Nomad Wall is a ‘no mad’ experience anymore! What a great shame.
It is now relegated from a brilliant wall of challenging climbs which not only tested your strength but more so, your mind. It is now a wall of mediocre sport climbs in a place which has many better sport climbs.
A thread started by Gary Gibson in November 07 http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=269156&v=1#x3979457 asked for people’s opinion. It asked whether the climbs on the wall should be fully bolted. After more than 80 comments it became clear the consensus of opinion was for the climbs to be cleaned and a like for like policy to be taken in replacing in-situ gear. There were many more comments saying please do not bolt these climbs than comments saying the wall should be fully bolted. There were also many compliments for Gary as he had gone onto the forums and asked what people wanted. So what went wrong? Why was this ignored?
I knew the wall had been bolted as it was written on the Rockfax database. It’s a pity and difficult to understand why after asking for people’s opinion Gary didn’t then come back on the forums to say why he had decided to disregard the consensus and bolt the wall anyway.
I climbed at Llanymynech on Saturday and after climbing three routes we went to the Nomad Wall. I’m not going to repeat what I wrote in the 2007 thread as it is there for all to read, but what I will say is when I originally climbed Nomad on gear the climbing was good, not amazing, but more than the actual physical act of pulling moves, the route and experience was brilliant, this is what made these routes great and memorable. The commitment needed just to step off the ledge and begin to climb was the crux (made obvious by the amount of traffic the climbs received then and now) and one that is definitely not there any longer. Anyway, like I said I will not repeat myself so read my original reply and you will get the gist.
What I found after climbing all of the climbs on Nomad wall on Saturday afternoon is if anything I underplayed the impact of bolting the routes. The climbs before bolting were so good because of their quirky gear and the uncertainty; this is what made them individual. After climbing every route on the wall one after the other, I can honestly say they all blended into one and the following day I could not tell you which climb was which or anything about the experience apart from I climbed 4, not to bad sports climbs.
The other thing that I didn’t consider when I replied to Gary’s original post was what an impact the bolts made on the actual climbing. No longer is it a nearly blank beautiful wall with features to follow, the odd peg, the odd bolt or piece of tat to convince you, you are on track. It is now an eye soar as there are so many bolts covered in cement sticking out of the rock making it look like a Christmas tree. To climb you just launch from one break to the next following bolts, no longer is it necessary to have to think. It is possible now to climb anywhere on the wall as you know you can protect almost every move and because of this the climbs have lost all of their character. On more than one occasion I found myself thinking, oh, I can’t use that hold as it’s near a bolt on the next route… And when I repeated Nomad all I could think about was how long it took me to climb it the first time (about as long as it took to climb all of the climbs on Saturday) and how cautious I was and how nervous and pumped I felt on the big holds near the top. I could hardly move for fear of ripping a hold and blowing my on-sight… this time I didn’t even have to do the final moves as I grabbed a big ugly lower off!
I’m Sorry, but what a load of rubbish. These climbs have been ruined and should be taken off the 50 top climbs listing in the Rockfax database and their stars reduced, or dare I say the bolts should be taken out and the climbs should be treated as the majority wanted in the original thread.
This is not an attack on bolting or Gary, I think Gary has put up some amazing climbs in the past, although I do feel bolting this wall was a mistake, this is purely me sharing what impact bolting this wall has had on me. I feel robbed. This wall is probably the best of this type of climbing I have been on anywhere (adventure wall climbing, slightly dirty, run-out, big moves between breaks, uncertainty while being able to stand and wonder and contemplate) and in my mind it is now ruined. If as Gary stated on his original 2007 posting he would like more people to climb these routes, his routes, would it really have hurt to have cleaned them and replaced the gear for like, and then left it as a really high class wall of trad routes that saw an occasional ascent? Unlike many people out there, i do not share the belief that because you were the first person to climb a piece of rock that entitles you to do what you want with it. I think it would have been a much better legacy to have had some truly amazing adventure climbs to his name than some forgettable well travelled sports climbs.
You can be sure of one thing an ascent of one of these climbs in its original form would have lasted a life in the memory of a person who had built up the courage and fitness to try them and they would have thanked Gary for this.
I know it’s to late for the Nomad Wall but if no-one says anything things will just keep happening and before you know it what makes British climbing special and different has gone.
In reply to nick bullock: What would be wrong with you taking the bolts out then? I would fully support someone who took out the bolts, even though I can't currently conceive of climbing routes of that standard on trad I have to say that the combination of mental and physical skills that trad climbing can require is the thing that makes it so amazing and I disagree that people should be deprived of these amazing experiences purely to make some ok sport routes.
In reply to tobyfk: A lot of enjoyment can be had from repeating routes youve done before, especially if they're good. Id feel robbed as well if routes i knew were good were transformed in to mediocre routes for the sake of accessibility.
> Why do you feel robbed? As I understand it, you have done the onsight already in the route's original style - an experience that by definition is a one-off.
I completely support Nick here, bolting on established routes is getting out of hand and this is yet another example. I accept that Nick was not robbed if he did the routes in original style, but anybody else will be.
A route is never the same if its got bolts in it, even if you are determined not to use them, it has been stolen, the murder of the impossible as RM would say. Why, my old mate Gary, would you bother asking, if you were going to ignore the answer?
I agree with your whole sentiment and, for what it's worth, it is the most balanced and articulate comment I have read to date on UKC questioning the bolting of existing trad routes. Not the ubiqitous anti-bolt rant.
> I accept that Nick was not robbed if he did the routes in original style, but anybody else will be.
Hence the careful use of italics in my post. Certainly he hasn't been robbed, indeed he is in the best of all possible worlds for a british trad bore/hero: he has done the route in the original style and now gets to whine about the bolting from a morally-superior position.
In reply to nick bullock:
Well done Nick on your ascent a few years back. Despite the 3 star status, something not many others ever quite got around to either attempting or actually succeeding on.
You had to battle through brambles thorns at the start, climb flaky, muddy and suspect rock at the top, relied on much (dubious!) fixed gear such as 6” nails/ pegs and fight with Hawthorn to get a belay. Finally a 20 minute walk back to the start in tight rock shoes. However being almost roadside, the quarry does lack the remoteness or commitment that usually requires a long walk in. A point also lost on some youngsters that aspire to have that full adventure experience in a quarry next to the car park.
Possibilities like this in the mountains are increasing as previously classic climbs get less traffic as old fixed gear rots and vegetation takes over. Have you been to the Mid Wales mountains recently? Also that E3 classic on goat crag in the Lakes I did years ago is now E4 due to loss of a peg, to repeat, Llanymynech is an easy accessible quarry, not a mountain, grit sea cliff etc.
As for the actual protection on Nomad, all the hard moves on your ascent were protected by a much “in situ” gear, not odd bits as you make out. If you count them there are probably as many in “situ as there are bolts now.
Not that any move is really that hard until the final crux sequence that leads to easy ground, is reached. This section is still as run out as previous, only instead of a peg, which is actually quite good, now you have a thin low profile bolt near the same spot. These bolts Gary has placed are less intrusive than the pegs, but I doubt would never meet your particular standard.
I find it odd that climbers often deplore the antics of a previous aid climbing generation where pegs were originally used, but today, they use these relics of the past for protection.
Rather than anti this or that, why don’t you try and enhance your original experience, increase the E grade and climb it in better style.
That is, you are only allowed to hand place gear on lead. Any clip to an “in situ”, peg, thread, bolt or nail would constitute failure. Ideological maybe, but I have done this for example on Grid Iron and it really is quite exciting and changes the character of the route. It really is MUCH HARDER to demonstrate self control when you are gripped/ pumped stupid and you make a choice to place/ not place gear rather than clip an “in situ” piece.
Now the climbs are kept clean with traffic, so it should be possible.
After all, the moves are the same either way, you should try it on Nomad.
If you can’t or don’t want to take the challenge, someone else can if they dare, “on sight”, even better.
Like Nick, I have repeated all the routes on Nomad Wall in the last few weeks, but unlike Nick I have found them challenging, enjoyable, rewarding and memorable. And that is with the bolts!
As normally happens with UKC threads, a lot of people will respond who have not done these routes, are not capable of doing them, or have any interest in doing them.
Now I'm not saying that replies from people who fall into these categrories are not valid - of course they are! But the reality is that if you listened to the opinions of active climbers who have done the routes now, or at any time in their history, then I think the broad concensus of opinion would be very different.
Like Nick, I love trad climbing, and I am as determined as he is to preserve that great British tradition.
But I also love sport climbing and it strikes me that most of the walls of Llanymynech - including the Nomad Wall - are an ideal place for that style of climbing.
The problem with developing these walls as trad venues is that the rock isn't actually very good. The numerous horizontal breaks are not clean, solid gritstonesque breaks, of the sort into which solid friends can be rammed home with confidence. Instead they usually contain a layer of shale which will compromise the integrity of most friend placements here. And there are few cracklines on these walls which take conventional protection.
But this viewpoint on the potential for natural protection isn't anything new, and this is where I think Nick's argument is seriously flawed. The fact of the matter is that the first ascentionists (often GG) agreed with that assessment when they originally put up these routes. That is why the routes on Nomad Wall weren't trad routes. Quite the opposite was the case. They were actually covered in in situ gear. Bolts, threads, drilled pegs - a whole myriad of useful, and probably useless tat!
Yes, sure you had to supplement this with natural gear, and no, unlike Nick I didn't try these routes in their former state. But anyone replying to this without the full knowledge - and quoting the famous murder of the impossible headline - really is not telling it like it is!
As for the principle of Nick's argument, and the eloquence with which it was delivered, much of it gets my vote. I just happen to think applying it to the Nomad Wall is the wrong case.
I contributed to the 2007 thread, generally in support of the bolting and have now climbed most of the routes since they were bolted, enjoyed them and still would fall on the side of supporting bolting. I didn't climb them as trad routes though back in my previous life as trad climber I did climb similarly graded classic wall climbs such as Supersonic and Central Wall at Blue. The end result of the bolting is very worthwhile sport's routes of a grade and type that are very unusual in the north of the UK (30m sustained wall climbing in the low 7's) on rock that could be better but isn't too bad for a limestone quarry. Of particular note is there onsightable nature compared to a lot of other limestone sport climbing.
As I stated in the previous thread I think that if we accept that sport climbing has a place in this country then they seem very likely candidates - limestone of not such great quality, limited and possibly doubtful placed gear (friends in dusty breaks I guess) plus a fair amount of fixed gear of dubious quality. I also have a bit of difficulty with the sentiment that they're better as trad because they're more exciting - this smacks of the attitude that good rock should always be trad because the rock is good, less good rock should always be trad because its more exciting. As to losing the experience there are many more classic E5 / E6 wall climbs on UK limestone than there are 7a/7b long sport wall climbs so the support of the trad experience should be balanced against the full out onsight experience for people who climb sport. They might have seemed boring to somebody of Nick's ability but I found onsighting the the 3 routes (Nomad hadn;t been rebolted) a challenging and satisfying day.
In reply to Neil Foster:
replies to several, not just Neil
Llany is not just a limestone quarry, it is a magnificent sweep of unusual rock that dominates the local landscape and offers amazing views-Some of our best rock is quarried- it is this work which has exposed it for us....but it is still amenable to leader placed protection.
The rock at Llany is unusual, some of it more like sandstone- this did lead in the past to unusual fixed gear. But if we are getting stronger and better and gear is certainly more advanced, why can't we rise to the challenge?
Yes I am a punter and may have never got around to the routes in their original form, but I would have aspired to do so. Who wouldn't look up at that massive wall from the flatlands and not want to sit on top of it? (not grab the lower off and slide back down)
When I started climbing I thought E1 was a distant dream- now 9 years later, a sound trad apprenticeship and yes some fierce training on resin (although not sports climbs) has led to a huge wishlist of previously unthinkable trad climbs...Llany is one of our local-ish crags, I am best above crap gear, those routes might have suited me, but now I will never know....
Why should the FA have the say? They had the privilege of 'finding' and creating the route but is is future climbers who are deprived of the opportunity to follow in their footsteps when the route is irrevocably altered...
Britain is respected the world over for its fierce trad ethic, famous rock folk travel here specifically to experience our unique brand of climbing. We don't have unlimited rock, and what we do have is precious and should be preserved in its best state for future climbers. Bolts on the Continent make money for local communities and are supported as such, a good draw for tourists- the flip side is if you get injured due to failed fixed gear somewhere like Ailefroide you can sue the local government- this is obviously never going to be the case here, (please God)
Ripping bolts out of soft limestone will only end in scars, so Nomad wall is gone (hands off the Black Wall please), but there does seem to be a rush to bolt every piece of spare choss around, and some of the rest.....we do need to think about the implications of our actions....where does it all end? Trauma? Nightmayer? Master's Edge? I could probably climb them one day if they were bolted....but would you want to? Would you memorise the guidebook description, drool over the photo, gawp at the line evry time you went past??? Nomad and This Won't Hurt use to come into that category....but not no more
This is a real shame. I lived in this area once, climbed trad here to a modest standard, and these routes have been on my do list ever since.
There is a crucial difference between the current protection and the original gear - the original stuff, motley bunch of in-situ tat that it was, was only placed where the rock would allow it. Folk seem to be losing sight of the fact that pegs/ nails are still natural gear, and always a preferable solution to a bolt.
I won't be travelling over to do these routes in their current form.
Neil F - the problem with your argument - poor breaks, limited natural gear, routes reliant on existing in-situ tat - is that it also applies to nearby Nesscliffe. Back when I climbed there Llanymynech had the same reputation for big, bold routes with wierd gear. No longer. I take it you wouldn't support bolting Nesscliffe?
The country seems to be quietly slipping into an acceptance that limestone equals bolts, equals sport climbing. The trad crags are becoming the exception, and routes above E5 rare. It seems trad and sport cannot share the same crag - slowly the trad gets outnumbered, then unpopular, then that is used as an argument for retrobolting. Its a real shame, I think we are throwing away our heritage here.
xyz22 Jul 2009
I posted a reply to Nick on the Rockfax Database, see the link below:
In reply to Ian I think you have made a very good point:
"As to losing the experience there are many more classic E5 / E6 wall climbs on UK limestone than there are 7a/7b long sport wall climbs so the support of the trad experience should be balanced against the full out onsight experience for people who climb sport."
When you think of the number of classic E4,5 and E6 routes in the UK and compare that to the number of equally classic 7a, 7a+ and 7b sports routes then the latter are genuinely a very rare breed!
In reply to Neil Foster: I have a lot of sympathy with the OP on many of his points. However I also managed to climb the routes on this face recently before the bad weather, and like Neil Foster found them to be excellent, challenging sports climbs. I had seconded Nomad many moons ago, and remember a lot of in situ gear.
the wall seems to be cleaning up nicely, as the day I was there, there were mini 'queues' for the routes.
> "As to losing the experience there are many more classic E5 / E6 wall climbs on UK limestone than there are 7a/7b long sport wall climbs
I don't agree with this in terms of numbers. There are precious few E6s on lime in the peak which haven't been retroed.
>so the support of the trad experience should be balanced against the full out onsight experience for people who climb sport.
I really don't agree with this!!
You seem to be suggesting that routes should be somehow provided/ created based on demand?
The rock is the rock, and should be climbed in the style that causes as litle impact as possible. Routes should just be a record of what has been done before on that rock. They are not a commodity that can be subjected to quotas - the rock should dictate what kind of route is recorded. Otherwise your argument is just as supportive of chipping as it is for bolting.
(Personally I find it hard to argue that chipping and bolting are not two sides of the same bad penny, but I believe the consensus is that bolting is somehow morally superior).
> The country seems to be quietly slipping into an acceptance that limestone equals bolts, equals sport climbing. The trad crags are becoming the exception, and routes above E5 rare. It seems trad and sport cannot share the same crag - slowly the trad gets outnumbered, then unpopular, then that is used as an argument for retrobolting. Its a real shame, I think we are throwing away our heritage here.
Adam, this is my big worry too. Some of you might have seen my recent comments on relevant threads about the bolting of the trad cracks at Lorry Park Quarry, Matlock (and associated murmurings about bolting another great trad route there). The reason I keep banging on about these is that they don't rely on fixed gear AT ALL!!!! They have been bolted supposedly 'to make them popular/because they were neglected(!)' (I actually suspect they were bolted to provide 'warm-ups' for non-trad-doing sports climbers who can't be arsed/good enough to take gear along). None of which I reckon ever stand as a reason for bolting trad cracks, quarried limestone or not.
The OP seems to have lost sight of why they have been bolted and what purpose the climbs now serve. Congratulations on climbing the wall in its original state but there was a lot of in situ gear which would only have got worse with the ravages of time and the elements. It’s a shame that you won’t be able to climb it in its original guise but it’s a case of appealing to the masses. Technically you could still climb it trad but as we all know that would be insane.
I wouldn’t agree that the climbs are now mediocre. In fact everyone else who has climbed the wall since agrees they are very good routes and were worth putting up. You can’t exactly disagree with the star ratings and its new popularity just because you don’t like it.
In fact it’s a shame that you’ve posted the thread for what is essentially a rant that was always going to be biased. Others seem to have jumped aboard and are now commenting about a place and situation they have no knowledge off. Bolts do not automatically equal bad. Also the consensus is that a poorly protected crappy wall with large amounts of in situ gear has been turned into a decent climbing spot.
Those that have said they visit the quarry have all commented ‘I was planning to do that route’ and get quite annoyed. One poster even says they were there recently, wanted to do that route but didn’t even notice the bolts! I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many people say it’s on their to-do list yet have shown minimal interest in the route until now.
As for the other reply saying it was on their to-do list. It must have been on that list for a long time if you have since moved away, so who are you kidding that you are more likely to want to climb the route now than before?
What is the point of leaving a legacy of a great trad climb if there’s no one to enjoy it? OK the OP would enjoy climbing the route 1 maybe 2 more times but that would be the only use it gets. A much greater legacy is the one Gary and co have left by transforming the quarry from an unknown into one of the biggest and most popular climbing venues in the area.
Also once the sport routes have been put up A LOT of effort goes into cleaning the routes. As someone has said the rock I quite poor in places and even the well climbed routes still get dirty. Certain people have put a lot of effort to clean the routes and the area around the crag to enable everyone to enjoy the place. The elitists who visit at most a couple times a year probably don’t notice.
I think we all owe Gary and others a big thank you for the work they do at Llanymynech. They are ensuring it remains a popular venue and it is helping to bring new people into the sport. I just hope these people aren’t putting off too many newbie’s and the bolt chopping isn’t spoiling enjoyable routes. More people are often let down by a bolt being chopped in a quarry rather than by one being placed. However trad climbers seem to think they have the moral high ground against other climbers.
Anyway I Hope next time you travel to Llanymynech you have an enjoyable day as I’m sure most people there do.
In reply to boothy: True some of the situ is not good, however the bit I am referring to is the old fixed gear below the crux move, this would easily hold at least a potential 20 footer especially on twin ropes, just as the bolt would on a single rope. You miss the point though, this is not hand placed gear on lead. A climb that relies predominantly on fixed gear no matter how esoteric or old, is not and never has been a proper trad climb. It's all climbing to me though, like many others, when sport climbing I just enjoy all the hard work that others have put in at great expense to improve previously neglected quarries for free. I must donate some more money to Gary.
No thin of the wedge as some suggest, not many mountain routes have sport routes along side them, climbers neglect them these days without any incentive and many just get overgrown and the old fixed gear rusts away.
> and these routes have been on my do list ever since.
