs. Trad debate. The Clwyd is unique in a sense that a lot of the trad routes are pseudo-sport climbs with rotting in-situ gear. Great lines just don't get the attention they deserve for this reason.
I'm not sure if fashion should dictate whether these routes are bolted over. There's plenty of different kinds of routes that come in and out of vogue, trad and sport alike but I don't believe the character of the route should be permanently changed until a reasonable discussion has been had. I abhore unilateral decisions, especially ones taken to inflate some arbitrary route count... These should be reveresed, obviously to discourage others single handedly making choices for everyone else. This goes both ways, I acknowledge that bolts cost more to replace than chop though.
I hear some pegs were removed from this climb, so less fixed gear than it had originally (which is a point that a lot of the people who wanted it bolted brought up). Does that take any sting out of it for those objecting to the pegs?
If Gary had wanted to do the Clwyd climbing scene a "service" then he should have cleaned up the existing routes rather than bolt up some poor eliminates. Part of the "deal" of being part of the local scene, in any area, is that you look after the crags and routes. I know Lee does this. I believe Steve Crowe cleans Cave Route at Goredale every spring, replacing any pegs or threads as necessary.
Clwyd limestone is hardly unique in having "pseudo" sports routes, it was for better or worse how things got done in the late 1970s & early 1980s and there are plenty of routes around that don't get traffic because of it. In some cases either the route or crag is so poor that no one can be bothered, in others the routes are in well defined trad zones.
My personal approach would have been to clean things up, replace pegs if needed, and maybe after consultation swap one or two of those pegs for bolts if there was no alternative.
There's a vicious cycle in effect with routes like this: they are hard and scary enough that they don't get traffic so they become less attractive leading to less traffic, etc.. If, as you say, Nemesis Wall is the best area there, why isn't it getting more traffic? (I've climbed at Craig Arthur several times BTW)
Is the solution just to keep whacking in pegs forevermore then? And if not, and you do it without the pegs, should you not remove the bolts as well - they're no more natural, but ironically are more likely to have been replaced with modern bolts over time.....
I believe so, yes. And cleaning it is a very valuable service!
But let's not pretend this is a perfect example of how to maintain old routes covered in fixed gear - cave route left is now a sport route (you can place a wire before the first bolt should you wish, or you can stick clip it), and whilst there are pegs on cave route right still, it's currently got 9 bolts on it, and only needs about 2 more in the right places for the pegs and backup wires to be unnecessary. I did it as an unashamed redpoint over the summer and wouldn't have dreamt of taking an E6 tick for it, its a 7b+ if climbed in that style. My friend who onsighted it didn't feel like he had onsighted an E6 either.
Agree. Cheddar, Yorkshire, peak.....
I don't know I'd want to put the burden onto what's always going to be a small number of locals to keep things in condition, and if the other options are "clean it yourself" versus "rationalise sensibly what fixed gear you need, remove the stuff you don't need, and provide the fixed gear you do need in a long term sustainable way" I'd tend to lean towards the latter because firstly it is far closer to a one off job as opposed to a continual cycle of replacement, and secondly because to me good style is more about being able to tackle things ground up should you wish rather than always having to abb in first. And I guess it means if you're a visitor you're more likely to get on this sort of stuff.
Which doesn't necessarily mean fully retrobolting everything, to be clear, but something akin to the GO Wall restoration project which Martin did down at Wintours maybe 10 years back - some fixed stuff comes out, some routes have bolts on them, some routes got fully retroed.
> If Gary had wanted to do the Clwyd climbing scene a "service" then he should have cleaned up the existing routes rather than bolt up some poor eliminates. Part of the "deal" of being part of the local scene, in any area, is that you look after the crags and routes.
I don't agree with everything Gary does, but in this case I'm thankful for the sport routes on Nemesis Wall. Where are you getting the idea that the routes are "poor" and "eliminate"? Have you been on them?
In regards to cleaning the lines it doesn't say anywhere in the article that Pat or Tim cleaned the lines either when they were up there? I could be wrong but it just looks as if they went and stripped bolts.
Definitely. I get a lot of pleasure from doing bits of this as I go.
I don't think that there is a " one size fits all solution" to these "mixed" style routes. Most were first done in that transition period when sport climbing was taking off plus the boundaries between what was and wasn't acceptable were somewhat vague. The vast majority if put up today would be pure sports routes, that doesn't mean that we should simply retro-bolt them en-masse.
Some routes might need just a single bolt to make them viable propositions again, the problem then is that some simply view that as an OK to proceed with wholescale retro-bolting.
