/ Cams v Bolts

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Hyphin - on 27 Jul 2014
Not just stirring the proverbial here (NB did say not JUST), I am a bit of a newbie so there is a bit of genuine "well other folk must be thinking it".
Just read another post about a hold being lost on a classic climb, suspect that this and many others will be lost due to the forces exerted by cams when fallen on. The hold, and presumably the placement is lost though. Would it have been so terrible if someone had placed a bolt nearby, on an inconspicuous bit of the rock that tends not to be an integral part of the climb. The more experienced, more skilful, more purist could ignore it and place their own protection, take the stick if they lob and break something; mere mortals could clip the bolt.
I'm not suggesting that every placement should have an alternative bolt, just the most vulnerable.
The question then is, have cams destroyed more classic climbs than bolts?
MaranaF - on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:

I do hope you have a thick skin!

btw... im with you on this one ;-)
Bob on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:

Holds that come away are rarely those used for gear placements so it's a bit of a non-question really. Usually the holds that come off are small flake edges - imagine half a small plate stuck to the wall - which don't take gear. There have been occasions where gear, not necessarily cams, behind larger flakes weaken or break part of the flake.

The "you don't have to clip the bolt" reasoning doesn't make sense as just having the bolt there means the level of commitment required for the route has been lost.
Steve nevers on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:

> The more experienced, more skilful, more purist could ignore it and place their own protection,


It doesn't really work like that though. Even the more experienced, more skilful and more purist will still clip a bolt if they bottle it.
The fact its even an option changes the 'headgame' substantially.

Plus its hard to define 'destroying climbs' when the medium we all climb on erodes, i agree with you huge lobs onto cams cant help, but when the rock itself is naturally subject to changes theres a certain level of accepting its going to happen.
Also it opens the door to someone bold and brave to repeat it without the vital gearplacement or hold. Gives a chance of a fresh challenge rather than kind of neutering it. Recall one of the Wideboyz repeating a classic that hold lost a flake last year.

Anyhow think i'm trying to make a few different points but to tired to articulate any of them rather well and i havent really answered your Cams V Bolts question so i'll stop for a bit. but i guess i'm roughly saying:
Thing change, but thats kind of the nature of it, but its better to rise to the level of that new challenge rather than lower it to yours.

Hyphin - on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to Bob:

Surely the "level of commitment" is personal choice, some folk will solo the route while others will stuff as much gear into every available space as they can.
Bob on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:

The climber is setting off up the route knowing that there's a bolt there that can be used if things get a bit out of control => the level of commitment has been reduced before the climber has even set foot on the route.
MFB - on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:

think the point is that although the cam may destroy a hold a bold destroys the whole climb - maybe!
Hyphin - on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to Bob:

Suppose in many ways that is the nub of the question, suspect lots of folk use cams as they're seen as more dependable, more secure (almost as good as a bolt), but given their potential (albeit that they're not the only source) to cause damage should they be discouraged on certain routes.
MaranaF - on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:

> should they be discouraged on certain routes

The logical progression of this thought process is a totally prescribed climbing style for each and every route.
JimboWizbo - on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:

Certain placements are discouraged. Look at Wombat at the roaches. Or topsail at Birchen. The solution however, is to be bolder or to find a less potentially damaging runner.
MFB - on 27 Jul 2014
Hyphin - on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to MFB:

Yea, didn't want to hijack that thread
r0x0r.wolfo - on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:

Did he see what happened, no idea if it was a cam that blew the flake or not.

Placing cams behind flakes is silly generally due to potential damage/gear ripping/rock fall. It's generally discouraged, but people do what they want, it's their decision, the rock changes and we all live with that.
Hyphin - on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to MaranaF:

Certainly not advocating proscribing anything, if anything the opposite.

My kids (who've got me back into climbing) are desperate to learn to place their own gear. I'm letting them do this on sports crags, but getting them to clip if they (or more usually I)am/are not 100%. Doesn't seem to impact my son's commitment, he's desperate to avoid the bolts: would solo if I'd let him.

At the moment they're using passive gear, but are desperate to get their hands on (active) cams. No doubt as they are big shiny things with twiddly movable bits they look more professional; though I'm sure adults wouldn't be taken in with this. But I'd rather they learn to use passive gear, including passive cams.

On the other hand, some of the trad crags I used to visit now have staples, bolts, belay posts at the top that were never there in the past. Tree trunks, fence posts and body belays were the order of the day. I don't think these additions compromise the experience.