And yet, despite their accessibility, you never have which suggests that whilst we all like the idea of these wonderful E5s and 6s the reality is their appeal lies more in some rose tinted notional way rather than in actuality (I know their are many more reasons why you might not have done them but you get my point).
These routes were always flawed in that they relied on in situ protection and were 'created' to suit a certain level of ability, all that's changed is that they are suited to a more modest level of ability. Making a route more popular is never a good enough reason to bolt a route but in a country of limited rock making best use of resources should be a consideration. Before anyone assumes that is an argument for widespread retro-bolting, it is not. Apart from anything else there are very, very few trad routes in the UK that would be improved by the addition of bolts.
> (In reply to boothy) A climb that relies predominantly on fixed gear no matter how esoteric or old, is not and never has been a proper trad climb.
I don't think thats the case? If you're talking pegs and threads, the rock dictates what can be placed, where it is and and how good/bad it is. The fact that a route has had one or several such pieces doesn't mean it can't be regarded as a trad route. Of courses there are always the extreme cases - in this context, effectively 'clip ups' - but even here, again the rock dictates (all/many of) the placements, in contrast to a purely bolted route.
From a personal point of view, I am travelling up to do a number of routes there, and Nomad & Screaming Skull stood out as classics that i want to get on. There is a definite lack of top quality sport venues in the UK, so every time i uncover a 'new' quarry or area to visit, it's still quite a special treat for me. I used to think it was all about Portland, or get on a plane to Europe.
Happily, i am realising there are gems dotted about - Masson Lees & Dinas Rock being two of recent note.
> (In reply to ClwydTraveller)
> I don't think thats the case? If you're talking pegs and threads, the rock dictates what can be placed, where it is and and how good/bad it is. The fact that a route has had one or several such pieces doesn't mean it can't be regarded as a trad route. Of courses there are always the extreme cases - in this context, effectively 'clip ups' - but even here, again the rock dictates (all/many of) the placements, in contrast to a purely bolted route.
Have you ever been near this route? did you not read the earlier posts?
I did not say several pieces of fixed gear, it was mostly fixed gear around the harder moves, albeit old and esoteric eg six inch nails.
Natural placements suitable for hand placed gear are relatively few on nomad wall, these cracks mainly contain layers of poor shale. Which is why without traffic, they get dirty, there are exceptions with even the odd nut placement, as you say dependant on the rock.
In reply to jon:
I'm sorry Jon did you have a point to make? I must have missed it....
re the rock itself dictating the style of ascent, not quotas or popular perceptions- absolutely
We ARE destroying our heritage, and in another 10 years time when fashion has changed back there will be no way of undoing the damage
and if it is naive of me to want there to be a selection of hard trad routes to go at locally on the evening crags as I continue to get stronger and bolder and braver....what's wrong with that???
Yes, some of it is ill-informed sweeping generalisation - regarding the continental bolting. Another point is your 'ripping bolts out...' statement. If you knew anything about bolting you'd know that bolts can be broken, sawn, drilled out, tapped in and hidden in a way that you'd never know they'd been there - I know, I've done it. 'Ripping out', whilst probably impossible, WOULD scar the rock and is scaremongering talk.
If you want an example of a trad route going to waste, look no further than my route (OK, Roger Lavill's old A2, my FFA) Clematis (apologies to those that have already read this a few times in other threads). It's probably overgrown again by the plant after which it's named and which made the first ascent(!) Why not clean that up and climb it in its trad state if you want another trad route (I understand it doesn't get done - I wonder why, it's not that bad a route). Personally I wish Gary would go and bolt it so it would get done.
> You seem to be suggesting that routes should be somehow provided/ created based on demand?
> The rock is the rock, and should be climbed in the style that causes as litle impact as possible. Routes should just be a record of what has been done before on that rock. They are not a commodity that can be subjected to quotas - the rock should dictate what kind of route is recorded. Otherwise your argument is just as supportive of chipping as it is for bolting.
> (Personally I find it hard to argue that chipping and bolting are not two sides of the same bad penny, but I believe the consensus is that bolting is somehow morally superior).
I have no idea how you could have drawn any of your conclusions based on my post. I simply quoted from Ian's post and then reiterated that there are loads more trad routes in the UK between E4 and E6 than sports routes between 7a and 7b. I think this is an interesting and true observation and illustrates that quality sports routes of these grades are a rare commodity in the British Isles.
In reply to anyone:
So was there a consensus not to bolt this wall?
If so, and the wall was bolted in spite of it, and you're happy with that, you can't really complain when someone goes against the "consensus" at another crag and chops bolts (Dunkeld seemed to get up a lot of skirts).
I love this "public service" justification for bolting. What a load of bollox. It's all about self-satisfaction.
In reply to Dr Fran (Vagabond MC):
well, lived in France for a year obviously didn't learn a thing....
I don't want another trad route to go at I would like a full selection of historic famous routes to choose from and to tell future newbies about....classic routes or even obscure esoterica are like famous folk heroes- you read all about them and hope you get to meet them some day. Some let you down, others turn out to be even more interesting than you had hoped...
Alsmcliff....don't I need a passport to get all the way up there
> (In reply to Dr Fran (Vagabond MC))
> well, lived in France for a year obviously didn't learn a thing....
> I don't want another trad route to go at I would like a full selection of historic famous routes to choose from and to tell future newbies about....classic routes or even obscure esoterica are like famous folk heroes- you read all about them and hope you get to meet them some day. Some let you down, others turn out to be even more interesting than you had hoped...
Fran, I live in France. I've lived here for twenty years (and this is the reason that I can't do anything about Clematis myself). I've put up hundreds of sport routes here (and lots of trad ones in Britain before that) and know French bolting politics and the responsibilities of French communes intimately, whether they have sponsored in some way the equipment or not. I know J-M Troussier of the FFME and have discussed with him this very subject, particularly regarding my routes, some of which have been sponsored by my commune, but for the most part have been paid for out of my own pocket - as is the case with the majority of routes in France. You are incorrect in your statements here. You are however only part right that you 'oviously didn't learn a thing...'
Clematis is an historic route. It was freeclimbed in 1979 at a time when not many people frequented Llanymynech. It was probably one of the hardest in the quarry at the time, and is a fine corner line that lends itself well to natural protection. The new routing started there in the late sixties. It was mostly Brummies on their way back from wet Wales who did the early routes. Pat Littlejohn and Steve Jones did one as well. They named it Broken Dreams - I wonder why (and if it's still recorded).
In reply to nick bullock: Remove them and be done. Leave them and wait till the next episode. Seems like an obvious choice, someone needs to show the man he doesn't own the routes and won't be left a free hand to do as he pleases..
In reply to jon:
Whoops not the Jon I thought you were then...Lucky you to have escaped the constant rain...
well I lived in a tiny village in the heart of the Ecrins that exists as a commuter village for the nuclear power station down in the valley and mostly for skiing and summer rando...and was pretty well immersed in the culture to the extent I now speak French with a montagnarde accent. So I don't have friends in high up places...but I have spent a lot of time there and certainly Ailfroide and the surrounding areas the bolting was heavily sponsored and intimately monitored by the bureau de guides and the town council....and they acknowledge their liability to litigation as a result of this....and the French climbers you meet there are well aware that fixed gear is maintained and replaced regularly to avoid liability, and that they could sue if something happened...hence they all merrily clip the maillons cos these don't have to last for ever
I'm afraid I am more likely to get to Welsh Patagonia than to Almscliff but if I do make it there I will have a go at Clematis for you...as a matter of principle, even the most neglected deserve a bit of love...
> I'm afraid I am more likely to get to Welsh Patagonia than to Almscliff but if I do make it there I will have a go at Clematis for you...as a matter of principle, even the most neglected deserve a bit of love...
In reply to nick bullock: Disregarding the specific issue here, there does seem to be a wider issue of how one goes about establishing a "consensus" about climbing related issues and how or if the "consensus" should be upheld.
> (In reply to Lee Proctor)
> I don't agree with this in terms of numbers. There are precious few E6s on lime in the peak which haven't been retroed.
Your history is probably better than mine but I would say it was more the case that not that many E6's were ever climbed on peak limestone. By the time these grades were being climbed more and morehard limestone routes were mainly or full on sport routes. What are the classic proper trad routes that have been retroed - Bastille, Eye of the Tiger, Reproduction are still there to be done. I know the E5's better and again there's no sign of classic at Chee Tor and High Tor being retro'd.
> >so the support of the trad experience should be balanced against the full out onsight experience for people who climb sport.
> I really don't agree with this!!
> You seem to be suggesting that routes should be somehow provided/ created based on demand?
> The rock is the rock, and should be climbed in the style that causes as litle impact as possible. Routes should just be a record of what has been done before on that rock. They are not a commodity that can be subjected to quotas - the rock should dictate what kind of route is recorded. Otherwise your argument is just as supportive of chipping as it is for bolting.
> (Personally I find it hard to argue that chipping and bolting are not two sides of the same bad penny, but I believe the consensus is that bolting is somehow morally superior).
I come from a perspective that sport and trad are both valid forms of climbing and we should look at the rock, style of climbing and history / ethics of the crag to decide what style makes the best routes. The centre of Malham is best as a fully bolted sport area, the right wing is best as a trad area. As I read it your perspectibe is that bolting is pretty much always bad which means I guess that we are pretty unlikely to agree in this discussuon! Though I do find it particularly difficult to understand you argument in this case when we are not discussing a pristine clean wall rather a route littered with ironmongery of varied quality, though possibly you are suggesting that actually the routes should have been stripped of all gear, or that it should never have been climbed.
I don't really think I can be bothered to argue the bolting is just as bad as chipping stuff! Sport climbing exists and has done for the best part of 30 years now.
> (In reply to anyone)
> So was there a consensus not to bolt this wall?
> If so, and the wall was bolted in spite of it, and you're happy with that, you can't really complain when someone goes against the "consensus" at another crag and chops bolts (Dunkeld seemed to get up a lot of skirts).
You can't make sweeping generalisations across all crags. You have to look at each case individually and the consensus isn't really important because it's made up of know-it-alls online. If you filter through the posts on here you will find two camps. Those who like moaning about bolts online but have no knowledge of the crag or the routes, and those who have been there and climbed the routes.
Consensus of the former group is that bolts should be removed whereas the latter say it should stay. Isn't it obvious the latter have made an informed decision whereas the former have not?
In reply to everybody: The problem is it hasn't turned them into amazing sport climbs. They're pretty cool but from a pure movement point of view they feel a bit break to breaky. As trad climbs they were a whole lot more of an experience as Nick has already mentioned (i tried and failed when i was younger and left feeling totally disturbed but was awesome none the less).
Its not as though they're is a lack of accesible sport climbs at Llanymynech. From a local climbers point of view, if you look through guides for routes of e5/e6 that are less likely to result in death than some of the Nesscliffe crumbly horrow shows, these routes fitted the bill perfectly. Now they will provide a few more sport climbs that people will do one eveing and forget.
In a quarry that has loads of sport climbing and more going up all the time, i don't think two trad walls is alot to ask for, especially as these two are more obvious to protect with natural gear.
Maybe some of the bolting resources should have looked at improving the existing sport routes such as making the runnouts shorter on some of the Red Wall routes. Some fo the routes on there feel about E5 in their current state. The bolts are spaced and threatened by sharp angular fallout zones.
If these routes were done more often and became cleaner they would be a good collection of sport climbs.I thought the new route Poison Ivy was really good if a little dirty.
In reply to Jamie Bankhead:
Not entirely true, you forgot 3: The bolts stay in and not much happens because no-one's as bothered as they are in cases 1 or 2. For instance, isolated bolts have happily coexisted with both trad and proper sport at Avon, and a few isolated bolts on Yorkshire Grit were/have been there for decades. Ie direct action can be fairly limited on either 'side'.
I'm not surprised you 'can't be bothered' to argue that chipping is worse than bolting: there really aren't any decent arguments for you to use!
I'm prepared to accept that bolting is here to stay and that there are places where there is little alternative. What I don't like is there seems to be this developing idea that if a route isn't entirely clean of fixed gear, then it might as well be bolted. All other forms of protection, whether nuts, cams, pegs, nails or threads, are natural gear - they require a placement to be provided by the crag. Bolts are completely the opposite and represent a totally different attitude to the crag. Instead of seeing where it might be possible to climb, taking what weaknesses the crag provides and working with them, you just bolt and go where you like.
Style is a continuum for good to bad; a route littered with fixed gear is still sympathetic to the crag and always superior to a sport route. Bolting should always be a last resort on both a crag and a route basis. As you mention, Malham is an example which demonstrates co-existance can work. Why not at Llanymynech?
I note no one has replied to my question as to why the arguments wheeled out for bolting Nomad don't apply to Nesscliffe.
Unpopularity is not an argument for bolting. Many of the most memorable routes I've done are rarely climbed. That's because they are big challenges, they take time to build up for, they aren't just the fast-food experience of sport climbing.
> Historicaly "consensus" has been less important than direct action; if you put bolts in a cliff one of 2 things can happen:
> 1. The bolts stay in, the crag becomes a sport venue.
> 2. Somebody takes them out, which suggests that you've pushed things too far.
> After 2, you can either take it on the chin and retreat, or the more stubborn can return to the crag and start a bolt war. The winner will be the side that cares most.
> As far as I can see this is how it's always been.
The problem with this view is that its not about who 'cares most'. Its about how they act. For me a big part of not bolting is to leave the rock as it was originally - in many cases its about trying to climb a natural rockface as it is, without manufacturing anything to make it easier.
Bolts are far easier to place than remove, in fact in many cases removal makes a real mess. Once the bolts go in, for me, the damage has been done, and removing them makes even more damage with the likelihood of tit-for-tat replacement developing.
I don't feel comfortable damaging the rock even in the name of bolt removal, nor do I feel comfortable making such unilateral acts on the behalf of the community. Unfortunately the bolters clearly don't share such qualms. In most cases the best descision for the rock is to do nothing.
Hence why we need proper discussion before bolting, and for bolters to respect those discussions.
> Yes and Yes.
> I was responding to the general comment you made which I quoted in my reply.
Hmm, you simply don’t understand then, perhaps you have a similar view to Nick on how to dictate to most other climbers who are able to climb Nomad should enjoy themselves then.
I will repeat in a different way. There is a purist trad definition and a purist sport definition for a climb, Nomad in it’s old “Trad” state or it’s new “sport” status really fits neither of these purist forms.
If you fall from the final moves going for the final easy ground, you will take a very long but similar fall on to either on either the old pegs or the new bolt. The rest of the climb is not that hard.
On Nomad specifically, apart from the scariness factor/ old/ dubious nature of the gear etc there is little difference from the leaders perspective between clipping in situ gear and a bolt. This type of gear predominates on Nomad, hand placed gear where trad skill is required is the exception. True pegs/ nails can only be entered in weaknesses in the rock. This is precisely the bit of rock you would not want to bolt.
For Gary to have renewed the gear like for like as Nick suggested is obviously ridiculous. Unless you pull out the old nails pegs and replace with new ones you have to look at other options. The only other way I think of is to remove all the original fixed gear and bolts and leave it as a museum piece for future generations or soloists. There are I guess only a handful of people capable of climbing nomad as pure trad. They must have better things to get on with though.
The dubious nature of the old gear means that a leader climbing close to his limit would wander around the face to find the line of least resistance. Hence the long time Nick took hogging the route several years ago. Mind you there was no queue, so not a problem. After all you are not going to get lost on a 100’ by 50’ sheet of rock. You might not find the best line and you might fall, but it is not like a proper adventure at a similar technical level in the mountains.
> (In reply to Ian Patterson)
> I'm not surprised you 'can't be bothered' to argue that chipping is worse than bolting: there really aren't any decent arguments for you to use!
I can't take this too seriously or does your next line say that you'd equally willing to accept that chipping is here to stay.
> I'm prepared to accept that bolting is here to stay and that there are places where there is little alternative. What I don't like is there seems to be this developing idea that if a route isn't entirely clean of fixed gear, then it might as well be bolted. All other forms of protection, whether nuts, cams, pegs, nails or threads, are natural gear - they require a placement to be provided by the crag. Bolts are completely the opposite and represent a totally different attitude to the crag. Instead of seeing where it might be possible to climb, taking what weaknesses the crag provides and working with them, you just bolt and go where you like.
> Style is a continuum for good to bad; a route littered with fixed gear is still sympathetic to the crag and always superior to a sport route. Bolting should always be a last resort on both a crag and a route basis. As you mention, Malham is an example which demonstrates co-existance can work. Why not at Llanymynech?
All this is where we disagree I believe that some routes are simply better as sport routes - New Dawn imo is better as sport route than with a mixture of pegs, bolts and threads (some drilled) so I don't think there is continium with sport routes always at bottom. At a lesser level of quality (and given you previous comments on peak limestone probably of little interest to you) I believe that the Max Wall routes, for example, are much improved as climbing experience by bolting.
> I note no one has replied to my question as to why the arguments wheeled out for bolting Nomad don't apply to Nesscliffe.
I can answer - its because the believe is that they make better trad routes than sport together with the history of the crag and the style of climbing / availability of gear - it's a qualitative judgement. I've never been to Nescliffe so I don't feel that I can judge whether this is true in this case but I don't have a problem considering it.
> Unpopularity is not an argument for bolting. Many of the most memorable routes I've done are rarely climbed. That's because they are big challenges, they take time to build up for, they aren't just the fast-food experience of sport climbing.
This whole thread seems to be boiling down to a discussion between people who think both sport climbing and trad climbing should co-exist in this country as valid and worthwhile forms of climbing and those that believe sport climbing is some sort of barely tolerated attack on British climbing that needs to be resisted where ever possible.
> If you want an example of a trad route going to waste, look no further than my route (OK, Roger Lavill's old A2, my FFA) Clematis (apologies to those that have already read this a few times in other threads). It's probably overgrown again by the plant after which it's named and which made the first ascent(!) Why not clean that up and climb it in its trad state if you want another trad route (I understand it doesn't get done - I wonder why, it's not that bad a route). Personally I wish Gary would go and bolt it so it would get done.
We climbed Long Codlin’s groove yesterday evening (in torrential rain), another great previously neglected climb. Even in these days of Llanymynech’s popularity we were the only ones at the whole crag! The reason I mention it to you is that you will realise it is right next door to Clematis.
I looked at this amazing corner line thinking, why no one has done this permanently dry route for around 20 years. I don’t think I am up to it in its present glory myself.
There is no plant on the line but it is rather dirty with much loose rock.
>sport climbing is some sort of barely tolerated attack on British climbing that needs to be resisted where ever possible.
I don't believe that, but having wanted to do Nomad for years I'm gutted to hear of the retrobolting. In this and other recent examples I feel bolting is spreading too far - from routes where it is the best option to those where it reduces a fantastic trad route to a merely good sport route.
> For Gary to have renewed the gear like for like as Nick suggested is obviously ridiculous.
Reading this thread, it seems clear that the time is ripe for a gear manufacturer to step up to the plate and launch a range of retro-fixed-cr*p for exactly this purpose. The product range might include 8mm bolt-stubs, battered situ-wires, knotted tat, wooden wedges, broken-eye pegs ... all pre-frayed and pre-rusted for extra convenience. Should play really well from a marketing perspective ... imagine the credibility and brand loyalty gained with the UKC trad-horde. How about it, DMM?
to hear of the retrobolting. In this and other recent examples I feel bolting is spreading too far - from routes where it is the best option to those where it reduces a fantastic trad route to a merely good sport route.
I am afraid you are falling in to the trap of reading quotes from others then repeating. Go try it yourself and make your own mind up. You may still just prove what you already think like Nick. But The majority I have spoken to that have climbed the route think it is great.
