US Bolt Chopper Banned By Judge From Chopping Bolts

by Mick Ryan Jul/2007
This news story has been read 5,077 times
photo
Ken Nichols
“Once I chop a route, it will remain chopped, no matter how many times I have to return to keep it that way. Until the bolting stops, apparently the cliffs will have to be destroyed to save them”

Ken Nichols, Climbing Magazine June/July 1991

Ken Nichols, 59, of Connecticut has been chopping bolts at the crags of Western Massachusetts and New England in the Northeast USA for nearly 20 years. But no more.

Crags like Rumney in New Hampshire where he chopped over 50 bolts in the early 1991 as retribution for the bolting of a route in his home state, are now safe from his hammer and hacksaw blade. Nichols chopped bolts at the Gunks, in New York state; at a number of crags in Massachusetts (MA) including Farley Ledges, Mormon Hollow, Chapel Ledge and Rose Ledge, not once but multiple times; and further north in the Adirondacks. Local climbers around Boston even had Ken Nichols T-shirts made such was his infamy.

However, after being spotted by a climber last April, in the middle of bolt removal on the route Mass Production (5.10d) at Farley Ledge, Nichols ended up in court, reports the website www.stopken.org

On Monday, July 16th, Ken Nichols pled guilty to trespassing and pled no contest to willful destruction of property in Orange County Court in Orange, MA.

The judge signed off on the plea deal negotiated by the District Attorney, Nichols' Attorney and the Western Mass Climbers' Coalition. The deal, which allows Ken to avoid a trial and possible jail time, stipulates the following:

  • Nichols must pay $249.99 in restitution
  • Undergo 24 months of probation
  • Is banned from entering five Western Mass crags
  • Must never chop another bolt anywhere.

    Nichols already had had No Trespassing orders delivered to him by a Connecticut Marshall after efforts by the Western Mass Climbers' Coalition back in 2005.

    The US is well known for its bolt wars even before the sport climbing revolution in the 1980's. One famous incident is when Royal Robbins chopped the bolts on the first few pitches of Warren Harding's route Wall Of Early Morning Light in Yosemite. Later in the Camp 4 parking lot, John Bachar and Mark Chapman were involved in a fight over rappel-placed bolts and you will find similar stories from Colorado to Washington. Even today at some US climbing areas bolts appear and then mysteriously disappear. The arguments are often about new bolts on established climbs, retrobolting, and how bolts are placed, ground-up is good in some eyes, placing them by abseil is bad.

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