Lee Proctor has done a huge amount of work in the area but I don't know how much assistance he's had from others. The nature of the task means that such work will always fall on the shoulders of a few.
If the Nemesis wall is the best bit of crag at Craig Arthur, how have the routes got in to such a poor state? They'd surely be clean and suffering from polish if that were the case. I suspect it's due to these being bolted rather than trad and you prefer bolted routes. Simply sticking (or removing) bolts in to a line doesn't make it intrinsically better, you only have to climb some of the rubbish in N. Yorkshire to see that.
It is plain to see that there isn't enough room on the Nemesis wall to install a sports route without it affecting the existing trad routes. Gary would have better spent his energies in cleaning those up so that they could be enjoyed by more visitors.
Sounds like we are pretty close in views there - as at Wintours, there are bound to be some which need a single bolt maybe, some where fixed gear can be removed completely, some where repositioning/rationalising (one correctly placed bolt replaces 2 pegs with a long sling hanging off them to make them clipable from a certain point, for example) will do the trick, and some where all they ever were were sport routes just not sustainably equipped ones. The trick is to find people who know the area and the routes and the history well enough to judge the difference.
But then lack of traffic due to rotting fixed gear is also used as an OK for retrobolting or fitting in new lines or whatever. Some people just want to. Personally I think the argument against retrobolting is stronger if routes are seeing traffic with an extra bolt in rather than being nominally "more trad" but covered in dirt and cobwebs. But that's my view and I'm sure others would argue differently and I'm sure its happened in both scenarios. There's a grey area where if they had bolts in previously that adding one more might make them only a bolt shy of a sport route, although that suggests to me that maybe they should have fallen into the "80s sport route" category in the first place.
> It is plain to see that there isn't enough room on the Nemesis wall to install a sports route without it affecting the existing trad routes. Gary would have better spent his energies in cleaning those up so that they could be enjoyed by more visitors.
It's a back water, it's a very under rated crag. The routes are in such a poor state because it's a rarely visited area and the routes just aren't appealing when they blur the line between sport and trad with all the in-situ rotting gear. The sport routes were a positive thing and brought some (albeit still minimal) traffic to the wall.
You're saying the routes are in a poor state because of the sport routes? This is simply not the case, the wall was finally seeing some attention rather than seeing no traffic at all. As Lee said above some of the wall is now quite clean due to the sport routes that were added.
If you knew the crag you'd know yourself the quality of rock is at it's best on Nemesis Wall.
As Lee also say's above Nemesis Wall "should have been one of the best walls on Clwyd limestone" and it is simply not that great when it's covered in rotting tat, bolts and pegs.
The wall will now, again receive little to no attention as a result of the bolts being stripped.
> As Lee also say's above Nemesis Wall "should have been one of the best walls on Clwyd limestone" and it is simply not that great when it's covered in rotting tat, bolts and pegs.
The problems on Nemesis Wall go back further than the recent events though.
I don't know about other routes but Manic Mechanic was chipped to death to create it in the first place. I know this since myself and Paul Dearden repeated it not that long after it was put up when the chippings were fresh and easy to spot. There were crucial holds that had been created and the whole route left a bitter taste after we had done it. My understanding is that it has settled down to become a reasonable climb, but I think it ironic that we are debating the virtue of adding extra bolts on a route of such bastard origin in the first place.
If it was just Manic Mechanic (the clue's in the name, I guess) then maybe we wouldn't be. But Pat L is well entitled to be pretty peeved about Friday the Thirteenth.
I can't help thinking though that a situation where Oblivion was never put up, Manic Mechanic was retro-bolted, and Relentless added with all new bolting paying careful attention to the point where the routes cross Friday the 13th, would have kept most people happy.
There was nothing worth protecting in keeping Manic Mechanic as a trad line except perhaps the precedent it might set.
A few points:
There's hardly a shortage of pure sport routes on the other Clwyd crags. Is there really any need for more?
Just because a trad route doesn't get done often doesn't mean that it can be bolted (or spoiled by putting up a bolted line within reach). Otherwise we might as well retro bolt half the trad lines in the country, including most high up mountain crags and difficult to access sea cliffs - they don't get climbed on that often either.
A trad route protected by threads and pegs (even decent ones) simply isn't the same as a sport route. It will usually be more run out and the fixed gear is inherently less reliable.
I've only been to Craig Arthur once (it isn't easy to find partners willing to go there as there are no easy routes) and we just did two of the classic lower E grade routes. That was enough to convince us that it was a great trad crag, which happens to have some sport routes.