In reply to ClwydTraveller: having climbed it in both of its lives, my comment on it is that it was a great trad route, and it is now a really enjoyable sport route.
in this case I think I actually agree that it was the right decision to bolt it. Although some of the character of the route (the head game) has gone, I actually enjoyed the moves alot more now that it is bolted!
The quarry on a whole lends itself alot more to sport climbing than trad climbing, so I personally dont see it as a bad thing!
also strikes me as quite weird that most of the people that disagree with it being bolted have neither climbed it as a trad route nor as a sport route. I wasnt actually going to contribute to this thread as it seems like it was just going round in circles, but I thought Id bring a reasoned argument to the table from someone who has actually experienced what was a very good route and is still a very good route in both of its styles.
> Style is a continuum for good to bad; a route littered with fixed gear is still sympathetic to the crag and always superior to a sport route. Bolting should always be a last resort on both a crag and a route basis. As you mention, Malham is an example which demonstrates co-existance can work. Why not at Llanymynech?
Do you know what you are talking about? there must be nearly 50 trad climbs that still co-exist with sport climbs at Llanymynech. Most have not been led for 20 years, some still wait a free ascent.
In reply to Adam L:
Don't tempt the devil Adam FFS!
The whole establishing a consensus issue seems to be the heart of the matter...
Forums- full of opinions, but not nec relevant, helpful or valid, and often not local
FA- as I said before, why should they get to choose?
Area Meetings- good test- if you care enough, turn up
Clean ups- ditto
BUT many climbs are 'important' enough to matter to the whole country not just the local community
The argument that folk vote with their feet ridiculous- many more will climb F6c than E6 but hey if I want to I can put a rope on Raindogs and start messing around- doesn't mean I wil have climbed even one move of it
Bolt wars- futile, and very damaging
and a decision made today may turn out to be a mistake in the wider context of the future
so best option- DO NO HARM.....don't retro bolt anything- easy!
> Howvever I hope the Black wall is still trad and popular? Again, the arguments trotted about for bolting Nomad would appear to apply equally here.
Black wall is very popular with the large groups of abseiling children who ensure that the lines remain dirty and become polished with the grit from their shoes. This applies to all the hard sport routes in cul-de-sac quarry also.
From a climbers perspective, Black wall is still trad, (well sort of, it is still smattered with pegs and 6" nails), but the only popular lines are the central E1/E2 climbs.
Black is beautiful is now less popular than it was as the bolt placed on the crux by the FA has been removed.
A case of an established climb being changed towards purist trad, however one bolt did not make it a sport climb, So I do think this can not be put down to the tribal warfare that exists between the sport/ anti sport factions, but it still offended some, a peg and 6" nail for some strange reason remains. More likely done by the new generation of trad climber who seems unwilling to walk to the mountain crags where proper adventure climbs at this technical level can be found in abundance. They might have to do a bit of cleaning as well because they are unpopular now.
"I know it’s too late for the Nomad Wall but if no-one says anything things will just keep happening and before you know it what makes British climbing special and different has gone."
I think that is the point, it just seems impossible to stop. Retrobolting just seems to keep rolling on and on. The guys with the drills have time on their hands, often retired and any new excuse will do. Once they're in, the mess is always there (look at Black is Beautiful), so anyone who cares won't get the chisel out.
You can post all you like on here, but they will just keep drilling, you can go to BMC consultative blah de blah's but they just keep drilling. If it's uber classic on limestone, maybe it's safe, for now; maybe not ( Cave route right hand, jenny wren, central wall dib, android, moonchild all to my knowledge have at least an extra bolt. Ok they all relied on pegs or skyhooks, which require judgement; bolts basically don't.). I hope to get Central Wall, Kilnsey before it's retro bolted, I've failed on it four times in the last 30 years, it won't last another 30. To spell it out, it's a sports crag, Livesey's brother will probably say it's ok, it's close to the road, it's limestone, it's in yorkshire, it's not popular, it's got no chance.
I was in llanymenech on sat, my wife led her first e2, a couple of sports routes as well, but it was the e2 that mattered.
British climbing is changing, it's not all bad, but the how to draw the line and how to hold the line on mixed up crags is way from being sorted out. I don't know how to do that, but I do know it's important to get done what's important to me, before it's gone.
This is all getting outta hand this retro bolting. Its time to follow the lead of the Irish, who I'm led to believe, removed every bolt Mr Gibson placed at the Burren and possibly Fairhead too, if I'm not mistaken. Stand up and be counted. Get the bolts out!!!
> (In reply to Ian Milward)
> Hmm, you simply don’t understand then,
It is you who misunderstand, I wasn't talking specifically about Nomad there*.
> perhaps you have a similar view to Nick on how to dictate to most other climbers who are able to climb Nomad should enjoy themselves then".
Not at all, I'm someone who much prefers trad but enjoys sport too (even though I'm crap at it). I do not think sport climbing and bolts are bad - generally speaking the rock should dictate which style is acceptable. If anything - despite being increasingly concerned by the lack of respect for trad climbing shown by some climbers who who don't 'do' trad at all - in respect of the OP, I'm siding with the views expressed above by Neil, rather than Nick (sorry Nick - I'd be fully on your side normally but in this case I don't think you've picked the best example to pick a fight with).
*You originally made a statement to the effect that a route with predominantly fixed gear can't be a regarded as a trad route. I was merely pointing out that this is not always the case, that's all.
> There is a purist trad definition and a purist sport definition for a climb, Nomad in it’s old “Trad” state or it’s new “sport” status really fits neither of these purist forms.
I'd be interested to hear why you think Nomad in it's present state isn't a 'pure' sport route. (Having just heard rumours of a disturbing nature regarding bolting at another VERY POPULAR sports venue, I think that comment is a real 'can of worms opener'!)
> (In reply to edwardwoodward)
> You can't make sweeping generalisations across all crags. You have to look at each case individually and the consensus isn't really important because it's made up of know-it-alls online. If you filter through the posts on here you will find two camps. Those who like moaning about bolts online but have no knowledge of the crag or the routes, and those who have been there and climbed the routes.
> Consensus of the former group is that bolts should be removed whereas the latter say it should stay. Isn't it obvious the latter have made an informed decision whereas the former have not?
Possible, yes. Obvious? No.
So you can't make generalisations for crags, but you can for climbers.
You seem to be ignoring the OP'S post (and a few others) who climbed (or attempted, or wanted to attempt) this or other routes trad. In your generalisation.
I don't think you've thought this through - your post comes across as very blinkered.
There weren't bolts on this wall. Someone decided there should be ("in the public interest", I'm sure). Came on ukc forums (possibly elsewhere?) to get a green light. Got a red light and retrobolted anyway. Again, comparing to Dunkeld, if you accept "being a local" as sufficient justification, you can't complain if a local chops bolts he or she disagrees with. Perhaps, if there were a consensus, the bolts might be accepted. So long as people respected the consensus, of course. But "consensus isn't really important because it's made up of know-it-alls online", is it.
> I hope to get Central Wall, Kilnsey before it's retro bolted, I've failed on it four times in the last 30 years, it won't last another 30. To spell it out, it's a sports crag, Livesey's brother will probably say it's ok, it's close to the road, it's limestone, it's in yorkshire, it's not popular, it's got no chance.
Have you ever met anyone who would seriously contemplate retro bolting Central Wall at Kilnsey? I haven't and I climb almost exclusivly with Yorksire sport climbers?
> There weren't bolts on this wall. Someone decided there should be ("in the public interest", I'm sure). Came on ukc forums (possibly elsewhere?) to get a green light. Got a red light and retrobolted anyway.
The was bolts on this wall before as well as a large amount of other fixed gear. My reading of the previous thread was as per this one, a spread of opinions on both sides as opposed to a 'red light'.
> It is you who misunderstand, I wasn't talking specifically about Nomad there*.
Sorry about that I did not pick up the side step, but glad we got that one sorted, I was trying to keep comments to topic of Nomad/ Llanymynech. Llanymynech as a venue is very diverse from a climbing perspective, but generalisation is hard as is a completely different case to say Kilsney, being created by man using dynamite rather than ice. both have similar origins though if you go back far enough in time. But hey I am wandering now. Same as being off route trying to find the best option whilst trad climbing sometimes.
> I'd be interested to hear why you think Nomad in it's present state isn't a 'pure' sport route. (Having just heard rumours of a disturbing nature regarding bolting at another VERY POPULAR sports venue, I think that comment is a real 'can of worms opener'!)
The reason is because you have a large run on the crux before you reach the last bolt on easy ground. Although not the crux in the other cases, run out on the final moves are a feature common to several Nomad wall routes. This is where I like the US grading system as run out is mentioned so it does not surprise the leader. The fall factor in proper sport should not be a major consideration (it’s not that bad really!) as it is the moves that are generally more important. But then Llanymynech is a special case, helps makes it a good venue.
I won't comment on the particular incident, as I, like all others who have not climbed there, am banned from doing so apparently (which says long about how keen the bolters are to really know what the "consensus" is!) but I would like to say that the OP seems an important document as it says very eloquently what many think but are unable to express so well, and also, by having done the said climbs before and after and having an intimate knowledge of the crag, avoids the oft use, if ultimately false, objections put up by bolters to this practice.
It also illustrates just how ratchet like and difficult to resist the bolt protected climbing (to use a more suitable label rather than the "sport climb" euphemism) lobby is. In this case anyone who opposes the bolting is left with the choice of going to the trouble of de-bolting, with the rock damage that goes with it, or letting be, and encouraging the next outrage. A bit of a "lose lose" situation.
However well put the original post was the replies give little reason to be optimistic... fast food and "I want I get" culture steam rollers on.
Nicks post is a good one, and he may have a point I don't know - never climbed there.
But some of the general replies to this thread are hilarious scare mongering, Central Wall at Kilnsey? By the tone of some you'd think East Buttress, Cloggy and Gogarth were about to be grid bolted. Where bolts are concerned then people seem to loose all sense of perspective...
It was a climb crammed with in-situ protection and where you placed the odd runner here and there. Yes some of the gear wasn't great but the closer your ascent was to the day when it was equipped or re-equipped the less scary your ascent.
Slowly these type of routes are evolving into full on sports routes - personally I don't think this is such a bad thing.
We replaced some threads on some Yew Cougar 'trad' routes two years ago before reascending them again. Earlier this year (when it was dry!) we returned to the crag and these same threads now need replacing again in order to offer trustworthy protection. (UV damage)
The great 'trad' routes do not need fixed protection. Some need the occassional peg which could do with from time to time 'like for like' replacement(eg Lost Horizons )but predominatley you have to select and place the gear.
The old aid routes now climbed free and the 'Nomad' style routes should be re-equipped with the latest and longest lasting fixed protection products.
Bolting up some limestone faces will not be the death of Traditional climbing that will only happen if the youth of the sport don't take up the great challenges that are waiting for them in the Lakes, North wales, Pembroke, Cornwall, Scotland, Isle of Man....................sorry forgot Yorkshire and the Peak
Whether 'tis nobler on the rock to suffer
The pains and breaks of outrageous venture,
Or ache arms against a sea of crackless slabs
And by bolt ascend them.
For to die is to climb no more;
And by a bolt to say we keep the arm ache
Yet deny the natural shocks adventure's heir to -
'Tis a concept understood:
To bolt to climb ... to climb not to chance to die.
Ay, there's a rub Tradition feels -
For on that climb of bolts what fears may come
When we have shuffled off Tradition's rack?
Yet look at cause, for there's respect
For tactical climbing that keeps long life,
Just as there's respect for tactics that
Bravely question, and risk the sharp end
Of that lonely,
Length of Nylon.
Yet think on't -
For to question at the end that's sharp
Is, with knowledge, to question risk;
Risks you know exist as risks of yours.
The crack that shows the shaky nut
May sow the shakes in the placer of;
Yet exclaims with clarity
What bolt can claim such candour?
For a surface may shine assurance
That it my hide a centre rotten and ridden with
As one of our gurus once spoke -
It's not the risks we know we take;
It's the risks we know not of
That more often make
Our mortal mistakes.
It's ancient rock that bears - with indifference -
The scars or jewels of bolting;
It's us that bear in life the scars and scorns of our debate.
We bear the drillers bit of debate;
The bearded hand-jammer's punch;
The chalker's deceptive smudge;
The bitter walkabout of friends
Rejected into cracks,
And the knuckle-nicked frustration
Of trying to get them back.
All we view is through a tiny pane of human time.
In this frame we ask which rock can bear
The grunts and sweat of new cragrats;
Projects of bolts with hairline cracks
And minuscule holds?
Some say the rock that's always had
The pitiless pelting from the blasts and hammer of Man -
Quarries of great pitches and moment stippled o'er
With the cast of blank slabs can.
Yet the crags of weathered mountains;
The root-stock of old and classic line, polished or not,
Can ne'er bear the silver glints of intrusive metal.
And then again, again the question.
What of fragile lines of limestone?
How sad to leave a line that beckons
For the sake of a mere glint of steel
Upon a crackless visage.
And how equally sad to insult a bard
- Who has written a route in golden syllables -
By bastardising with a drill and editing with abandon.
And ho, to thicken our steely dilemma
The bolt can guard the frailty of flowers
And the butterfly's abode -
Stop a coast-top's sticky-rubbered scouring.
Yet look you from time to time through
That tiny human window pane and out beyond.
The rare plants that patience merit are only rare
In the scope of human knowledge.
And let us not forget the gardener
Is as young as she or he is old -
Both Tradition and Development make their coitus
With a bare rockface.
And forget this least of all:
Rock takes all this in its stride of Time -
When we are gone there will only be
Rust-stained holes beneath the mosses.
To bolt, or not to bolt?
A question - A choice!
'Tis noble to face the harrows of venture.
'Tis noble to dance the safe dance of crag gymnastics.
'Tis noble to say yes to dance, and yes to any dance,
And with care protect the steps of one dance from another.
Think on dancers as you would musicians -
The Beatles owe as much to Presley and Bach
As Bach and Presley owe to each other -
We share with those from the past as much
As we should owe to those to come.
To bolt with daft abandon
And to daftly ban the bolt
Are two tales told by equal idiots
Full of sound and fury
That signify destruction.
Two old tales told a million times before
In every human arena.
Within and between the varied stockades.
We push and work out our point of view;
We pump out our rock politics -
See the standing vein of discontent
On either hard pushed arm?
There comes a time when it's right to super-compensate;
Or to make a traditional placement that is not
The surest, but the best there is.
- How pragmatic the Trad' action
Of pacing the metaphor of rock -
And always how brave
New youth is in its chosen action.
Tradition must accept it has no bomb-proof hold here,
Nor should it have;
It should use with its politics the same pragmatism
With which it reads rock.
It is better to have climbed amongst
The changing mists of compromise
Than to have stripped the whole route
To the final ground with stubborn
Lunges and uncalculated moves.
To bolt, or not to bolt?
Will always be a question.
Our question. And a question asked
By those to come.
> (In reply to permanenttrauma)
> Possible, yes. Obvious? No.
> So you can't make generalisations for crags, but you can for climbers.
Yes I made a generalisation of replies on this thread. However my statement was based on the fact at hand. For your benefit I have gone through the thread again and tallied up the people who have climbed the wall. Just so you know I have excluded my experience as well as others I know who enjoy the route but have not declared so explicitly on here.
Climbed Trad 2
Climbed Bolted (disliked) 1
Climbed Bolted (enjoyed) 4
Been but not noticed 1
Aspired to climb trad 2
I have only counted people who have explicitly stated their experience on this thread.
> You seem to be ignoring the OP'S post (and a few others) who climbed (or attempted, or wanted to attempt) this or other routes trad. In your generalisation.
Actually I haven't ignored a single post on this thread. You however are relating this argument to other crags and other trad routes. Please be aware I don't care about the bolting debate elsewhere in the country. My only concern is certain people gathering support from outside the Llanymynech climbing community to stop bolting, or chop bolts. It has become clear the OP doesn't actually care about this venue and has no qualms about potentially destroying the enjoyment a lot of people to gain support for his cause.
> I don't think you've thought this through - your post comes across as very blinkered.
Not like your post I guess.
> There weren't bolts on this wall.
Guidebook description says there were 3. Unless you mean before there was a quarry and it was just a lump of rock. Or perhaps before there were climbers and it was just a disused quarry.
> Someone decided there should be ("in the public interest", I'm sure). Came on ukc forums (possibly elsewhere?) to get a green light. Got a red light and retrobolted anyway. Again, comparing to Dunkeld,
Actually no this situation is Llanymynech not Dunkeld. Having never been there I can't comment on this. Also I have quickly gone through the 2007 thread and I'd hardly say there was a red light. Gary himself seemed apprehensive about bolting the wall. Hardly the behaviour you’re attributing to him.
> if you accept "being a local" as sufficient justification, you can't complain if a local chops bolts he or she disagrees with. Perhaps, if there were a consensus, the bolts might be accepted. So long as people respected the consensus, of course. But "consensus isn't really important because it's made up of know-it-alls online", is it.
I never said being local was. People who climb there regularly and care a great deal about the place are far more valid. Remember here on the UKC is a very very small slice of the climbing community. There are a lot more people about who enjoy the place as a sports venue and I'm sure Llanymynech is doing a great deal to help new climbers into the sport.
The bolt chopper I am sure you’re referring to was hardly local (depends on your definition of local) didn’t form any sort of consensus and completely disregarded the history of the route. Although in his defence I’m sure he was pressured into his actions.
One last note, this thread seems to have a whiff of a troll about it. Why has Nick not replied again? It seems to have descended into a 'to bolt or not to bolt' debate.
Your main point seems to be that several people have enjoyed it as a sport route. I don't doubt that. If it was good climbing originally it will still be good climbing, and more accessible to lower grade climbers. No wonder they enjoyed it. But climbing should not be about making things as easy as possible. There should be room left for doubt and adventure.
No one is suggesting Llanymynech should be entirely de-bolted. This debate is about one wall, where the bolts have spread too far. Nomad will never be a beginners route, and leaving it as a bold route to aspire to should have a good effect on newcomer's enthususiasm for the sport.
This is what I meant about a failure to co-exist - over time more bolts always go in until the few trad routes left become anachronisms ignored by the new users. Then their unpopularity becomes a justification for more bolting...
I understand your point about bolts spreading and it is a very valid point. It has been mentioned that other crags with excellent trad routes are being bolted without consensus or the knowlege of crag users. If this is true then it is a cause for concern as I do not think we should bolt all trad routes nor should anyone have the power to take such actions.
However I believe as do alot of other people this wall is an exception. There was already alot of in situ gear and it was closer to a sport route than a trad route in it's orignal guise. Reading the guidebook description actually makes it sound like a sport route.
Also the actions of Gary on this occasion demonstrate a very measured approach and certainly cannot be likened to the supposed behaviour of bolters elswhere.
We will have to agree to disagree. I am sorry you have lost your chance to climb it trad but you can be assured there are many more people now who can share in the experience of ascending that wall. Albeit more safely than before.
> This is where I like the US grading system as run out is mentioned so it does not surprise the leader.
With apologies for going slightly off-topic, I'm not sure whether or not the YDS R/X suffix (in this instance it would be R) is used when the runout bit isn't the crux, although there can obviously be examples where the runout is the overall crux while the technical crux (ie the hardest move) is elsewhere. Taking "This Won't Hurt" as an example, I suppose it would translate as 5.11b or c, with the crux being the section at about half-height passing the old third bolt just after the short flake; the runout bit at the top would, I guess, be about 5.10c or d, though admittedly if you don't get it just right it can almost feel like the crux. So would its YDS grade be 5.11b/c R, bearing in mind that this would also apply to a route with a runout crux at that grade. Possibly, also, I'm being a total wimp here in suggesting that a minor runout with a fall potential of perhaps 30 feet would come anywhere near to meriting an "R"!