I really don't have an axe to grind on either side of the debate but would just question whether the judicious use of a bolt would leave less trace than the injudicious use of a cam.

(or am I just being mean and justifying my refusal to spend even more money)
Jon Stewart - on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:

Your point is ridiculous. On trad routes, you use your skill, judgement and strength to protect the route. The combination of the route and your skill determine how safe the route is, the responsibility is yours and that defines the trad experience.

When you have fixed gear, you lose that responsibility and the experience has been changed completely. We tolerate a bit of fixed gear as part of the quirks of the history of trad climbing. We don't place fixed gear so that some numpty doesn't rip the holds off. The loss of holds by poor climbing is just part trad climbing.
Hyphin - on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Firstly, thread is not so much about expressing a point as posing a question.

If it's all part of the game, surely we should not be critical of those unfortunate enough to break a climb?

Blue Straggler - on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:

> we should not be critical of those unfortunate enough to break a climb?

This is correct. Your OP paints you as critical of someone who "broke a climb" though, and people are responding accordingly on this thread.

Hyphin - on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Think you might want to read my original post which was a result of reading
http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?n=593643

and wandering if there was a way we might all live together.

As well as genuinely wandering if over the years cams have/will do more damage than bolts.
Jon Stewart - on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:

> If it's all part of the game, surely we should not be critical of those unfortunate enough to break a climb?

Each case on its merits. Some holds are easily broken, other take a big fat bastard who can't get up a vdiff* taking a lob onto a badly placed, unnecessary cam behind the loveliest hold on one of the most classic, historic routes in the country.

Of course I am just guessing about the useless fat bastard bit, but I don't see how else it could have happened short of deliberate sledgehammering.


*Cruel to be kind you see. Perhaps they will start to eat a bit of salad after reading this.
Jon Stewart - on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:

> As well as genuinely wandering if over the years cams have/will do more damage than bolts.

What is 'damage'? With a bolt, you've destroyed a trad route. Cams carve out and polish placements and snap off flakes. The reason we don't bolt trad routes isn't because bolts damage the rock (although many pretend that). The reason is that we like trad climbing!
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Blue Straggler - on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:
> Think you might want to read my original post

I think you might want to read my first reply again.

I did read your OP. I can read and write and spell "wondering".

You mentioned "take the stick".

This implies some criticism of people who fall on trad gear and damage the rock.
Post edited at 23:49
Blue Straggler - on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:

Have you ever climbed a retrobolted trad route? I have. It's a conflicting experience.

I did one in Gozo, VS in the guidebook, I did not know it had been retrobolted and approached it as a trad climb. I didn't clip any bolts even though the route was a bit run-out with sketchy protection at times. I wanted the VS tick. At the end of the day I looked back and felt that I hadn't had the real VS experience.

Never mind the VS - insert a grade of your choice in there. It is just not the same experience. I appreciate that it might be hard to picture this if you've not been in that situation.
r0x0r.wolfo - on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:
> Firstly, thread is not so much about expressing a point as posing a question.

> If it's all part of the game, surely we should not be critical of those unfortunate enough to break a climb?

Not too critical, these things happen, it should generally be avoided though.
Post edited at 00:22
r0x0r.wolfo - on 28 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:

> Certainly not advocating proscribing anything, if anything the opposite.

> My kids (who've got me back into climbing) are desperate to learn to place their own gear. I'm letting them do this on sports crags, but getting them to clip if they (or more usually I)am/are not 100%. Doesn't seem to impact my son's commitment, he's desperate to avoid the bolts: would solo if I'd let him

Why would bolt trad routes when clearly you're already climbing bolted routes placing gear? What's the difference?

> At the moment they're using passive gear, but are desperate to get their hands on (active) cams. No doubt as they are big shiny things with twiddly movable bits they look more professional; though I'm sure adults wouldn't be taken in with this. But I'd rather they learn to use passive gear, including passive cams.

I wouldn't be so concerned with the 'passive/active' divide, it's fairly meaningless. A lot learn to use nuts first and that's generally a good way to go, but it's usually forced by the cost of cams.

> On the other hand, some of the trad crags I used to visit now have staples, bolts, belay posts at the top that were never there in the past. Tree trunks, fence posts and body belays were the order of the day. I don't think these additions compromise the experience.

It is a bit odd. Bolts and staples are rare. Belay stakes are often in place when there is nothing else.

> I really don't have an axe to grind on either side of the debate but would just question whether the judicious use of a bolt would leave less trace than the injudicious use of a cam.