> A trad route protected by threads and pegs (even decent ones) simply isn't the same as a sport route. It will usually be more run out and the fixed gear is inherently less reliable.
It usually is not much different to a sport route, especially for the first ascentionist who would have pre-placed the gear. Proper trad climbing depends on leader placed protection. A clip-up is a clip-up is a clip-up. I've been on sport routes that are very run out (and suffered the consequences) . I've also climbed lot around the Clwyds
I know what you mean but I usually find that being above a dodgy peg is very different to being above a bolt, in fact I would prefer a decent nut or cam to a so-so peg! Clipping is of course much easier.
Cheers, of course the peg is only "dodgy" for repeat ascentionists, especially if some time has elapsed since the FA.
Hi Luke, I personally think the piece of writing on my blog <a href='http://nickbullock-climber.co.uk/2013/10/01/oblivious/' title='Oblivious. | Great Escape. Nick Bullock.'><a href='http://nickbullock-climber.co.uk/2013/10/01/oblivious/</a>'><a href='http://nickbullock-climber.co.uk/2013/10/01/oblivious/</a></a>'>http://nickbullock-climber.co.uk/2013/10/01/oblivious/</a></a></a> was a well thought out, well presented and balanced point of view. I did not think it was a rant maybe you should read it again.
The main point I was trying to make was I didn't like the flagrant, selfish disregard to the rest of climbing community and I will say that if a consensus had been reached to change the style of climbs on this wall I would have supported it. This was not done though and it is this 'lets put in bolts wherever we want' that is quietly happening within the climbing community,all across the country, that needs addressing.
All the best
The main point I would make is that I don’t like the flagrant, selfish disregard to the rest of climbing community and I will say that if a consensus had been reached to change the style of climbs on this wall I would have supported it. This was not done though and it is this 'lets chop the bolts wherever we want' that is quietly happening within the climbing community, all across the country, that needs addressing.
I say this tongue in cheek, but is this opinion any more valid or invalid than yours?
The vulnerability of bolts goes hand in hand with their permanent status. If the bolt is nor wanted it should be chopped and the original bolter should figure out where they went wrong in placing it in the first place. Bolts shouldn't be placed for others, only because the FA needs gear and has no alternative. The irreparably change the outdoors and as an outdoor community I'm surprised that people support this.
More invalid! The bolt damages the rock, the act of removing it should not damage the rock, only the bolt (still the bolters fault if it did though.) Before a bolt is placed the consensus should have been found, if the bolts are then chopped, it is clear that a strong enough consensus was not achieved. The vulnerability of a bolt (i.e. something someone has left at a crag,) means that the bolter MUST have consensus before doing so
I don't like Bolts at all so may start stripping as a new sport ,bit like Bolting buy in reverse ..
I'm not sure if your post is serious or not but if so you are talking gobbledegook. Rotting pegs are much more of an eyesore than well placed bolt and so is old tat. That argument is completely irrelevant in this sort of case.
Pegs and bolts are both fixed gear. One just means the person putting up the route did a crappier and more selfish job. The argument that pegs exploit a weakness is poor. Most peg placements are manufactured (even drilled in some case).
Either bolt or don't. But pegs are a terrible compromise that are the worst of both worlds.
You brought pegs into it, but most peg slots I know take a small cam or wire instead. Saying pegs are the same as bolts is wrong as pegs are removed when they get old, leaving options for peg free ascents. Placing a bolt changes the route forever.
No one is going around chopping routes on dedicated sport crags or long established sport routes.
Lets put it this way. If someone had chopped a bunch of routes at malham would you say it is wrong to replace the bolts? Would it be like the flagrant, selfish disregard of the chopper, or would you simply be restoring the routes from vandalism?
Pegs were already an integral part of the discussion. They are far more akin to bolts than they are to trad gear.
If what you said above was true they wouldn't be so bad, but the fact is that the vast majority of pegs on limestone haven't been taken out, are old and rusty, permanently scar the rock with rust stains, and when they do go, the old rusty root usually breaks off and stays in the rock as a permanent memento. Pegs only leave natural gear placements behind if you force them in to narrow cracks on soft rocks like grit - Which I hope we would all condemn
I agree wholeheartedly with Kemics
Except of course the trad ethic?
Don't climb much on grit, but I know plently of granite peg scars that now take a cam or nut. Top pitch of Swastika would be way harder without peg scars.
If they break and leave a stub, then do everyone a favour and dig it out. Hey ho! Nut or cam placement! Superlights work really well in scars too.