While I can't be certain, never having done the route in its old state, my suspicion is that, when approached armed with double ropes and a rack, the top runout didn't exist; before doing the crucial move one's left hand is in the close vicinity of what looks like a reasonable gear-slot.
> The reason is because you have a large run on the crux before you reach the last bolt on easy ground. Although not the crux in the other cases, run out on the final moves are a feature common to several Nomad wall routes. This is where I like the US grading system as run out is mentioned so it does not surprise the leader. The fall factor in proper sport should not be a major consideration (it’s not that bad really!) as it is the moves that are generally more important. But then Llanymynech is a special case, helps makes it a good venue.
Good, I thought that's what you meant. It indicates that the run out between bolts is a factor in considering to what degree a 'sport' route is a sport route. Do we all agree that in its present state, Nomad is a sports route and no longer a 'trad route'?
It indicates that the run out between bolts is a factor in considering to what degree a 'sport' route is a sport route. Do we all agree that in its present state, Nomad is a sports route and no longer a 'trad route'?
I think that the range of opinion as to how you define a sport route is both wide and in a state of flux, depending on whom you ask, whether you're asking now, twenty years ago, or twenty years hence, and probably which country you're in; is, for instance, a ground-up-equipped, entirely, but sparsely, bolted Remy or Kammerlander route in Wenden or the Ratikon still a sport route, or would it merit some other definition? If you glance at page 10 of the original 1992 Peak Rockfax you will see that a "sport climb" is defined therein as "a climb where all of the significant gear is already in place, be it a bolt, peg, thread or jammed wire. Routes with easy sections outside the hard climbing may require some nuts." Bearing in mind that this definition makes no reference to the state or original quality of the fixed gear, it could arguably come close to applying to some or all of the Nomad Wall routes in their original form, though never having done them at that time I have to base this suggestion on the original route descriptions plus close scrutiny of evidence of old gear - pin scars, thread holes, old bolt stubs etc - and their position relative to the hard climbing; that definition would also, however, apply to Green Death, not everybody's idea of a sport route!
haveing climbed in the NA fairly extensively the use of the YDS is variable (eg squamish was reckoned 2 letters easier than yosemite) the use of the R or X s or whatever was so random as to be useless.
on the impressive minimal bolting slabs 5.7R would often meam 2 bolts in 50m eg first bolt at the height of decent grit crag and probably not many more at 5.11.
Actions speak louder than words so if someone could pull them that would be great
In reply to Ian Milward:
A good discussion developing as to what degree a sport is sport, but to get back on track.
>(sorry Nick - I'd be fully on your side normally but in this case I don't think you've picked the best example to pick a fight with).
Perhaps you are being a little naive here.
My opinion is that Nick has little interest in the future of Nomad Wall, he has bigger fish to fry. He is far too good a climber to be worried about the adverse impact he may have at this particular venue, there is nothing much really hard here anyway. He has only started a skirmish to test opionion, you would know better than me, but I think his main gripe lies elsewhere. There is nothing to be gained by changing anything at Llanymynech other than to satisfy some peoples egos. Let me explain.
Read his opening salvo carefully, the words used have been thought through very carefully and are articulated well. Very good propaganda if you ask me.
Notice in particular that Nick has not bothered to publish any response to some quite provocative statements. Either that or he has fired a bullet and disappeared on holiday. Either way not good in my view. Anyone who really cared would have replied. Nomad is being used as a pawn, he even states this in his post, that is, it already too late for Nomad. Unfortunately sentiments expressed on here in response are likely to inspire others. People have a history of getting less experienced heroes to do deeds they do not want to be held accountable for. That is how black is beautiful became black is not so beautiful, better for it, some would say! Mind you no one hardly climbs it anymore now, so who cares? Maybe some die hard climber looking through rose tinted spectacles?
If this post does not provoke a response from Nick, I don’t know what will. I hope I am completely wrong with my assessment of the situation and I will be put in my place, just tell me I am being melodramatic in the similar but opposite way to the scaremongering “we hate bolts camp in the UK”, I will go back to enjoying both trad and sport.
If this does start out to be the start of some kind of renewed bolt war that was done to death from the last century, I will just say the losers will be all climbers. The winners will have an external interest to climbing as vegetation takes over (I love those rare insects) etc, the climbs will become museum pieces. Before you say it is scaremongering, I am afraid it has already happened at Llanymynech on a large scale. Perhaps it is just a historical hitch, so we will be able to climb in harmony on both trad and sport once again. That is a magnificent huge sweep of 50 metre high cliffs that forms the Northern quarry, three star routes lost to the jungle. But have you seen the size those invasive plant species can reach? They are impressive.
We will probably see the trend when the next thread or so appears.
Basically to save anyone having to wade through the crap, the OP is asking about the protection possibilities on the Remy classic 'Etat de choc' on the Petit Clocher de Portalet. This must be one of the more spectacular and formidable crack systems in this part of the alps. Eventually someone confirms that the route has been partially retro bolted. The OP's response is 'Cool...!'
In reply to nick bullock:
I agree with Nick, they used to be inspiring in a way that made me want to do them. Now theyre just something I'll get round to one day and will forget about.
And to the argument that no one ever did them: how many people are going to come and onsight a couple of E5/E6's anyway?? Cant be that many.
> I would define a sport route as one where the protection is predominantly drilled.
> A route with lots of pegs and threads that can be climbed with just quickdraws I would call a trad route with insitu gear.
> The difference for me is whether placements are natural or man-made.
Hi Adam - thanks for replying.
Have you by chance done a 1987 Simon Lee route in Robin Hood Quarry #3 (Whatstandwell) called "Upping The Ante"? It climbs a typical quarried wall traversed at regular intervals by thin horizontal cracks. Up to about two-thirds height it is entirely protected by pegs in the horizontal cracks, after which the original route traverses right to another peg and finishes up the lefthand side of a block which used to contain a fixed wire. When repeating the route five years later I spotted, and subsequently climbed, a direct finish which required a further peg and, the only leader-placed protection on the route, a #2 (I think) Friend. At the time of my ascent the pegs were mostly in pretty good condition. From memory I would say that the horizontal cracks were perhaps 6-8 feet apart; maybe less, and probably not more. I remember thinking at the time: "This is basically a sport route", and I would have had no difficulty in giving it a French grade.
I've no idea now what condition the route or its pegs are in. The Whatstandwell area was never particularly mainstream, so I can well imagine that the rock is greasy and vegetated, and that the pegs are well past their best. They may or may not be possible to replace - my memory isn't that good - but if they're not then I assume that, this being "Peak Gritstone" they certainly won't be replaced with bolts.
Were this, however, a sandstone quarry in South East Wales, many of which are now "sport" venues (hardish sandstone and grit being quite similar), it's quite possible that the pegs would by now have been removed and replaced with bolts; if this were the case I strongly hope that the bolts would have been placed as close as rock integrity permitted to the original peg positions, thus preserving as much as possible the original "feel" of the route (which, incidentally, is what I believe Gary has largely succeeded in doing in much of his work at Llanymynech). Like its peg-equipped predecessor I would obviously consider the resulting route a sport route, despite the fact that the position of its drilled protection would have been largely dictated (hopefully) by the position of its previous non-drilled protection. By way of contrast and example, however, and drawing on a very slim experience of slate (3 routes), I would not regard Poetry in Pink, despite its entirely (IIRC) drilled protection, as a sport route.
Over to you; would you regard the two (hypothetical, but entirely possible) versions of "Upping The Ante" as essentially different in character and definition, despite, with the pegs in good condition, yielding almost identical climbing experiences? And what about P in P; would you call it a sport route?
As a complete departure from the OP, and again I must apologise for going off-topic, it occurs to me that the term "sport climbing" may itself be providing us with a problem. Although, as far as I'm aware, area bolting agreements simply sanction the use of bolts rather than the specific creation of "sport" climbs/venues, the term is almost automatically applied to the resulting routes, quite often with an expectation that the bolt spacing should fit a norm that seems increasingly to mirror what you would expect to find indoors. A circular argument can develop along the lines of: "It's bolted, so it's a sport route; if it's a sport route it should be bolted properly; it needs more bolts"(!) Now, I get as frightened as the next person when pumped and facing (or already committed to) a runout, but that's not the same as thinking they shouldn't exist on bolted routes; after all, many people find it very useful to be able to "go on the bolts" to push the physical envelope in relative safety - why not the psychological envelope as well? Barring doing something silly like forgetting to tie onto the rope, should we always expect climbing that happens to be bolt protected to be free of risk in a way that other types of climbing are not? Should we bow to the idea that there are areas of our gravity-defying pastime where we can safely switch off our personal risk-judgement antennae? Might it not be better to simply define routes as "bolted", or possibly "equipped", meaning little more than "unless otherwise specified, you only need quickdraws; spacing of fixed gear widely variable." Plenty of bolted crags abroad have adventurous gear spacing; maybe adopting this approach would lead to that realisation coming as less of a shock when we are on holiday!
Or maybe I've just conjured up a problem that doesn't actually exist.
So, do you consider that for instance Body Machine, Indecent and The Prow were trad routes in the 80s? The were protected by a mixture of pegs and threads, supplemented by the odd bolt. In BM's case two of those threads were drilled... Would the anti bolting lobby on this thread(!) consider that those routes would be better routes if they went back to that state ie the state they were originally free-climbed in?
Hi Ian, you've made some good points there. I've raised similar issues on a contemporaneous thread re: Horsehoe Main Wall, particularly in the light of the future problem of replacing defunct fixed gear on trad routes (see the Central Buttress debate on here a couple of months ago). It's clear that there is a mentality out there that sees any route relying predominantly on bolts as = 'sport' route = by definition, a 'safe', i.e. closely/fully bolted one; then citing as 'anti-bolting' those who have what I consider to be a less blinkered view of what this climbing game can be about. The problem does indeed exist.
When you mention 'anti bolting', so close to my mention of 'anti bolting' are you referring to my post. I don't know you, or vice versa. I have no axe to grind at all. I'll probably never climb at Llanymynech (or Horseshoe) again in my life. I'd genuinely be interested in your answer to my above post about Ravens tor and the other one about Etat de Choc.
Hi jon - If you're the jon I think you are (J dM?) I've met you at a few crags in days gone by! I'm not anti bolting. I enjoy both. I join in these exchanges of views because I worry about the encroachment of sport climbing ethics and expectations onto trad routes welcomed and encouraged by those who do not climb or enjoy trad.
I'm im the camp that recognises that some (justified) bolts on a route doesn't mean its a 'bad' route or a 'sport' route. The 'justified' is the hard bit to agree on and it usually (always?) comes down to a route-by-route decision. Even then, I think there will always be routes where you could go either way, whatever your convictions. Nomad is one of those for me. The traditionalist in me can see where Nick is coming from (I'm assuming he's not merely attention-seeking), but from a realist perspective I can see in it's present form it's probably just as good a route given the nature of this wall, the fixed gear originally employed (and since deteriorated) and the retrobolting being done a placement-for placement basis.
In reply to sihills:
Well before they were bolted I wasn't climbing that hard and wasnt capable of doing them/they were something to build up to. Maybe now I would be getting to a point where I might try them, but find myself uninspired by them because as several have said, the experience is no longer there and they are just more sport routes in a quarry full of better ones. Do you not have routes that are too hard for you yet inspire you to get better and try and onsight them?
Jon: Well I only know 3 or 4 local people who are capable of that, I suppose what I really meant to say was I cant really see many people onsighting routes of that grade, in what isn't essentially a country reknowned trad venue, very often and that they are bound to only see occasional traffic.
In reply to smallerrich: ok fair enough you may not have been climbing that hard before it was bolted. But to totally disregard the route now is stupid! you have said that there are lots of better sport routes in the quarry, but you havent even climbed it, get on it and then comment! it was a very good tradish route, and its now a very good sport route, and i highly doubt there are many better sport routes in the quarry, none that really come to mind for me anyway!
Yes, my point was that I find it sad that E5 and E6s were regularly on sighted 20 and more years ago, and yet now you seem to think that is no longer the case. That's what's sad. I don't know where I stand on the (re)bolting issue, and frankly it doesn't affect me as I live abroad. Your comment about 'occasional trafic' does ring a bell, though... I well remember standing under Kilnsey one day with Neil Foster and every route bar one on that part of the crag was plastered in chalk - maybe Face Value(?), but not at all sure - which was covered with cobwebs, due to it being the only trad route on that part of the crag (I'll be shot down now for being completely wrong...) - and I thought it seemed a bit of a waste. I don't know if I was right or wrong, but it seems it's an ongoing thing.
In reply to jon:
Im sure E5/6 is regularly onsighted, i know a few people who do, my point was aimed specifically at these routes, in context of their location.
Sihills: Im not saying that i disregard them completly, im simply saying they have joined the long list of sport routes at llanymynech I will eventually get around to doing, rather than those at the forefront of my mind (those that inspire me) which is now mainly those on black wall. Maybe its just because trad excites me more at the moment?? Either way, I cant argue the quality of the routes as I haven't done them, I just think they stand out less and are less inspiring as sports routes, compared to the chunky angular madness that is red wall! This seems to be confirmed by others opinions, namely local friends who's opinions usually run similar with mine.
Although when this bloody rain stops I might go out and have a go now because all this debating has got me curious...
Before getting down to business it’s clear that I need to explain what I have been doing in my personal life as I didn’t realise there was a time limit for replying to posts! So to keep a few folk happy who appear to think we all sit at a computer 24/12 and to stop the wild speculation and the attempt at blackmail here goes.
Since writing the original post I have been climbing, driven to Leicester from Llanberis, visited and stayed the night with friends, had a dentist check up, which resulted in a filling (big tooth at the back on the right) and a clean! Drove from Leicester to Northampton to visit my folks (its both their birthdays… my mum is 70 and my old man is 75), drove back to Leicester, went climbing on Slawston Bridge, visited and stayed the night with friends, returned to Llanberis, went running, caught up with the Tour de France, went climbing yesterday on Yellow Wall, (Gogarth) (very scary and wild adventure, no bolts there and no reason for any even though the gear was in crumbling sand and it was dirty and this was probably one of a minimal number of ascents). So no need to read my period of silence as anything other than I was busy doing stuff! I also thought it was better to let people have their say before I replied. In doing this I get the full picture and a feel for people’s feelings and then I can consider my reply. At no time in the past or in the future will I enter into a tit for tat slanging match with someone on the internet, especially with people who hide their identity behind made up names.
Contrary to belief or what I consider is the belief, I did not start this thread because I dislike sport climbing. I have clipped many bolts in my time and I quite enjoy the physical, low maintenance challenge without the stress factor especially after a few days of scaring myself. I made it very clear on the original post this was about me as an individual and what effect the bolting of the whole of Nomad Wall has made on me. I try to be open minded about most things in life and I will always try to understand where someone with a different opinion to mine is coming from. I am always willing to alter my opinion, or at least accept the other side if presented with a reasonable, well thought out argument but I could not and still do not understand an attitude that asks for opinion and then ignores it.
In general the replies to my post have been well thought out and sensible. The passion is obvious and it is clear sport climbing to some people is very important, as important as traditional climbing is to me. Let’s get one thing straight, I do not think people who only sport climb have any less a right to enjoy their chosen activity as I do mine (whatever that may be), but they do have to accept that in Britain there is another side, a side that has been the established and accepted style since climbing began and like it or not this is still the accepted style and a style that should remain and take precedent in Britain where the protection can be placed on lead.
Climbing is an amazing activity, be it rock climbing, (trad or sport) ice climbing, winter climbing, mountaineering or bouldering. I will still be climbing as long as I can walk to the crag. I wonder about some of the others out there who only want a quick fix and then will move on to the next in vogue extreme sport? As a collective we need to stand together and attempt to understand view points different than our own but we also need to understand the deep rooted implications of some actions.
It was my belief in Britain we are proud of our heritage and our history and we will maintain the long established tradition of natural protected climbing. This really does appear to be quietly and systematically disappearing for whatever reasons. People have commented that I do not care about Llanymynech to the point of saying I have some kind of cunning plan! Where does this come from? If anything it sounds like I have more respect for Llanymynech than these people as I really did think the climbs on Nomad Wall were great climbs and the place is now worse for the loss.
Has the place improved so much by adding 5 more fully bolted climbs and loosing 4 starred trad climbs? Would it really have hurt to have left this wall for the more adventurous out there?
This is no secret deeper agenda that I have (!!) as one person suggests, (where that came from I will never know?) I just loved the climbing experience I received on Nomad. Yes, I climbed through a few bushes. So what? Not all climbing outside has to be like an indoor wall and a few brambles is not really life threatening or detracting from the climbing I will experience. If anything the hardship needed to get to a climb at times makes the climb and the experience more worth while.
For the person who says I have no say in Llanymynech because I go there once or twice a year, and then follows this with they only care about Llanymynech and not the rest of the climbing, tells me all I need to know about that person and their short sighted selfishness. Maybe you should start thinking about other people and the effects on climbing something like this has. This is very much the kind of self centred attitude that concerns me. I at least have concern for climbers and climbing as a whole. I may be proven wrong about this wall and the majority of people may prefer that the Nomad Wall was bolted. I can accept this but I will always think the people out there that could have done these climbs in their original form have been robbed and the knock-on effect from this is bigger than a lot of climbers realise.
I had NOT climbed This Wont Hurt, The Screaming Skull or Un-Named before. So when I say I was robbed I truly feel that I was robbed of a similar experience to the one I had when climbing Nomad.
This really is not all about me and the experiences I have lost it’s about everyone and the future of climbing in Britain. I do not accept these are just a few scruffy climbs in an old quarry and bolting them has no affect on climbing in Britain as a whole. Bolting trad routes of any grade and type and condition has an effect country wide and on general thinking of what is acceptable. I have always wanted to climb Masters Edge in Millstone but the thought terrifies me. Well it’s in an old quarry, it probably receives less than 10 ascents a year, how about we open it up to everyone who can climb 7b+ and bolt it up? Scare mongering, I don’t think so by the way attitudes are changing in Britain?
A real indication toward the changing of attitudes is the post by Lee. Hi Lee, we’ve met on a few occasions, and you have always been encouraging and helpful, thanks. Your passion and enthusiasm are clear to see but I am astounded and cannot accept an argument, in a county where naturally protected climbing is accepted as the way things should remain, that we don’t have enough quality 7a to 7b bolted climbs of this type and by bolting these climbs this is re-dressing the balance. This really does shock me. Are you suggesting we have now reached a point in Britain that we need to count all of the trad climbs and all of the bolted climbs and make it a 50/50 split to make it fair for all concerned? Then will there come a time we have to have the equal amount of grades in both trad and bolted climbs… I can imagine the conversation “oh, that’s not fair you have more E5’s than we have 6c+’s, so we are going to bolt up Right Wall to redress the balance.” If God forbid there ever comes a time of this scenario I would accept it, but at the moment this is not the case and I do not see this as a valid argument for completely bolting up three star traditional climbs.
People like me are castigated on forums such as this as being elitist and preaching. I would say I am just a climber who has a point of view and I am as entitled to put that point of view forward as much as the next person. Some of the replies sound quite intimidating, like school yard bullies, I wonder if you would be as aggressive if we were to meet? In general I think the internet is not good for this type of discussion as things get misconstrued, read wrong and written wrong. People get misrepresented and things are sometimes difficult to put across. In general I find serious climbers and climbers who are serious about climbing are only trying to do there thing and do it as well as they can. They are usually friendly passionate people. We don’t all need to agree and we never will, but we can still get on. My post was never intended to be a ‘them or us’ as some people have tried to turn this into. Climbing is not, ‘them and us’. We are all climbers no matter what part of climbing we participate in.