> (or am I just being mean and justifying my refusal to spend even more money)

Of course I would say a bolt is far more obvious and obtrusive than a missing hold. If you wish to spend less money you could always keep climbing bolted routes and placing nuts if that's what you prefer.
Hyphin - on 28 Jul 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Like I said at the start, I'm returning to climbing after a brief flirtation with it 30odd years ago.To some extent I'm probably one of those "wall bred inexperienced fools at the crag", albeit there was no such thing when I were a lad. But active cams were pretty rare then too.
The number of folk climbing has increased dramatically, so has our disposable income. Climbers were pretty much seen as a weird bunch back then, and I knew guys that climbed on engineering nuts lifted off the factory floor, much older than me obviously.
Now, when the "wall bred inexperienced fools" arrive at the crag, they see folk with all manner of shiny stuff, and try to be the same. More of them than ever can also now just go out and spend a fortune on all the latest gear. (Then I buy it on ebay)
I understand the preference for trad, initially my intention was just to take the kids along to mess about on an indoor wall....things snowball.
I also understand the point about the presence of a bolt giving the option, but surely the challenge then is, do you have the nuts to ignore it? Just a different "head game".
At a sports crag I can solo some routes, my kids can lead routes entirely on their own gear, on their own gear backed up by an occasional bolt....
Getting late and I'm rambling....
To some extent it's maybe less of an issue up here in sunny Scotland, but I looked at a link on this site the other day to one of the popular areas down south; Stanage if I remember. Was one of those google earth type photos/topos: couldn't believe the number of folk there!! There's no way they were all well honed athletes, or well schooled in the art of placing protection.
Times are a changing. In the long run what's going to be the best way to protect the areas we climb in?
As usual I'm not really on anyone's hymn sheet, encouraging folk not to rely on machines, while tolerating the odd cheat if that's what it takes to protect climbs/climbers.

But like I said, the original question is not about ethics/climbing styles just about the relative impact of cams v bolts.
chris j on 28 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:

> I also understand the point about the presence of a bolt giving the option, but surely the challenge then is, do you have the nuts to ignore it? Just a different "head game".

This argument has been raised a lot of times over the years. "You don't have to clip the bolt, just ignore it." Walking up to a cliff and climbing it making use of whatever protection is there and relying on yourself not to mess up placing the gear is an admirable head game. Walking up to a cliff and climbing it making use of whatever protection is naturally there and relying on yourself not to mess up placing the gear, while deliberately ignoring the shiny bolts next to the crucial gear placements... Clinging on fiddling in a couple of RPs or trying to get a cam to sit right in a slightly flared crack, while you get progressively more pumped and start getting disco leg, while obstinately trying to resist clipping the bolt right in front of your face, that's just absurd.
Hyphin - on 28 Jul 2014
In reply to Blue Straggler:

o a wtf

original post was in reactian to reading a very irate thread about a braken hold.
No implied criticism of the op of that thread intended, I can understand the upset.

My initial thought was, could it be prevented?

In my experience, and this forum would seem to back it up, climbers tend to be fairly robust and not above dishing out "a bit of stick". And among equals, that's fine. (Hope you don't object too strongly to me beginning a sentence with "and"; my old teachers hated it) Thus I suggested that the more experienced could risk this, while the less experienced may choose to use additional protection if it were available. I would not want to be the climber that said "I don't need that bolt", then fell. Wouldn't they get some stick!

Falling will always be part of climbing, as will be doing some damage to the rock.

Given the number of folk now climbing, especially in areas that don't have an abundance of venues, it seems reasonable to assume that the incidence of significant damage being done to significant climbs is going to increase.

Again begs the question, what can be done to prevent this?
Blue Straggler - on 28 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:


> Again begs the question, what can be done to prevent this?

The answer is in this thread, many people have alluded to it.

Bolts are not a solution.

There's NO prevention other than forbidding the placement of gear on certain routes (see: Southern Sandstone).
Just learn to live with the fact that things break sometimes.
I've broken slate before, not in a fall and not using gear. Just with my foot! What could have been to prevent THAT?

Hyphin - on 28 Jul 2014
In reply to Blue Straggler:

totally agree, things break.
Like I keep saying, returning to the fold after a long absence and only have experience of climbing in Scotland. Are there venues where some types of gear are banned. Wasn't an issue, or maybe we just didn't have the internet, way back then.