Hi Mike, you are totally correct, my opinion is no more important than yours or anyone else's, but at the moment, in cases like this and until decided by the majority, my opinion is the one that we, as climbers, abide.
Ignoring the rest of this big & complicated subject, how is a peg scar any different to drilling a hole, or any other manufactured placement? "Changes the route forever", surely...?
Is this true? I had assumed pegs were generally placed on lead...
Thanks for the reply, but I am even more confused now Nick. First you appeared angry about the lack of a consensus, now you have changed this to a majority decision. They mean completely different things and are not easily interchangeable. It does not help me understand your point of view any better, the same applies to others on here intent on using the consensus method as colourful language.
You said that you did not believe that a consensus had taken place, I can say it has happened. I would also point out that just because you were not involved, it does not necessarily mean the process has failed. Maybe a more formal approach or a majority decision process connected with due diligence, mandates and minutes etc would be better. But really, this is business speak and I hope you agree, this is not actually where climbing should sit.
There have been many people who contributed to “crag discussions” at various Clwyd locations over the last 10yrs, not just about Craig Arthur, but for the area as a whole. Sure, this informal information has not been presented in this UKC news item, but it should not be dismissed, otherwise it only serves to demonstrate a lack of understanding for the last 10 years of history here.
It has not been just discussion either, there has been a great deal of effort from locals and some not so local, this has been complimented by Gary and has resulted in the area becoming more sustainable and is now an established venue recognised by today’s climbers. The area is still never “busy”, even on some glorious summer evenings this year, but the climbing has been transformed and receives more traffic now. I am not meaning to be disrespectful to Gary either, but even on the wrecked sport routes at Craig Arthur, he may have the final tick in the box as the FA, but he can not take all of the credit, or even all of the abuse. Sure some mistakes will occur, the same as with any other human activity, but these issues can be dealt with. This is no place for Tit for Tat actions, neither is it a way to settle what appears to be personal grievances.
Compromise, not conflict is what is needed to help the area evolve, otherwise this could push back time in Clwyd, not just 10 yrs, but 30 yrs to pre FA days if we are not careful. Lets not undo this work please.
No one has ever stated that any consensus had been reached in the months of this discussion. If there was a meeting where a sizeable amount of people aired their views and then reached a consensus then I would be very interesed in this.
Where did these discussions take place? Are saying at least the local climbing community were consulted as to what gary gibson was doing before hand and agreed?
This is no more tit for tat than removing dogshit from your garden. Had someone gone out to debolt a bunch Gary Gibson FA's then yes that would be retaliation, or tit for tat. As far as I am aware this had not happened. Had someone decided to debolt an established sport route we would equally be up in arms and keen to repair the damage.
Yes we do, perhaps there would be less conflict if people were told before their routes are bolted over. What does push back time mean? There are many areas I wish I could turn the clock back by 30 years, can you be specific?
A strange assertion!
This is getting a bit boring now. Bolting changes the nature of the climbing from trad to sport. Therefore there needs to be a clear consensus for the bolting and the proper forum for that is the local BMC area meeting. I am not aware that there was any such discussion or consensus before the bolts went in, though happy to be corrected. Where bolts have been placed without the necessary consensus, it's fair game to remove them. No need for consensus for the removal as the original bolting was not approved in the first place and the debolting is only returning the routes to their original trad nature.
You might say that the fact that the sport routes were being climbed on provides retrospective consensus for the bolting but actually all it shows is that people will climb anything with bolts in it. To take an extreme analogy, the bold gritstone slabs aren't climbed that often and would see far more traffic if they were bolted, does that mean they should be bolted?
As others have said, this is very different to debolting established sport routes on established sport crags. No one is advocating that.
The discussion about pegs is a diversion from the main debate. I agree that pegs are compromise but they certainly aren't bolts - I know what I would rather fall on!
Despite the presence of Relentless ( including potentially reinstalling the bolt in a slightly different position) I think Friday and Manic look great and I think all three routes look worthy of being there. I'm well psyched to return for the trad routes on a day when its not drizzling and I don't have to rush off and when I may actually be able to feel my fingers.
Maybe a BMC meeting could be arranged to discuss the wall and other future Clwyd development and gain a consensus about this wall and the way we want to protect and develop routes in the future. Perhaps this would be a good time to do it before the next edition of the guide comes out so any consensus can be recorded in there.
I think this needs to happen.
I also spoke to Mike last night who said he's been back to look at Relentless. He also said it's unclimbable as a sport route now the 2 bolts have been removed.
If a consensus is reached i'd happily reposition the bolt(s) on Relentless.
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