Yes there is a bigger issue than the bolts on Nomad Wall but you can not take away the fact that 4 tradition climbs, three of them 3 star climbs and the other a 1 star climb, and 2 of them Clwyd top 50 climbs are now fully bolted sport routes. Whether you consider them better like this will not change the fact that they were three star traditional routes and were bolted up even when the consensus on the thread started in November 2007 by Gary Gibson asked for this not to happen.
I also disagree that they were clip ups and the wall was full of in-situ gear. When I led Nomad for the first time I placed quite a lot of kit. Yes, some of the in-situ gear was dubious and even when it wasn’t it still felt scary. This for me is one of the big differences between clipping in-situ gear such as threads and pegs, you are never sure of the strength and condition, it is not certain like a bolt and because of this you still have the uncertainty factor the same as if it was a piece of gear you had placed. This all adds to the experience for me, not everyone in Britain considers and needs climbing to be controlled and safe, this is another serious concern I have the way everything in this country is becoming controlled, so controlled to the point I can see in years to come it will be illegal to climb without a helmet or a belaying certificate, or body armour, or a guide or an accident prevention form, or insurance or a disclaimer, or a risk assessment!
Admittedly some of the gear I placed when I led Nomad was not the best and some the breaks didn’t take bomber cams but I don’t see this is a reason for bolting it. Uncertainty is one of the most important things for me when I go climbing. Going through that point where you are scared to death and coming out the other side having not only battled the climb but the voices in my head screaming at me to turn around, brings the biggest reward and is what I think makes climbing very special and different than sport. My climbing is a way of life it is the whole thing, the people, the areas, the hardship, the success, the failure, the fun, the hate, the love… movement and exercise comes very low on the list. When I go out to climb in a morning I go for an adventure, a vivid memory, I don’t go out for a bit of exercise. Yes Nomad was a tad dirty and crumbly and bold in parts. Brilliant, lets have an adventure and as John Redhead puts it, give ourselves to karma. Shall we go and bolt up Yellow Wall, Red Wall and Mousetrap Zawn given the breaks and cracks are a tad crumbly and there is a chance the gear won’t hold a fall?
Climbing is about decision making and not everyone is mentally or physically prepared to attempt some climbs, they should accept this (most do) and either improve or accept there are some climbs they will never do. There are many climbs I will never be good enough to do but I do not want them brought down to a level by whatever means so I can climb them. As for taking out the fixed kit in the Nomad wall and leading the climbs with only gear place on lead, yes, I totally agree. I chose to climb Nomad as Nick Dixon, the first ascentionist chose, but there are many climbers out there nowadays who could have climbed all of the routes on Nomad wall without the in-situ gear. Take the bolts out without causing a mess, hide the scars if this is possible and I promise given the right amount of time and mileage in my arms I will at least set off and give This Wont Hurt and The Screaming Skull a go. I can’t promise I will get to the top but there are many people I know who could.
Standards are rising all of the time. It’s a great shame they have been lowered on the Nomad Wall and in other areas. Yes some climbs in Britain were originally climbed with a collection of gear placed on lead, in-situ gear and the odd bolt. As standards rise I do not see the, ‘we should bolt up these routes completely because they have a few bolts’ as an argument, I actually think the bolts should be removed and the climbs should be done in as pure form as possible and if this is not possible they should remain as the first ascent. This will then turn some of the climbs into a grade higher than I am willing or able to climb, well so be it, I can live with that. It’s a pity there appears to be a certain element that wants it all at whatever cost.
I am in the minority by liking some of the more crumbly esoteric climbs we have in Britain but I thought minorities in these PC times were to be cherished and supported; climbing is for everyone and in years to come when our climbing is just the same as all of the climbing in other countries, but not as good, I want to think, ‘well at least I tried, at least I spoke out against the loss of adventure and what makes our climbing special’.
I will not be answering or defending myself again on this subject in this thread I have other things to do and think I have said enough. I have attempted to answer and explain as much as I can about my feelings and I think I have now done enough to prove this is not me seeking attention or trolling. (Anyone who knows me well enough would realise this without me having to defend myself. I have much more useful things in life to be getting on with other than attention seeking or trolling!) This post has done what I wanted which is to highlight my feelings, stimulate discussion and to show there is a situation going on out there that needs addressing.
In reply to nick bullock: I wanted to take my time in replying to this post to see how it developed before your last group of comments compelled me to respond and supply the facts, not as I see them or you see them, but as they are.
Many have said to me don't get involved but I need to put the facts correctly.
I was asked to regear some of the routes and belays at Llanymynech by the North Wales Bolt Fund which included the partly-bolted This Won't Hurt. I had also been approached, as identified in the first post if you read it, by Nick Dixon who wanted his own route Nomad bolted as it received no traffic anymore and deserved attention - this was not my decision whatsoever and I was strongly against the idea at first. I was strongly torn, as anyone who knows me will confirm, as to whether I wanted this wall to be turned into a sports-climbing venue and retroed, hence the reasoning for placing the post.
I regeared This Won't Hurt like for like (ie. 4 bolts one whic replaced a peg) and left it for 7 months in which time it received no ascents: I visit the crag on a regular basis and this is a fact. During this time I again met Nick who was passing through the quarry and who I have known for over 25 years and again he asked me to bolt up Nomad and suggested I do likewise to the rest of the wall: I was also approached by at least another 20 odd climbers either on this crag or at others, most of whom I can name and who don't post on this site, to do likewise.
I therfore posted on this site to try and confirm some form of consesnus: it goes without saying that a number of people with no interest in this crag and just plain against bolting per se posted against but at the time I chose to change This Won't Hurt to a sports route it was 12 in favour and 10 against. And you can't call 22 posts any form of interest nor can you call a slight in favour a cause for doing it I agree.
I then chose to bolt This Won't Hurt due to lack of interest and bolts and see the effects: it should not be forgotten that at this point in time Nomad was going to be bolted due to Nick's request and not just by myself.
I then spotted a line to the left and chose to bolt and climb it and also wanted to do a direct on Screaming Skull. Around the same time I spoke with Nick on the phone about some other issues and he again mentioned that I bolt Nomad.
I bolted the routes with a certain spaced nature in line with the original routes: they are in no way overbolted. Oh and by the way, Nomad had 5 pegs and three nails, Skull had three pegs and two threads, TWH had three bolts and one peg.
Since then thay have inevitably become popualr with the majority of people saying it was the right descision and a surprising amount of people coming forward to say they wanted to do the route without bolts. That's an interesting psyche since they wouldn't be queueing up to do it before its profile was raised?
For your information I have done Skull 7 times trad, Nomad 7 time trad (it maybe 8) and This Won't Hurt 15 plus, so I know what they are like and all of these ascents were between 1989 and 1993.
Like I said these are the facts not my opinion.
But for what its worth, it seems to most that the facts aren't what its about.
So here are a few of my opinions which should set the hares racing:
These crags would not have been visited were it not for my extremely hard work and endeavour. We, Hazel and myself that is, used to visit regularly through the late Eighties and Nineties but never saw anobody towards the mid Nineties onwards. The crags had completely fallen into disrepair and when we visited after a five year gap in late 2001, Grid Iron Wall was a jungle, ivy was growing back on Red Wall and was also starting to creep up the Nomad Wall. Black wall was still relatively clean but you couldn't do the routes on its right-hand side as the ivy was creaping up it as well.
This in my opinion was a sad loss as I thought it had the potential of a great crag. What happened is history and I don't want to present a history lesson but since those efforts this crag has flourished.
The crag and routes are one of the most frequented and enjoyed crags in the Mid Wales/North Wales region and many climbers come to enjoy these climbs and its reputation has grown.
The walls are better and kept clean because of the bolts and I have changed my opinion about the Nomad Wall. It is better that it is bolted, not proven by the ascents it has received, but because such a quarry lends itself to such climbing. Many climbers, who are against the ideology that every inland limestone quarry should be bolted and are fully in favour of traditional style climbing support this view. They don't post here because of the jaundiced view some have. Some say I have that but I can tell you I am firmly in favour of traditional climbing.
I think it should remain as a bolted wall and others feel likewise.
Finally Nick, I'll congratulate you and others on you ability, something I may have almost touched some 20 years ago when I first did these climbs but which I have no longer: beer and age takes its toll I can tell you! You clearly have the ability to do these with the old fixed gear and without if necessary, certainly more than some people who post on here have, but leave the bolts in. Get someone to tape them up and so do it without.
Removing them will not solve the issue, just render this wall a great loss to those who have and will enjoy it with the bolts.
Well I am biased as i just visited Llanymynech quarry for the first time on Saturday, and i was truly excited to see such an impressive climbing venue 'only 3 hours drive' from London towering above the village. Just like Osp i joked to my girlfriend.
I looked at Nomad wall, and was intimidated (even with the bolts), but the wall was inspiring and appeared clean. Personally i wouldn't want to see the bolts chopped if that meant ivy regrowing and the wall falling into disrepair through lack of use - if that is indeed what would happen. As it stands, it looks great, and i will certainly have a crack at these amazing lines with bolts.
On a side note, we climbed on Grid Iron, Foreigner, Bay and the Cul-de-Sac walls, and the climbing was great, with only a light coasting of dust ( Cream wall was a different matter - we failed even on the approach. )
Thanks for returning to elaborate on your arguments.
I'm surprised that you found some of the replies "quite intimidating, like school yard bullies". Fact is, this has been one of the more enlightened threads, with eloquent arguments put forward on both sides of the debate.
Of course there will always be those who engage in yah boo, but most of them probably don't know where Llanymynech is. And if they did find it, I'm not sure they would be capable of the Nomad Wall approach...
I've been watching the this thread with some interest, since I was Nick Dixons bitch on the first ascent of The Nomad, so called, because he shared a house with me in the village. (incidentally my name is Adam, not Andy as quoted in the FA details). I despair in the direction that climbing is going with bolts appearing as eye sores on crags. When I walk my dog under The Nomad most evenings, I lift my eyes and despair at all the ironmongery glinting in the evening sun light. It's one reason why I no longer climb, I now get my kicks in the air and riding my Buell.
I'm fortunate enough to have my own little crag in the same village but climbing here is restricted to invitation only to keep the bolters away.
This is my last post on UK Climbing, so there's no point in replying, these are just my personal opinions and now, as a non climber except for the odd winter route, they count for nothing.
Mr Bullock, good luck to you and your ethics, you have a precious heritage to protect.
In reply to nick bullock: Firstly i feel it is important to say that i have not climbed the routes in question in either state so am not fully 'qualified' to express an opinion specifically. I simply feel the need to point out a couple of, in my opinion, facts. Firstly, a route's unpopularity is not a reason to bolt, as nick has already pointed out, it is a bizzare concept, and one only acceptable when rebolting already badly bolted sport climbs.
Secondly, in 10 or 20 or so years these slightly esoteric(despite being in a popular area) routes will be a rare breed, one which when you've done most other routes will be well worth seeking out for a different experience from the well travelled classics, these slightly obscure, less travelled routes are without doubt a finite resouce and one which if we just bolt them up because they don't recieve much traffic, we will miss, maybe not now, but in the future, of course it'll unfortunately be too late by then. The experience of only one person climbing a route like this a year is as important and relevant as 100 climbing it as a sport route, argueably maybe more so.We really do need to think of these routes as a finite resource, they are precious, they may be dirty, with dodgy old fixed gear, hardly climbed, but for these reasons they are an important part of our querky british climbing heritige and as such should be respected, even if hardly anyone climbs them, we can afford to let them be, there are other routes, other 7a's and 7a+'s we can do, we don't have that much rock and in years to come we might just regret this attitude of bolting the unpopular and dirty just because they're in a quarry. They are like the blank faces without routes you see at a crag, something which maybe one day you will have the attributes to climb, but until then you look up with aspirations or turn away indisgust at such a grotty ensemble of fixed gear. Jon Ratclffe
In reply to nick bullock:
>I will not be answering or defending myself again on this subject in this thread
Maybe not, but somehow I doubt that unless you really are operating, what I know as “Ivory tower management principles”. I guess you will still read the replies. I can almost guarantee that some of them will still hurt your feelings and some will make you feel vindicated in your quest.
If you don’t discuss on here, people will discuss without you and can make all sorts of assumptions/ accusations.
You started this on line discussion, not anyone else!
> it’s clear that I need to explain what I have been doing in my personal life
Not really, interesting for gossip, but that’s about it.
> especially with people who hide their identity behind made up names.
This is a very defensive opinion, there have been whole threads on this topic as some fail to understand also. Those who really wish to hide will post a by using a proper anonymous account and not by the registered ‘nick name’ style I think you are referring to. Have you never been a victim of identity fraud, had a virus or received scam mail , had an employer check up on you etc ?
On line threats are real, You can not remove them, but it is one way to help reduce the security risk, not everyone has honorable intentions out there you know.
> I wonder if you would be as aggressive if we were to meet?
If this is how you interpret responses then fair enough, I have not seen any such replies from anyone. What are you referring too specifically? I am old fashioned as well as you, I prefer a good one to one discussion at the crag. You can always Email to make contact with people if you wish, you can also contact the UKC mods if you think they have gone too far and get comments pulled.
>Yes, some of the in-situ gear was dubious and even when it wasn’t it still felt scary. This for me is one of the big differences between clipping in-situ gear such as threads and pegs, you are never sure of the strength and condition, it is not certain like a bolt
It is only your opinion that you want to categorise trad climbing in this way. The protection aspect in trad climbing to me, is about arranging my own protection. Something hammered or drilled in to the rock etc by someone else is permanent and defines a different style of climbing, what ever the label you wish to apply to the gear. I agree a peg can be much worse than a bolt as it is much harder to tell the condition using a visual check and without knowledge of how well it was placed in the first place.
> who appear to think we all sit at a computer 24/12
The term I think you are looking for is 24/7, you may not, but there are many people these who read you posts that do.
I could go on, but I would recommend that if you don’t want to come across as aloof and all dictatorial or are offended by peoples comments then do not post.
You have a wide influence on here, some youngsters are looking to you to take a lead. You have not responded to the guy who asked you to give your opinion on whether it was right to chop a bolt on an 20 year old established trad route route yet.
> Before getting down to business it’s clear that I need to explain what I have been doing in my personal life as I didn’t realise there was a time limit for replying to posts! So to keep a few folk happy who appear to think we all sit at a computer 24/12 and to stop the wild speculation and the attempt at blackmail here goes.
I’m sorry but you started this thread. Therefore I hope you would show a little more seriousness towards this issue. I do not expect you to sit at a computer 24/7 but I would hope that you track the proceedings of your own thread. After all it’s much easier to read x amount of posts once a day than the whole thread in one day and probably miss quite a few important posts. This is born out in the fact you start with ‘in reply to everyone’. The majority, if not all of the people on this thread have taken a lot of time and effort to reply to you and YOUR thread. It’s quite insulting that you lump us into one group and try to answer us all together in a rant rather than take time to confront us individually.
> At no time in the past or in the future will I enter into a tit for tat slanging match with someone on the internet, especially with people who hide their identity behind made up names.
Again ‘tit for tat slanging match’ implies that there are insults flying all over. This is not true as Neil says this has been one of the more well thought out threads. Discrediting opinions opposite to yours as a slanging match is a poor attempt at trying to enforce your view. Maybe you should take a leaf out of Adam Ls book who acknowledges the arguments for bolting and responds accordingly with what he believes, without resorting to name calling or trying to discredit people.
As for aliases I’m sure someone else will explain the safety reasons behind this. It is not a reason to ignore someone just because they choose to remain anonymous.
>In general the replies to my post have been well thought out and sensible. The passion is obvious and it is clear sport climbing to some people is very important…
Hang on I thought it was a slanging match a minute ago?
> I will still be climbing as long as I can walk to the crag. I wonder about some of the others out there who only want a quick fix and then will move on to the next in vogue extreme sport?
Hmmm you’re good at being insulting aren’t you. How do you come to that conclusion? Please don’t let it be the fact some of us on here are younger than you. If however you have someone’s profile on which it admits the above I will apologise and retract my statement.
> For the person who says I have no say in Llanymynech because I go there once or twice a year, and then follows this with they only care about Llanymynech and not the rest of the climbing, tells me all I need to know about that person and their short sighted selfishness.
Thanks for that. I presume this is my post you’re referring to. Simplify my argument then finish me off with an insult. I will not repeat myself with my views but I am not going to get involved with bolting arguments that apply to elsewhere in the country where I do not visit.
> People like me are castigated on forums such as this as being elitist and preaching. I would say I am just a climber who has a point of view and I am as entitled to put that point of view forward as much as the next person.
No you are ‘castigated’ because you post a highly contentious thread. Leave it, pay it no attention and then think days later you can come back and disregard everything that went before. I can understand why you may have been called a preacher.
> I will not be answering or defending myself again on this subject in this thread I have other things to do and think I have said enough.
Not exactly coming across as someone who cares about this issue Nick. You seemed happy enough to spend the time to post the thread initially. Why start something if you can’t finish it. Ignoring people isn’t going to help you to understand others and appreciate their views.
If you were suing someone or taking them to court would it be deemed appropriate for you to turn up, say something then leave and let the jury make up their mind without giving further evidence.
> I have attempted to answer and explain as much as I can about my feelings and I think I have now done enough to prove this is not me seeking attention or trolling. (Anyone who knows me well enough would realise this without me having to defend myself. I have much more useful things in life to be getting on with other than attention seeking or trolling!) This post has done what I wanted which is to highlight my feelings, stimulate discussion and to show there is a situation going on out there that needs addressing.
I am sorry I said it seems like a troll. Yes I do not know you but I did go through your profile and I could not find anything on you so I could not try to get to know you better even though I wanted to. Please stop for a minute and ask yourself why I would post such a thing. Actions speak louder than words and your actions were very much like a troll. In fact your subsequent actions in your reply make you still appear troll-like as you say you are not going to find the time to reply to this thread again.
All in all I have enjoyed reading everyone’s replies on this thread. I am glad that so many people care about the place as it has been grown into something big from nothing, thanks mainly to the selfless acts of a few. Unfortunately Nick in your last paragraph you alluded to the fact you have another agenda, that there is something greater than one wall in a backwater village. Whilst others have stuck to the issues at hand you’re managing to turn it into a bolting war.
Hello Neil! Your comment about the enlightening nature of the thread, which I generally agree with, prompted me to point out that the poem I contributed was actually written years ago (well over a decade ago), during the great 'Bolt Debate', which included much activity from Ken Wilson. I think things have moved on since then, regarding each side (or rather ‘aspect’) understanding each other. The main theme of my poem is about coming together as a community of diversity, and I'm hopeful that since the bitterness of the 'Bolt Debate' there has been some progress, and thus the tone of my poem is directed at more combative times.