Did see a you-tube video of folk climbing on sandstone using knotted ropes/slings for placements, think it was eastern Europe; is there anything similar in UK, eg on Southern Sandstone?
r0x0r.wolfo - on 28 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:

Did you read my post?
Hyphin - on 28 Jul 2014
In reply to chris j:

Doesn't sound like the sort of place you're likely to find a "big fat bastard who can't get up a vdiff* taking a lob onto a badly placed, unnecessary cam"; so no need for a bolt.
Bob on 28 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:

As you can see you've stirred up a hornet's nest!

Stepping back a bit, the reason the other thread has come about is that most people regard gritstone (and Stanage in particular) as being solid and reliable. I know from experience that it isn't necessarily so. A few years ago I was soloing at Stanage End when a large chockstone broke in half as I pulled on it - I decked out, breaking my wrist; dislocating my elbow and fracturing a vertebrae.

A common refrain is "geological time includes the present". When you walk up to a crag, all that scree and those boulders used to be part of what you are about to climb on. Even in the thirty years or so that I've been climbing there have been whole buttresses that have disappeared, look up Deer Bield. There's even a route whose name makes a point of this fact: Earth Rim Roamer. I think we are up to version 3.

The only ways that we can "prevent" climbers from damaging routes are either banning climbing them or educating climbers on how to place gear. As someone posted above, cams aren't always the best or correct piece, smaller flakes will often take a sling which whilst not as "sexy" is potentially much better for the flake as any force imparted during a fall is in the line of the flake rather than pushing it out and away from the main face.
SteveRi - on 28 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:

Take a deep breath and think it through. The original post was about a classic V Diff on Stanage...
:)
needvert on 28 Jul 2014
So...Supposing I visit the UK and want to climb.

How will I know what gear is forbidden where?

To you that climb with a spike broken off was maybe the best hold on the best climb at Stanage, to me its just another climb amongst hundreds of thousands in the world. If I arrive at it and think I can make an alright placement out of it, I will probably do it. I see it as just a piece of rock.
top cat - on 28 Jul 2014

I'm slowly recovering from 5 spinal fractures following a deck fall as a result of a thread breaking. It was a fairly substantial piece of rock that failed and the [initial] fall wasn't that long, but the failure resulted in an 8m fall.

I've been falling on cams for 30 years, so far without damage to the rock or myself.
It's just one of those things.

Often the problem with cam damage behind flakes is a result of retrieving stuck cams: there have been some real horror stories of car jacks etc, which is a different league altogether from over weight climbers falling off.

Neil Williams - on 28 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:
I'm guessing this refers more to where there won't be many available spaces to stuff said gear into. I suppose there's always (top anchors permitting) the option of top-roping for those who wish to enjoy the climb in complete safety without changing it for others.

Neil
Post edited at 10:40
Offwidth - on 28 Jul 2014
In reply to Neil Williams:

There are routes where cam damage is so bad I'd rather climbers headpointed first rather than risk an uncertain onsight. Orpheus Wall and Topsail would be good examples. Breaks are starting to suffer where they protect hard moves on Stanage VS classics and thinner flakes like the edge of the Heaven Crack Flake have never been sensible places for cams. I think we may look back on the current unrestrained poorly educated cam use on popular grit as being nearly as stupid as the old use of nailed boots.
climbwhenready - on 28 Jul 2014
In reply to needvert:

> So...Supposing I visit the UK and want to climb.

> How will I know what gear is forbidden where?

> To you that climb with a spike broken off was maybe the best hold on the best climb at Stanage, to me its just another climb amongst hundreds of thousands in the world. If I arrive at it and think I can make an alright placement out of it, I will probably do it. I see it as just a piece of rock.

Ah, well, it's easy. If you listen to people walking past saying things like "I think heaven crack isn't very imaginative, it's a bit of a jug-fest" or "The problem with that route is it's the same move over and over again", then it's probably the best climb in the world.

Sometimes people say Brits don't always say what they mean, it's just about getting used to the lingo.
henwardian - on 28 Jul 2014
In reply to Hyphin:

Very rare occurence this. Plenty of guidebook descriptions say "don't put gear behind this bit because it will break", which is a reasonable solution.

Even if something broke off because a cam was loaded, the climb would not be "destroyed", it would just be made a little bit (or a lot) harder. The same as happens all the time on crappy northumberland sandstone where tiny hand and foot holds get broken regularly.
I have never heard of any examples of routes where a piece of gear has broken a placement and therefore made a route impossible to climb.

Lots of other people have addressed your point about placing a bolt and if you google for other threads about this issue, you will find enough reading material to last a lifetime. I would be against placing the bolt.

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