Nick's comments about a society less and less willing to engage in risk are very poignant for our climbing community at large. There really are people out there who do not understand our activity and are so against it that they would like it strictly controlled. This number are growing. They make little distinction between sport climbing and trad. To repeat: little distinction between sport and trad!! So, there's one good reason for sport and trad to understand each other and work together. Climbers of all kinds, particularly in Britain, will remain to some degree outsiders. This is a special position that comes with much reward. But it is also a vulnerable position, and if we don’t pay attention we may lose. We mustn’t get too distracted by in-fighting, or even healthy in-debating. This debate relates to the outside, to the world beyond our small world, and a world that does have the power to cause serious damage to our community and our activity. I have just heard that the Dinorwig Slate Quarries are going to be closed to climbers. There is a suggestion, and I’m only reporting this as suggestion, that it has been the bolting of easier climbs and group usage that has caused the owners to become afraid of liability claims and so close the quarry. The point here is: we can debate amongst ourselves what impact bolting has, but it seems that we are not looking outwards enough. If the suggestion I’ve just reported turns out to be true, then our climbing community will be guilty of not working together to think carefully enough, of not thinking ahead to protect itself. If we lose vast swathes of Welsh slate because we didn’t talk carefully enough about the consequences of ‘easier access’ (which turned out to become no or at least very difficult access), then we will have made a drastic mistake. Climbers are climbers, non-climbers are not climbers. I think this distinction, and how to communicate across that divide is what should concern us most!
> Get someone to tape them up and so do it without.
A novel idea, but if anyone tries it, please remove the tape afterwards.
I do not buy in to the idea that if you are so good, you can’t have a fantastic experience and climb it trad without the bolts, it is just another level of climbing. The new bolts you often place now are low profile and are difficult to see from the ground without bins. Even on the climb, I actually climbed past one forgetting to clip as I missed it, so engrossed was I. The traditional bolts hangers on TWH are the only ones really prone to glint in the sun.
I say be inventive, not restrictive, I climb Humpty Dumpty staying left of the bolts or staying right of the bolts. The easiest line is a mixture. This effectively gives you 2 independent lines.
Years ago when I was based in Yorkshire, the stars of the day such as Ron Fawcett often just came ambling past, soloing Mid E grade climbs like these, just as warm ups. No need to place gear or clip pegs, he was that good. Does nobody do this anymore at this standard?
I myself also used to solo climbs, albeit a lower standard, it was not as reckless as some would view as the climb would be well within my grade, my novel trick was to take a few wires and a tape, just in case I needed a sneaky rest. I did not need to tape the pegs or block up the protection cracks so I did not use them.
The bolts may have brought the climb down to a standard where more people can realistically aspire to them, but the technical level remains the same and the protection possibilities are increased. Adding a bolt gives the climber more choice, not less. But then making a decision is much more difficult when you have several choices!
> (In reply to permanenttrauma)
> Why all this talk of "confronting" and "bolting wars"? Its a discussion, not a battle..
This is not just a harmless discussion. It really is a battle of sorts for some of the protagonists. As we all know certain people put a lot of personal time into the quarry and could consider it an attack when bolts are chopped.
It would be extremely sad if someone decided to chop a bolt without fully thinking it through, or were going against the wishes of the majority of people.
I viewed this thread as an opportunity to try and persuade would be choppers from taking such action on Nomad Wall as this seemed to be where some peoples thoughts were heading.
Now Nick has stated he does not agree the bolts should be chopped I hope this is an end to the matter. We can all accept things as they are and move on.
Isn't this whole discussion really about how the sport is evolving??
Climbs like Nomad would not now be equipped with mixed bag of pegs, drilled threads, odd bolts, jammed wires because powerful cordless drills and industrial resins have now come available.
Routes with the above types of fixed pro are very difficult to maintain in their original state. The pro gradually rots away and becomes increasingly more unreliable hence leading to a reduction in the numbers of climbers willing to tackle the climb as the seriousness likewise increases. The argument that by leaving the gear to rot inreases the opportunity for greater challenge is not one I support as the climb will start to differ greatly from it's original standard of challenge.
Undoubtedbly an ascent in it's original form was harder than a modern day stick clipped, dogged, top roped and eventually led with the bottom two bolts clipped ascent but that's just the way the sports gone!!
I remember sport climbing when you actually climbed between the bolts and clipped the bolts with a free hand!
But lets remember lots of developments have always been taking place:
First ascents were once done ground up.
Amazing developments in protection, cams, micro-wires etc. ( I remember totally sewing up Shere Khan on Scafell thanks to size 0 friends etc. and this climb used to have a reputation for being bold.)
Mats for highballs. I wonder how often now 'No To Be Taken Away' or 'Posedian Adventure' gets ticked now for the first time without a cushion of mats underneath it? Yes the climbing is the same but the mental approach was totally different. And probably all of us who twenty years ago ticked these routes and numerous others like them have nice big fat mats now.
I'm sure others could add numerous other developments.
In any sport development changes the experience I'm not sure we should try and resist it. I think we should embrace it and continue to look for new developments. DWS is a great example.
xyz27 Jul 2009
> A real indication toward the changing of attitudes is the post by Lee. Hi Lee, we’ve met on a few occasions, and you have always been encouraging and helpful, thanks. Your passion and enthusiasm are clear to see but I am astounded and cannot accept an argument, in a county where naturally protected climbing is accepted as the way things should remain, that we don’t have enough quality 7a to 7b bolted climbs of this type and by bolting these climbs this is re-dressing the balance. This really does shock me. Are you suggesting we have now reached a point in Britain that we need to count all of the trad climbs and all of the bolted climbs and make it a 50/50 split to make it fair for all concerned? Then will there come a time we have to have the equal amount of grades in both trad and bolted climbs… I can imagine the conversation “oh, that’s not fair you have more E5’s than we have 6c+’s, so we are going to bolt up Right Wall to redress the balance.” If God forbid there ever comes a time of this scenario I would accept it, but at the moment this is not the case and I do not see this as a valid argument for completely bolting up three star traditional climbs.
You and others seem to have got the wrong end of the stick regarding my post. I was not and did not suggest anything. All I did was think about a comment made in Ian's post regarding the number of quality E5's and the number of similar quality 7a+'s. There have been a number of posts on UKC in the last two months along the lines of "what is the best 7a and 7a+ in the UK". Reading through these posts (which I contributed to) illustrated that in the UK we really don't have that many high quality sports routes. That was it really just a simple and slightly obvious thought that I unwittingly made public!
> Finally Nick, I'll congratulate you and others on you ability, something I may have almost touched some 20 years ago when I first did these climbs but which I have no longer: beer and age takes its toll I can tell you! You clearly have the ability to do these with the old fixed gear and without if necessary, certainly more than some people who post on here have, but leave the bolts in. Get someone to tape them up and so do it without.
Toby, can you really not see how those two sentences are consistent? A peg or a thread uses an weakness existing weakness in the rock, a bolt does not.
Obviously the ideal is no fixed gear. Using some fixed gear in natural placements is not so good, and funnily enough, I've spent some time in the last month removing unneccessary tat from local crags. But ignoring the nature of the rock and just drilling holes where you fancy a runner is far worse.
In reply to ClwydTraveller:
>The bolts may have brought the climb down to a standard where more people can realistically aspire to them, but the technical level remains the same and the protection possibilities are increased. Adding a bolt gives the climber more choice, not less. But then making a decision is much more difficult when you have several choices!
The problem with this view is that the logical extension is that every route should be bolted. Do you really think that is a great future? Climbing any sport route ignoring the bolts is a deeply contrived experience and not one I ever hope to be forced into.
The difficulty with this debate is that folk think its about the odd bolt or route here or there, when actually its about two philosophies of what climbing is about.
Either you see climbing as just a sport, where its more convenient if someone has prepared the route in advance and made it as easy as possible just to enjoy the physical exercise. Or you see climbing as a challenge between you and a piece of rock, where any man-made alterations to the rock only serve to lessen the experience.
I don't see the two viewpoints being reconciled soon, and as I said higher up in the thread, its far more usual for bolt 'wars' to end with the bolts in. Unfortunately the future looks being less about challenge and more about convenience. Is convenience really what is special about this sport? Or is is adventure?
> Isn't this whole discussion really about how the sport is evolving??
You beat me too it, I was writing a similar post to this but you have put it better.
Ian Milward has come in for a bit of criticism on the Horseshoe bolt thread. But in my view he has made a very good effort at raising the profile of this issue. It has after all got a similar root cause to this one, that is how to deal with historic routes. The BMC are much more likely to take the results of these kind of debates in to their decision making, than they otherwise would do.
In reply to Adam L: I actually agree with you except for the bit about bolting being "far worse". It is to my mind a bit worse in some cases, and perhaps no worse in others. If the core of your argument is environmental, not sporting/aesthetic, then I think actually bolts can sometimes be the lesser of two (rather insignificant in the global scheme of things) evils. But with British climbing I think increasingly most anti-bolting stances are sporting/aesthetic concerns not environmental ones and there is sometimes hypocrisy in that. Of course tat and pegs can be removed - and good effort for doing that on your local cliffs - but they normally aren't. Many climbers who would never drop a crisp packet at the base of a cliff seem perfectly happy to leave various bits of nylon and metal up on the cliff progressively rotting away, and visible to any passer-by. One or two bits of tat are neither here nor there, but some crags with lots of insitu fixed gear like that are quite a mess. If bolts are painted to camouflage (this is standard practice in my local area) they can actually be quite hard to spot.
On pegs specifically: I've placed and removed quite a few pegs over the years (as I'm sure you have), and you do a bit of damage placing them, and more taking them out. I think their "tradness" can be overdone. Of course you only place them where cracks allow, but I still think smacking them in with a hammer (a process which by default chips at rock) is still qualitatively different from placing clean gear: something that Chouinard recognised in the early 70s with his seminal essay. I once took repeated falls onto an RP whilst trying to repeat a slightly esoteric Southern Highlands winter route, after taking a Simon Richardson essay on trying to stop using pegs (too?) seriously. I'm older and more afraid now and would probably just batter a knifeblade in...
Nevertheless, I'm sympathetic to Nick's argument. I'm originally sort of local to that area, and the first 'West Midlands Rock' was the first guidebook I ever owned. When back visiting my folks I've always put off visiting Llanymynech on the basis that I'm not good enough, but I've always aspired to trying to lead Black Wall. Obviously going and finding it had become a decent 6a+ wouldn't be quite the same. But I do think that there is a lot of fuzzy thinking around UK routes that relies on lots of insitu "trad" gear as seems to be the case with Nomad.
> (In reply to TobyA)
> Toby, can you really not see how those two sentences are consistent? A peg or a thread uses an weakness existing weakness in the rock, a bolt does not.
Ken Wilson had a great phrase about this, "bending a knee to the crag", meaning as you state Adam that you use cracks or holes already there in the rock to provide opportunites for fixed gear..... as oppose to bolts that you can place anywhere.
A bit of a of simplistic statement though Mick. You would not want place a bolt in the same spot you as could whack in peg in with a hammer. But apart from that aspect and the strength of the rock, you can place one anywhere only in theory, not in practice, placing a bolt is quite a skill.
Apart from assuming the rock is solid enough rock you would not believe how much people complain to me about the placing of bolts and I have never placed one, even I complain sometimes.
Too run out, too close like a climbing wall, too near a lip. 1st bolt very high, the bolt is above the crux, too far below the crux, the list goes on.
And then there are the, if I was climbing trad, I would lace the route and have at least one runner on each rope rather then one bolt below my feet arguments.
My stance isn't environmental, its entirely aesthetic. I'm not interested in climbing something where either the holds or protection have simply been manufactured to suit someone else's idea of what a route should be.
As for the 'clean gear' argument, I don't think you can compare nails placed once for free climbing at Llanymynech with pegs continually placed and removed for aid on El Cap though. And in the context of the argument, Chouinard suggestion was to improve style; not to bung a bolt ladder up the side of the crack to prevent it from further wear.
In the light of the pembroke pegs debate there seems to be a pervading mood at the moment that pegs=bad, which isn't the case. I don't think they're great, but I do believe they are almost always preferable to a bolt. Nesscliffe is a nearby crag which depends to a large extent on in-situ pegs and is nevertheless a fantastic trad venue that would lose its magic to drilling. If you don't work with the premise that a bolt is a last resort, the logic quickly takes you to a place where they 'should' be everywhere - and that seems to be the way things are swinging at the moment.
Black wall is a great route, make sure you get round to it before the bolters do.
> (In reply to nick bullock)
> Tell you what Nick. If you feel as strongly as you write, take the bolts outs you don't like out.
> Anything else is surely just hot internet forum air.
I have to admit I am a bit worried by the tone of your post. Nick has said himself he will not be removing the bolts so why would you try and provoke him into such an action? I had hoped the matter was closed and it was accepted the bolts were staying and we could concentrate on other venues and the safeguarding of other ‘trad’ routes.
More worrying to me is the fact you are a UKC moderator and because of this fact your words have more gravitas than my humble self. While I understand that everyone has a view and is entitled to express themselves here I find it unnerving to hear such blunt and direct words come from a person in such authority.
The reason I am compelled to reply to your post is because I am genuinely concerned that your words may add confirmation to certain individuals seeking validation for their actions. I do not mean Nick or the many anti-bolt-Nomad-Wall people on this thread but impressionable people out there still finding their way. Your words may lend weight to their growing beliefs and the result could be more bolts chopped at Llanymynech. You must agree that giving anyone the impetus to chop bolts if they so desire would ruin years of hard work by the people who put the routes up.
I hope I have got my point across clearly as I know I am not always able to do so.
> (In reply to Adam L)
> Another hint of the spurioius "thin end of the wedge" argument
I don't think it's spurious, and I think we've gone past the thin end. If and when the Nomad Wall situation is done and dusted, and maybe before, there'll be another thread on here about bolts appearing on another previously unbolted wall or crag. And anyone who writes against the bolting will get the mad-eyed Luddite treatment.
In reply to edwardwoodward: That's I'm afraid is a bollocks argument. If you read what Gary wrote, it was the FAist of Nomad - Nick Dixon - who asked him on a number of occasions to bolt it because it was a good route suffering from a lack of attention and hence getting dirty. It also seems to have relied on lots of insitu "trad" protection.
At least from the guidebook description and photos here, Black Wall has minimal fixed gear (please correct me if this isn't true), you protect it with normal gear. Plus just in the UKC logbook there are 16 recorded ascents of the original line and 26 of the direct, so it sounds like it get regular ascents.
In reply to TobyA:
Black Wall has a few fixed pegs in some of the routes, which are in alright-ish condition and until recently (few months ago) used to have a bolt in one of the routes. However I doubt some of the harder routes on it recieve regular ascents, which is a shame, because they're pretty damn awesome!!
> My stance isn't environmental, its entirely aesthetic.
I think you do yourself a disservice as you say that you've put in the time and effort to clean up local crag of tatty tat. I also find it confusing as I'm not really sure what is aesthetic about crags sprouting bits of tat, jammed wires, pegs (especially ones with tat attached) etc and in this case 6 inch nails(!), presumably with tat tied to them?
> I'm not interested in climbing something where either the holds or protection have simply been manufactured to suit someone else's idea of what a route should be.
I still find it very hard to accept that hammering pegs in - particularly as virtually no rock climbers now do this on the lead, unlike when winter climbing - is not manufacturing a route to some degree. It might be not as bad as bolting, but that's not saying it isn't bad. There is also a seeming acceptance of fixed gear as the grades increase. I can't think of too many routes at VS and below that have pegs in them these days - although I'm sure inland limestone might be an exception here. But if definitely seems that the harder the climbing, the more tolerance there is to leave bits of gear hanging of the cliff, to all intents permanently.
> If you don't work with the premise that a bolt is a last resort, the logic quickly takes you to a place where they 'should' be everywhere - and that seems to be the way things are swinging at the moment.
One could make exactly the same argument about non-leader placed "trad" gear - and that seems to be exactly where we are now. There seems to be little interest in people repeating routes minus the insitu gear, cleaning up the cliffs and considering that better style. Most seem quite happy with the flawed style of someone else having put in permanent 'trad' gear previously for them and doing routes that way. I just think that occasionally bolts are no worse than this and possibly even better in certain limited cases.
Lets assume that despite an overwhelming consensus against, that some newly inspired bolter has come along and bolted the E2 on black wall. I would be horrified that it had now become a 6a clip up. But why? After all this is a very hypocritical stance by me is IT not?
Even today, this climb is easy for me, after all I can repeat the route and still maintain my ethical stance by not clipping the bolts. Also if I had my younger head on, I would be aspiring to solo this route, awesome. But I would still be horrified, so what’s my gripe and why is it different when I talk about Nomad Wall? I could well find myself reacting like Nick Bullock.
The reasons above are to do with my personal satisfaction. The difference comes when you consider that the average climber of today does not yet lead E2, but many average climbers can realistically aspire to achieve E2. Only a relatively small percentage of average climbers ever become capable of leading E5/6. An even smaller percentage, arrive at Llanymynech.
Even if climbing became less popular, the above scenario would apply, albeit with smaller volumes of people. Just because a climb is not popular is not sufficient justification to bolt it (in my view).
The problem arises when the percentage of climbers on a route becomes so small that the routes become neglected and access is denied by vegetation or other aspects. This is exactly what happened on Nomad Wall.
This is why I believe black wall would never be allowed by the climbing community at large to become bolted. As smallerrich infers, a classic a route like picking blackheads at E5 on black wall is never hardly climbed, which is a shame, but it is well used by abseilers. Just imagine, the group leaders may wish to have a bit of unclimbed rock for them selves in future.
So this problem is primarily restricted to the higher grades where fewer people operate.
> (In reply to Adam L)
> I think you do yourself a disservice as you say that you've put in the time and effort to clean up local crag of tatty tat.
Having stuied geology I've got a pretty broad view of what constitutes environmental damage. Pegs, bolts, tat are not environmental damage in themselves. I'd say the only significant effects we have as climbers come not from our ethics on the crag but from popularity and the resultant wear and tear on the surroundings. I'd allow that in some cases lower-offs may reduce this, but generally protection debates are about ethics and aesthetics.
> I still find it very hard to accept that hammering pegs in - particularly as virtually no rock climbers now do this on the lead, unlike when winter climbing - is not manufacturing a route to some degree.
Have you placed many pegs? They need a crack to go in. You can't just place them where you want. The ones I've placed have not changed the rock anymore than a weighted cam would. It comes down to intent, try as hard as you like, you can't create a peg placement without a crack. With a drill of course, you can have gear anywhere you want. The intent to ignore natural gear is what constitutes a failure to acknowledge the challenge of the climb.
>But if definitely seems that the harder the climbing, the more tolerance there is to leave bits of gear hanging of the cliff, to all intents permanently.
I'm no supporter of tat. I think it is generally unneccessary, however I'd prefer a thread to a bolt even if it means it is more visible. I think chalk is a far bigger problem if its the eyesore factor you're bothered about.
> One could make exactly the same argument about non-leader placed "trad" gear - and that seems to be exactly where we are now. There seems to be little interest in people repeating routes minus the insitu gear, cleaning up the cliffs and considering that better style. Most seem quite happy with the flawed style of someone else having put in permanent 'trad' gear previously for them and doing routes that way.
This is because on the kind of crags that have a lot of insitu gear, the average user is the kind who is applauding the bolting of Nomad. On the kind of crags where ethics still matter the process of eliminating it is mostly over. For instance, on the crag where I removed a load of tat (Stoney) I was keen to go further and remove pegs, however it was clear I would not have the consensus behind me so I didn't.
>I just think that occasionally bolts are no worse than this and possibly even better in certain limited cases.
We're agreed then - in general they are a last resort. That isn't the view that's been followed on Nomad, its been one of just bolting it to make it more popular.
You make a cogent argumant, but its totally dependent on the grade at which you personally climb, and also on the notion that a route will somehow be 'lost' if a bit of vegetation gets onto it.
I don't think E5/6 is an unattainable grade, of course it will never get the traffic Black wall will but then neither are the E5/6s on High tor as popular as the E2s. Standards will rise and climbers of the future may find there is a sudden dearth of trad above E5 because 'in the noughties they were seen as too hard'.
Routes are not lost if no traffic results in vegetation. If they were the first ascents would never have been possible. So a route may have ten, twenty years of dust and little traffic. Most of the current classic hard trad routes have made it through similar at some point in their history.
> Routes are not lost if no traffic results in vegetation.
Wow, you seriously underestimate how vegetation can take effect on limestone. We are not talking about the odd bit of vegetation, we are taking huge ivy trees. Many routes are totally banned now with serious amounts of vegetation on the routes. This stuff grows at amazing speed. Even if some of the routes could be accessed again an herculean effort would be required and you would need a chain saw to prune some of them.
> Have you placed many pegs? They need a crack to go in. You can't just place them where you want. The ones I've placed have not changed the rock anymore than a weighted cam would
If you want to see the damage pegs can do to rock, ok not limestone, but I suggest you take a look at millstone.
> If you want to see the damage pegs can do to rock, ok not limestone, but I suggest you take a look at millstone.
But that is the continual placement and removal of pegs which is another issue. More to the point in this case is pegs being left for a long time and rusting away, but blocking the placement.
And to answer Adam - as I said in the earlier post, I have placed quite a few pegs on winter and alpine routes, along with other hammer-in gear like bulldogs. So I would disagree that this does no more damage than a weighted cam, although it isn't a huge issue. Blades into thin seams do make rather noticeable holes that weren't there before though when removed, angles and lost arrows less so as the crack is wider in the first place.
> (In reply to edwardwoodward)
> Maybe you can direct us to those of the 145 posts on this thread which display "mad eyed Luddite" treatment?
Point taken. I had more than this thread in mind at the time. In fact, while reading earlier, it had occurred to me that this thread was much less black and white and heated than other bolting-related threads I've seen on here.
> (In reply to edwardwoodward) That's I'm afraid is a bollocks argument.
The only thing "spurious" about using the phrase "thin end of the wedge" with regard to bolting in the UK is that it's not relevant any more because bolting is firmly established (to me "thin end of the wedge" implies the beginning of a development). The question is, how far do UK climbers want it to spread? The problem with some of the justifications for bolting given in this and other threads is that they can equally be applied elsewhere (for example, which crags in the UK don't "lend themselves to sports climbing"?)
> If you read what Gary wrote, it was the FAist of Nomad - Nick Dixon - who asked him on a number of occasions to bolt it because it was a good route suffering from a lack of attention and hence getting dirty. It also seems to have relied on lots of insitu "trad" protection.
> At least from the guidebook description and photos here, Black Wall has minimal fixed gear (please correct me if this isn't true), you protect it with normal gear. Plus just in the UKC logbook there are 16 recorded ascents of the original line and 26 of the direct, so it sounds like it get regular ascents.
I did read what Gary wrote. He wrote that he was "strongly against" bolting Nomad. Then he bolted it. He now appears to be strongly against bolting Black Wall.
> (for example, which crags in the UK don't "lend themselves to sports climbing"?)
The 95% (98% maybe?) of British crags from Land's End to Shetland that don't need any insitu gear (be that bolts or 'trad' insitu). The hundreds (thousands?) of crags where some cams and a couple of sets of nuts protects you just fine. I would have thought is the rather clear answer?
I've clipped various fixed 'trad' gear over the years, but most was pegs left by others on winter routes. I'm trying to think whether out of the thousands of routes I've done in the UK, if any have been sports routes... Yep, I've been to Leh Quarry once - that crucible of world sport climbing... I think that is the only sports climbing I've done in Britain. So out of hundreds of crags visited that would make one where it lent itself to sport climbing. Of course if you want to go sport climbing there are plenty of venues, but it's actually a very small proportion of British cliffs that "lend" themselves to bolted climbing in the sense that there aren't trad pro alternatives.
In reply to edwardwoodward:
>I did read what Gary wrote. He wrote that he was "strongly against" bolting Nomad. Then he bolted it. He now appears to be strongly against bolting Black Wall.
Well done, I spotted this apparent contradiction also and I guess many others did too, in fact this is what this prompted my to explain my own stance which could otherwise have been taken as a contradiction on Black wall v Nomad Wall debate.
Unfortunately it only adds to the confusion when you take samples of his actual statements and then twist them to come up with the conclusion you expect.
On closer inspection of his words, they made sense to me.
Quotes from Gary, re the Nomad wall saga.
“I feel very uncertain about such a venture”
“I was strongly against the idea at first”
I guess that Gary was persuaded against his own instinct by a great number of people including the FA and from comments on UKC to decide that it was the right thing to.
He did not say he was “strongly against” bolting black wall routes he said,
“Nobody will be bolting Black Wall or its companion routes”
There is a very big difference here to the situation on Nomad wall, absolutely no one is suggesting that black wall should be bolted. If there are, I suggest they come out of the shadows and announce why they should now. If anything the situation is going the opposite way, evidence suggests otherwise as a bolt has been recently removed on this wall.
Whatever, remember, it is likely that parties with other interests that may decide the future of black wall and not climbers. We all need to get along, so everyone, including none climbers can enjoy the place.
In reply to all: nobody, so far (im 80% of the way through the thread), seems to have commented on what makes 'good' trad. i appreciate this is subjective and Nick, from what i see / read, seems to relish adventure and uncertainty in his trad. i guess therefore the old in-situ gear situation made this wall very attractive.
for me, suspect old gear isnt be part of good trad. i want a fair and honest challenge where my ability to assess rock quality and MY gear placements is called on. guessing whether a peg or nail will hold is too much like russian roulette. on many routes this doesnt really matter as you can always get good alternative natural placements but i get the impression that isnt the case here. you could argue that this kind of designer danger is as artificial as bolts. also, im not sure that these routes would have been geared this way had bolts been more widely available / standard when the route was done (excuse my history if ive got this very wrong).
with regard to the general discussion i dont think this is the thin end of the wedge or that Right Wall is about to be bolted. this is a hole in the ground manufactured with explosives / machinery, not exactly natural in the first place. and no, that doesnt mean bolt everything in every quarry, it just means some perspective is needed.
someone said above that E5/6 gets onsighted all the time. this just isnt true, its a rare event. a bit below that is rare too. what we should be concerned about is stuff, harder stuff, never getting done. lots more people climbing yes but very few actually seem to be giving anything at these grades the attention they need and deserve (with the exception maybe of the ultra classics but even these, im sure, dont get done anywhere near as much as they used to).
In reply to jon: based on what? i think you live in France; i climb regularly in North Wales and occasionally in the Peak District, Pembroke and Lakes. in several years of regularly being at crags, with the exception of the BMC International Meets, the sum total of E5s and E6s i have seen being attempted / done is probably less than 10 and that includes multiple Right Wall efforts.
possibly a function of who i climb with but youd still see harder routes being done if you were regularly out and about regardless. im sorry but that is genuinely the case, at least based on my experience.
In reply to ksjs:
I used to think this but it is not true. People at the crags you go to, climb the climbs you go for. For example if you climb vs - E2 you go to crags with lots of vs - E2 climbs, you don't go to crags with lots of E6s. So stronger climbers will be climbing elsewhere as will weaker climbers.
In reply to barney_edin: i climb at crags with a spread of grades often featuring classic E5s and E6s but i just dont see these getting done. maybe im always in the wrong place at the wrong time but i would have assumed that weekends were the most likely time for this kind of stuff to be getting done and im there at weekends so who knows. maybe its a question of perception and definition i.e. what does 'regular' or 'lots' mean in the context of the climbing population and E5/6 onsighting?
Sure I live in France. I have done for twenty years but I still find the British scene interesting and that's why I look at and post on things I find interesting or have involved me in the past or that I feel strongly about.
Previously I lived in the Peak for three years , N Wales for three years, prior to that I spent so much time in Pembroke that I wrote the 1986 CC guide. (I actually started climbing in the 60s, so I have a pretty broad base of experience with regards to the British scene.) During the 80s I quite regularly climbed E5, often on sight. Sure, I blew lots of routes - onsighting was never my strong point, however, practically all my mates were onsighting at least E5, and more - I was definitely a weaker climber than most of them. During my last couple of years in GB I managed E6 onsight. If now, 20 years later, you have have, in 'several years' seen less than 10 onsights of E5s or 6s including RW multiple times, then I can only say you've been at the wrong crags, or been with the wrong people, or your own experience is somewhat limited. People do climb during the week, you know - you can't make sweeping generalisations based just on W/E climbers alone. That's not meant to be willy waving or aggressive, even if it may come across that way - if it does offend you, I apologise, but it's the only way I can answer your post.
In reply to jon: i appreciate your reply but it reads like you get the impression i dont climb or go anywhere other than at weekends. i climb 3-5 times a week subject to partners, weather and desire to train, this regularly includes weekdays. i climb at a reasonable level with various partners (who have a range of levels) and im always keeping an eye out to see whats getting done, out of general interest and because of my own aspirations. i do have an idea what im talking about.
you are significantly more experienced than me but you havent climbed in the UK for a while so you cant really know whats happening at crags here. i am however totally prepared to accept that im wrong but i cant ignore what i have or rather havent seen over a period of a few years. i honestly think (and i wish this wasnt the case) E5/6 just doesnt get done as much as it used to or at least not enough to call it commonplace. perhaps it is just a question of definition and what 'regular' is to some is not the same to me?
I wanted to delete my reply but I left it too late - it's way off the subject of Llanymynech. Kevin's comment about sportclimbing claiming previous trad devotees may have some truth. However, I can't accept that there has been such a quantum flop in standards. No other sport works like that.
> (In reply to edwardwoodward)
> The 95% (98% maybe?) of British crags from Land's End to Shetland that don't need any insitu gear (be that bolts or 'trad' insitu). The hundreds (thousands?) of crags where some cams and a couple of sets of nuts protects you just fine. I would have thought is the rather clear answer?
It's only clear if we're all working on the same definition of what makes a crag suitable for bolting. But there is no such definition. There are some accepted norms (such as grit), but what actually happens on a given crag depends on the attitudes of the visiting climber and, to a greater extent, climbers who regard a crag as "their patch".
I can't be sure of the history of every crag in the UK, but almost all of the now bolted crags have been first climbed by trad routes, so at what point did they start to need bolts?
> (In reply to edwardwoodward)
> >I did read what Gary wrote. He wrote that he was "strongly against" bolting Nomad. Then he bolted it. He now appears to be strongly against bolting Black Wall.
> Well done, I spotted this apparent contradiction also and I guess many others did too, in fact this is what this prompted my to explain my own stance which could otherwise have been taken as a contradiction on Black wall v Nomad Wall debate.
> Unfortunately it only adds to the confusion when you take samples of his actual statements and then twist them to come up with the conclusion you expect.
Oh come on! You make it sound like I'm being particularly devious.
> I guess that Gary was persuaded against his own instinct by a great number of people including the FA and from comments on UKC to decide that it was the right thing to.
I don't know Gary's reasons, but I think we can agree he changed his mind.
I'd dispute "a great number", though.
> He did not say he was “strongly against” bolting black wall routes he said,
> “Nobody will be bolting Black Wall or its companion routes”
I deliberately removed the quotes when writing “strongly against” in connection to Black Wall. Even so, I think it's a fair summation of Gary's intent, especially given the context.
> There is a very big difference here to the situation on Nomad wall, absolutely no one is suggesting that black wall should be bolted. If there are, I suggest they come out of the shadows and announce why they should now. If anything the situation is going the opposite way, evidence suggests otherwise as a bolt has been recently removed on this wall.
And the reason this thread exists is because, at some stage in the bolting development at the quarry, the bolters got to Nomad Wall and stopped. Then they started again.
> Whatever, remember, it is likely that parties with other interests that may decide the future of black wall and not climbers. We all need to get along, so everyone, including none climbers can enjoy the place.
> I wanted to delete my reply but I left it too late - it's way off the subject of Llanymynech.
> However, I can't accept that there has been such a quantum flop in standards. No other sport works like that.
With respect Jon, I think your post and discussion with KSjs, Kevin etc is very much on topic, it has made me think. I can’t teach you to suck eggs, as I can’t Mick Ryan on some topics. But I can question and look at things from a different perspective, the obvious can be easily missed, even with the masses of experience you, I or any one else has.
Popularity is often cited as a reason to bolt climbs. This as we all know was a specific consideration on Nomad due to the nature of the rock and the type of protection deployed etc. If it was a business, which it isn’t, lack of demand would usually ensure that the product would disappear, that is the reality. I hate to admit it, but rock climbing is not much different really. If a great enough number of people care, then the product can be saved. But usually products have to adapt, they are either improved or reinvented if they are to survive. One difference, though, outdoor trad or sport is generally free at the point of use.
In terms of trad climbing my experience over the last few years and the last 25 years tends to support ksjs. A little research and data mining on the UKC also ends to support this view. Trad climbing is as popular as ever at some locations but it is not as widely popular as it was. In particular, the number of climbers operating at the higher trad levels is much diminished. Climbers are reporting classics in the Lakes etc that are overgrown, vegetation is being removed to reveal polished holds, indicating how quickly things return to nature.
Perhaps it could be the subject of another thread, where have all the climbers gone?
I recently did a whistle stop tour (with a non climber) down memory lane to my old local crags (I did have my boots and chalk in my sack though!). The first place I visited was Almscliffe, the only crag where I met some climbers, there were half a dozen bouldering and several groups top roping V diff to VS climbs. In days gone by, apart from the weekend when everyone disappeared to the Lakes/ Wales/ Gogarth/Pembroke etc they were all buzzing with climbers if the weather was dry.
I might have chosen a non typical day, but it was a late afternoon/ evening in July during a spell of dry pleasant weather. At Caley I met several walkers but no climbers, despite plenty of signs of chalk. People used to be on the routes as well as the boulders. The vegetation was amazing. Unlike Llanymynech it does not grow on the rock, it grows on the land around the rock. There were even official signs asking people to pull up some of the invasive plant species. We had wondered why dead plants were strewn over the path.
There has always been a lot of bracken there but large paths developed between the boulders but it never got chance to grow near the boulders due to traffic. At Ilkey, still as many tourists, but no climbers.
Back to Clwyd, it has never been mainstream climbing sitting under the shadow of North Wales, but worlds end was always on of the more popular crags, now even the group climbers have diminished. We often have the place to ourselves, even at Dinbren, which is more popular these days we can still be on our own on a pleasant summer evenings, eg last night.
Go to Trevor rocks, The cuttings, Stanage, Roaches, Pembroke, Gogarth etc and it is a different story.
The amount of those wishing to aspire to high standard trad experience is diminishing.
Of course they are honey pots like Huntsmans that remain popular at a high standard, but in this new risk averse society that is being created (I am fully on board with Nick bullock with my concerns here) People who climb at average grade trad climbs, never mind the hard stuff, are often viewed as “thrill seekers” by today’s public.
A few very basic and general stats taken from UKC, maybe some whiz from the UKC can put a better picture forward, but they are what I can get at.
The average trad climber operates at (HS- HVS), Only 2% are achieving E4 or above.
The average sport climber operates at 5 to 6a+ , 9% achieve 7a+ or above
> (In reply to jon) On a sunny bank holiday you'll see as many E5 onsights in Huntsman's Leap as ksjs has seen in his entire climbing career.
I think there is an interesting question being asked here as to the number of onsight ascents of classic E4 - E6 now as compaired to 10 - 20 years ago.
To get an answer we need the view of people who have been consistently climbing at those grades on the 'popular crags' over the whole period. Since I have basically given up trad climbing following the birth of my daughter in 1999 (does that make me part of the 'problem'!) I can't really say. But certainly I think we can be pretty certain that trad limestone classics are more rarely climbed - stories about people having to clean Supersonic, the state of Chee Tor (I never thought about whether the routes need cleaning when I climbed there), the lack of people climbing routes such as Slender Loris on Malham right wing proves that. As to classic in Wales / Pembroke I don't know - but can say that in the 90's they were popular, clean and regularly climbed, e.g. when I did Right Wall I had to wait while some else finished it, on Hunger we were sharing a belay with team on Citadel.
In reply to jon: my last post on this as its slightly off-topic for the thread and im not sure that me saying im right and you saying youre right will prove / disprove anything. it would be interesting to see some figures but, without having thought about it much, any kind of survey would be plagued with problems.
In reply to John2: i think Pembroke might be the exception, cant remember if it was a bank holiday but it was sunny (honestly, there was a time when it was sunny earlier this year) and there were people on Souls and Snake Charmer. also that weekend, i think it was either Ghost Train or From a Distance in Stennis Ford that i saw people on. this was though a purple patch in my E5 plus spotting efforts...
Unfortunately the only figures you'd see would be from one source. Not every climber reads / posts on here, so even if Mick delved into UKCs statistics he'd only come up with UKC member / reader related performance.
As all sports progress through time, equipment gets better, performance gets better. Climbing, as a sport, cannot go against that trend. Beware of an obvious pit fall, though... Take marathon running for example. (I am not a runner but am married to one.) Maybe twenty years ago all marathon runners were serious club runners and ran quite fast times, maybe 3 hours and a bit. Now, it's a really popular thing to have a go at and lots of non serious runners take part in the same races, just for fun, or for charity. Obviously, if you take the average time now, given the far higher participation numbers, it'll be more like 4 - 5+ hours. That doesn't mean the 3+ hours runners are going any slower, or that they are not there... sorry, it's the only parallel I could think of, and again apologise for the hijack!
I'd say this - E5 gets onsighted very often - every dry weekend.
Crew I used to climb with during the 80's early 90's used to onsight several E5's each when they went out and they were just one team: Peel, Radtke, Barton, Johnston etc... and those guys operated well under the radar.
> (In reply to ksjs)
> As all sports progress through time, equipment gets better, performance gets better. Climbing, as a sport, cannot go against that trend.
Quite possibly - but the question isn't about climbing as a whole its about specifically the onsighting of higher trad grades. I think its inarguably true that limestone E4 - E6's in Peak / Yorkshire get onsighted less (witness my above arguments), and talking to people there seems to be a feeling that classics in Wales aren't getting climbed as much (this may or may not be true). This doesn't mean standards overall have dropped I would reckon that sport routes in the 7c - 8b range are being climbed more often and more quickly (in some cases!) and I'm sure many more hard boulder problems are being climbed.
> I'd say this - E5 gets onsighted very often - every dry weekend.
We could do with defining the term "very often"! I would not call it "very often" if there is only one ascent in the whole country per dry weekend.
So, to assist the thread, I offer the definitions:
Very often: A typical E5, reasonably accessible and decent quality, gets onsighted at least once a month, on average.
Not very often: A typical E5, ditto, ditto, gets onsighted much less than once per month.
Obviously Right Wall gets way more than that, but that's not typical.
> Take marathon running for example. (I am not a runner but am married to one.) Maybe twenty years ago all marathon runners were serious club runners and ran quite fast times, maybe 3 hours and a bit. Now, it's a really popular thing to have a go at and lots of non serious runners take part in the same races, just for fun, or for charity. Obviously, if you take the average time now, given the far higher participation numbers,
I do not agree with your deduction, I am a marathon runner and raced many over a 20 year period, even won a few, 3 hours was a slow time. Marathon running in my experience is much less popular or competitive now at sub 3 hour times than it was. The big races like London etc maybe bigger with more fun runners, but when it was popular all the city races were big and may have added up to a much greater total. I was still racing against people from the same generation when I was a veteran, same as climbing. The Veteran class were becoming more competitive than the seniors. In fact veteran runners often won races as the competition from the younger runners reduced. Same at other distances, I used to get 10 milers as a vet and the overall. I am no star, way off the top of the sport, just a good runner.
I consider that the same is happening in climbing, there are large numbers of average climbers but a reduced number operating at a high standard, most of those at the very highest standard are in to sport climbing. The Standard at the very top of running like the very top of climbing and most other sports is improving as you rightly suggest. E5 or E6 is no where near the very top though and could be considered equivalent to a sub 3 hour marathon.
So your analogy you offered does support the theory that Ksjs has put forward that numbers climbing at E5 E6 are reducing as compared to the hey day of trad.
Again sorry for the digression, but if the popularity or demand from climbers necessitate a change in direction on some climbs, then it is a factor that needs serious consideration.
> We could do with defining the term "very often"!
This is getting ridiculous!
We've had a few people here saying "I [or my mates] onsighted E5 regularly back in the day." Where are all the people saying "I [and my mates] regularly onsight E5 today."?
I accept that a minority posts on or reads UKC, but all the evidence being given for regular onsighting of hard routes actually seems to point in the other direction. Maybe I'm wrong, that's just the way it's coming across on this thread.
However, in my very limited experience of climbing at largely low-grade crags over the past 7-8 years I can only recall once seeing someone leading something harder than E2 (and that was being photographed and was all over the net the next day), I don't know anyone who has ever led anything as hard as E5 and until recently I even didn't know anyone who knew anyone who climbed that hard. In my experience climbing in even the low E-grades is a big deal! Perhaps that says more about me than British trad.
I would guess that at least 90% of UK onsight climbing at E5 and above in the UK is resticted to Gogarth, Pembroke, Llanberris Pass and Farhead
I guess that almost all E5 and above leads on grit are now headpoints?
Mountain crags in Lakes and Wales are too far from the road and get too dirty/overgrown for repeats of classic E5 and above routes these days; up to E3 and sometimes E4 there are enough ascents to keep some of the better routes clean - but even the relatively accessible Nagasaki Grooves is dirty these days.
I'm not familiar with Nomad Wall, but it seems to me there must be loads of better places in Wales and elsewhere to enjoy hard trad climbing,and with less cleaning then than may be required to clean Nomad Wall. Of course Nomad wall can easily be cleaned (even inspected) on ab rope and has a disproportionate reliance on fixed protection of uncertain safety, and it could be argued that it is not trad climbing in the truest sense of the word.
Personally my E5 ambitions (if I ever get that fit again) are firmly centred on the locations listed in the opening paragraph and there are loads to choose from, arguably many more than good sports climbs in high 6's low 7's.
How about spacing the bolts much more on verticalish technical crags like like Nomad Wall, in a similar way to what used to be common on many slate routes? Bolted, relatively safe and still very scary.
Of course they are honey pots like Huntsmans that remain popular at a high standard, but in this new risk averse society that is being created (I am fully on board with Nick bullock with my concerns here) People who climb at average grade trad climbs, never mind the hard stuff, are often viewed as “thrill seekers” by today’s public.
> How about spacing the bolts much more on verticalish technical crags like like Nomad Wall, in a similar way to what used to be common on many slate routes? Bolted, relatively safe and still very scary.
> Excellent point Kevin, it makes alot of sense. You are obviously not aware but Nomad wall has in fact already been bolted in the way you suggest. There are some scary runouts, particulary near the top.
In reply to Bulls Crack:
The future of climbing.
see Krama woodgin post earlier in the thread.
>There really are people out there who do not understand our activity and are so against it that they would like it strictly controlled. This number are growing. They make little distinction between sport climbing and trad. To repeat: little distinction between sport and trad!!
Also Nick bullocks post
>This all adds to the experience for me, not everyone in Britain considers and needs climbing to be controlled and safe, this is another serious concern I have the way everything in this country is becoming controlled, so controlled to the point I can see in years to come it will be illegal to climb without a helmet or a belaying certificate, or body armour, or a guide or an accident prevention form, or insurance or a disclaimer, or a risk assessment!
A few extracts from others to help you understand better, there are others, sorry if it was not clear, understanding and reading of all the posts in this rather long thread is difficult
Alex, I'm surprised by that - almost every time I've looked up at the Cromlech on a sunny day there seems to be someone on Right Wall, and the other popular one in the Pass seems to be Cockblock, I've sen a couple on that.
I tend to agree with Kevin though - outside of the places he mentioned (and Sharpnose and maybe Avon (the Sea Walls solos) I'd also argue) it does seem to be pretty rare - I remember seeing the whole of High Neb standing gawping at someone trying Quietus one day, and I'm sure that should be commonplace if E5/6 goes down as regularly as jon suggests it does (and, albeit obviously selectively filled in, the UKC logbook for Quietus seems to suggest that at least as many people fall off as succeed).
If it helps I can think of about 2-3 people who onsight E5 occasionally (I'm sure you've met more than one of them!) and 1 who does E6, to try and balance the stats out. But I can kind of see your point about E grade leading, if you are in some places you just don't seem to see it very much.
> (In reply to Alex C)
> I would guess that at least 90% of UK onsight climbing at E5 and above in the UK is resticted to Gogarth, Pembroke, Llanberris Pass and Farhead
...and the Lakes...?
And to others:
This is almost like reading a newsletter from some little climbing club somewhere in deepest Warwickshire where the ascent of a hard severe draws admiration and respect from new members... Or maybe I'm completely off track and bouldering and sportclimbing have destroyed trad. In which case why should anyone be worried, and why is this thread here?
> This is almost like reading a newsletter from some little climbing club somewhere in deepest Warwickshire where the ascent of a hard severe draws admiration and respect from new members...
Good analogy, de Mont!
I'm flabberghasted by some of the complete bollocks which has been spouted on this thread since it went "off topic".
And blimy Kevin - you should definitely know better than to post "I would guess that at least 90% of UK onsight climbing at E5 and above in the UK is resticted to Gogarth, Pembroke, Llanberris Pass and Farhead" (sic) - which is patently complete balony!
I onsighted my first E5 in 1983, and I imagine that I've done several most years since. And I am a complete also ran compared to many of my mates. And they are just my mates! Elsewhere there are people I only know of, and many of whom I have never heard, onsighting E5 and above all the time. To pretend otherwise, or that such people must have registered on some radar or other, is to completely misunderstand what is happening out there.
Believe me, onsighting E5 was hardly a big deal in 1980, and it certainly bearly merits a raised eyebrow, or acknowledgement on the internet in 2009...
In reply to Mick Ryan - UKClimbing.com:
The Rock Fax categories are adequate for my needs in order to assess detail a little bit more coherently, they are subjective, precise info is not necessary. No need to get in to the “Is E8 really the hardest grade that can be on sighted or not” debate. Unless you can explain why you think it is relevant to this thread, I suggest this bit is dropped as it is way off track from the original topic.
> (In reply to Mick Ryan - UKClimbing.com)
> We could do with defining the term "very often"! I would not call it "very often" if there is only one ascent in the whole country per dry weekend.
> So, to assist the thread, I offer the definitions:
> Very often: A typical E5, reasonably accessible and decent quality, gets onsighted at least once a month, on average.
> Not very often: A typical E5, ditto, ditto, gets onsighted much less than once per month.
> Obviously Right Wall gets way more than that, but that's not typical.
In the last 10 years I've never been to:
Main Wall (gogarth)
> (In reply to kevin stephens)
> ...and the Lakes...?
I climb in the Lakes a lot Jon and have seen the changes myself, and despite lots of hard work by local climbers to clean mountain crags like Bowfell, Dove etc - the hard routes, E5 and above just get dirty again very quickly and do not get climbed any more.
The three star E1 ro E3 routes in the F&R selected climbs guide are even more crowded then they used to be
Even lots of good esier climbs non in the slected guide also get dirty and need determined on the lead cleaning, unlike when I first did many of them around 20-30 years ago.
Back in those days here was practically no sport climbing, bolting was just beginning on Lakes Slate but we limited ourselves to two per pitch, so there was a natural progression to the harder routes without being led astray by sport
I guess another factor may be that away from Gogarth, Pembroke etc, the harder routes are much harder to protect, particulalry in the mountains.
So yes I believe sport climbing has greatly diminished high end trad climbing, particulalry where risk and commitment are major factors
> In the last 10 years I've never been to:
> The Cromlech
> North Stack
> Main Wall (gogarth)
> The Slate
> And NOT seen anyone attempting an E5...
Fair point and similar ones been made several times on the thread. But to get back on track, you don't mention E5/6 at Llanymynech in the last 10 years. Have you not been or did you just forget to add it to the list?
> (In reply to jon)
> I'd say this - E5 gets onsighted very often - every dry weekend.
> Crew I used to climb with during the 80's early 90's used to onsight several E5's each when they went out and they were just one team: Peel, Radtke, Barton, Johnston etc... and those guys operated well under the radar.
What do you mean 'used to'? they still do, even though being in their 50's and 60's and suffering from various injuries,arthritis and usually a massive hangover.
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> How about Very, very, very often?
Hey Jon, I've been following this "E5 ....how often are they O/S'd" sub thread with your self and ksjs. I'm afraid I'd agree with his comments. It really isn't as often as you think. It certainly happened a lot more 20 years ago - I remembe!! Pembroke & the SW is defo the exception, there does seem to be an abundance of easy access, quick drying classic soft E5's. Admittedly, things like Minotaur, Headhunter, Ships that pass .... get all year frequent ascents. Sharpnose also see's frequent E5's on sighted. But I don't think this is the case in the north. The decent sport climbing lures a lot of good trad climbers and others are consumed by bouldering. Neither of these 2 activity's had really taken off 20 years ago - thus, more trad o/s'ing at high end. This year, I've trad climbed exclusively (until the rains) both mid week & w/e at many of the NW E5 honey pots. Gogarth Main, Scimitar Ridge, Tremadog,Crafnant, Pen Tryn and in the peak n Yorks. You don't see it that often!! It's a shame really, E5 on sighting is comparable to 8a sport RP'ing - a real benchmark.
In reply to Rich Kirby: im with the "i think e5 still gets regularly onsighted" camp. Me personally not so much in the last 6 months but the previous 3 years, was onsighting e4/5/6 everytime I went to a crag, and this was in the lakes. And many of my mates were aswell. I agree sometimes you go to a crag and dont really see anyone on anything hard at all, but I have been at crags before and had to wait in line for an e6! (also in the lakes) In regards to grit, I dont go very often but it seems that there are always loads of people on routes up to hvs/e1 no one really on the e2/3/4 and a few people on the e5/6s but then that may just me!
Everytime I have ever been to llanberis and its been good weather i have seen someone on right wall!!
I must say though, when I was climbing regularly and quite hard, I tended to climb alot more in midweek when the crags are quiet! In the lakes you tend to get people transfixed and get a crowd when you are climbing hard stuff on the popular crags! and I dont like that!
> and they were just one team: Peel, Radtke, Barton, Johnston etc... and those guys operated well under the radar.
Not really under the radar. I've never lived in your neck of the woods and don't know any of those guys personally - but I know at least three of those name just from reading I guess the area reports in the mags over the years etc. Although oddly I was just out climbing tonight with an American mate -who is married to one of my Finnish climbing mates hence living in Helsinki- who has friend back in CA who know you from your Bishop time!
John Dunne30 Jul 2009
In reply to Rich Kirby: Hi rich im glad someone as stated the obvious reality.
In the early mid eighties there were a handfull of sports climbs and the thought of a bouldering guide did'nt exist.
Trad was the order of the day and yes lots of people climbed the likes of Right wall,Lord etc.
By the late eighties sport climbing attracted many climbers as did bouldering in the mid nineties.
There is now a real choice of disciplines which is healthy and thats why there is a huge decrease in people dong the old E5/6 type routes.
The scene is healthier than it's ever been and standards are rising so whats the problem.
While im on a rant i think Gary Gibson should be given a knighthood his contribution to UK sport climbing is legendary.
> (In reply to Mick Ryan - UKClimbing.com)
> What do you mean 'used to'? they still do, even though being in their 50's and 60's and suffering from various injuries,arthritis and usually a massive hangover.
> (In reply to Mick Ryan - UKClimbing.com)
> What do you mean 'used to'? they still do, even though being in their 50's and 60's and suffering from various injuries,arthritis and usually a massive hangover.
Great point Al!!!
And another thing - when I did RW, two of my team also did Lord as well as RW and there was another team above us doing Rumblefish....
In reply to All:
It is clear that passions are running high, climbing is alive as ever, the debate will go on. This is a good point to give feedback on the point reached so far. I would like to thank Jon in particular for hanging in there. The summary from someone with such experience as John Dunne also paints a very rosy picture for the future of climbing. Thanks also to Mick Ryan for his support and everyone else who has provided some quality feedback on this thread.
It is clear there are a large number of climbers out there enjoying a more diverse range of climbing than was available 20-30 years ago. Standards in each discipline have risen, including trad, as both sport and bouldering have increased in popularity.
Certain venues have come in and out of vogue, but on the whole, the same trad locations are as popular as ever with old and young. At locations, such as Llanymynech, despite flurries of attention by keen enthusiasts with a great passion, they have remained in relative obscurity until in recent times. This is despite the liberal application of two and three stars on many routes across the grade range. It is now a top location for sport climbing. The venue clearly lends itself to this style of climbing and is clear it that it would never would be popular without the bolts.
This remarkable change has come about all due to the Herculean efforts of Gary Gibson. Without him we would not be having this healthy debate started by Nick Bullock. I would like to thank Nick also for getting this issue out in the open and sorry if I have offended, it was not intentional. I have interest in climbing in the widest context, it goes beyond the 3 activities mentioned here. Maybe Nick will give a summary at some point as I am sure people are interested.
The story is not just about Llanymynech though, Gary has brought many other places out of obscurity. Some however have taken it upon themselves to prevent change, viewing bolts as some kind of attack on their values. Whilst not everyone will agree, exactly the opposite has been proved true by this thread. I say to those people, go and seek the huge number challenges still available at your grade, whatever it is at many other locations across the UK, even new ones are still possible, for old or young.
As to the future of climbing, each location has to be judged on it’s merits. Llanymynech can not for instance offer any quality bouldering, sorry. Some venues, but not that many really, considering the vast number of crags available in a small location like UK, lend themselves primarily to sport.
In reply to Enty: my climbing career is shorter than yours. still, its obvious im doing something wrong because in various visits (lets say in the region of 10) to:
Grochan - never seen anyone on Cockblock or Quantum Jump
Cromlech - excepting Right Wall never seen anyone on True Grip (this is E4 anyway), JR, Tess, Lord... or harder
Bus Stop - never seen anyone on 1000 Tons...
Seamstress / Yellow Wall - never seen anyone on Heading the Shot, My Halo or Tentative Decisions or Slug Clug Special or Remain in Light (myself excepted for Remain), both E4, for that matter
Dervish Slab - never seen anyone on Flash / Bell / Breakdance
Tremadog (various bits) - apart from last week when my partner was on Vulture i cant recall seeing anyone on anything above E2 (though when i frequented Tremadog my route knowledge was much less)
Holyhead - never seen anyone on Snakebite Wall (E4?) and, myself excepted, only once seen someone on Katana E4 (now known as Penny)
In reply to ksjs: I haven't climbed much in the UK since the 2000 but my experiences are much closer to yours. I think there may well be a selectivity bias here, good climbers climb with good climbers so see lots of good climbing then think that this is normal, whilst punters like myself climb with other punters and tend to go to places where there are other punters climbing! But in 2000 I climbed quite a lot in Northern England and Wales and I don't remember seeing people leading harder than E2. Even back in the 90s I used to go to Dumby quite often and never saw anyone on things like Chemin de fer. Perhaps the E5 onsighters hunt in packs - so if you miss the pack you miss all the E5 onsighting at that cliff for the next 6 months!
In reply to Neil Foster: i dont want to bang on, especially when this thread has maybe reached a natural end but i really think youre wrong. we cant however go round in circles, we need some figures.
how many days do you think i need to go to a crag, during good conditions, with E5 and above on it to see people on the harder routes? id say, optimistically, this might take 10 - 15 days, certainly if we exclude the likes of Right Wall. if youre talking E6 and above then this so rare as to be non-existent, maybe 1 day in 30-40? if my guesses are anywhere near the mark this surely cant be considered regular.
i dont come at this from thinking that E5 or 6 is some mythical, unattainable thing - i fully expect to to be doing some of these routes i have for so long been burning to do in the future. i come at it from the point of view that im very often the person climbing the highest grade at a given crag, be this E4 or even E3. im not joking, these lower grades are also not that common. a sad state of affairs.
im not talking about headpoints or repeats here and id even give grit a wide berth in this context due to its nature. walking up to some crag to get on an E5 or harder isnt the casual occurrence thats being made out on here. surely you, Jon, Mick and others must see that there are enough people on here suggesting that there might be some truth in what im saying to be less black and white about it.
average trad standards are falling / have fallen and this is not simply a function of more people climbing. some of the reasons have been touched on but i also think its a reflection on our society where everything is so instantaneous* and the desire to put true effort into something over the long-term to master it is an anathema to most.
i will however continue to do my bit to halt the decline!
*this is not a dig at sport or bouldering both of which i love
Richard and JD seem to be agreeing with you and I'm inclined to as well. They make the point though that standards haven't necessarily declined, the main change is the focus. 20 years ago climbing in the UK was basically centered around onsight trad climbing. That's what everybody did, so your aspirations centered around that. E5 onsight was a big deal but it was certainly attainable by anyone who was obsessed and dedicated.
Modern climbers have greater power levels than they did 20 years ago, and I think that their goals reflect this. We used to train on traversing walls and by climbing a lot. This tended to give us the stamina fitness that was suited to onsight trad climbing.
Nowadays I don't think all that many climbers are really focusing on E5 onsight as their main goal. With much higher levels of fitness (acquired on climbing walls) many climbers tend to have goals such as 8a sport or 8a font bouldering or headpointing E7-E8. These again are quite a big deal in terms of personal goals, but they're potentially achievable by anyone sufficiently obsessed and dedicated.
Onsight trad climbing in the mid E grades is simply less fashionable than it was. I can see both good and bad sides to this. A potential bad side is that lack of traffic (or not being fashionable) becomes a justification for retro-bolting stuff. Not that I necessarily always disagree with retro-bolting. But the traffic argument is spurious at best.
Sounds like a sensible summary of the situation (except maybe the bit about font 8a be achievable by anyone ). In answer to a few of the above who seemed to be getting worked up about onsighting E5 not being noteworthy - I don't think anyone is saying it's noteworthy either now or 10 - 20 years ago, just that maybe it actually happens now less than it did in the past. It was certainly being achieved in the 90's by many people who were lot lower on anybodies radar the Mick R's 'unknowns' such as Jerry Peel and Mark Radtke!
You're probably right that font 8a was out of kilter with the other examples. Though it is probably not a bad comparison with wanting to onsight E5 20 years ago. I think it's the kind of thing that younger climbers are aspiring to at present. If I was 20 it's probably what I would aspire to. I would have missed out though on all those years of clinging for grim death on to middle E grade trad routes that were probably too hard for me at the time but I some how got up them anyway.
Vive la difference, as they say in Rome! Or if you can't join them then chat about it on UKC.
> (In reply to Ian Patterson)
> You're probably right that font 8a was out of kilter with the other examples. Though it is probably not a bad comparison with wanting to onsight E5 20 years ago. I think it's the kind of thing that younger climbers are aspiring to at present. If I was 20 it's probably what I would aspire to.
I think you are right Hugh - I know quite a few Twenties who are obsessed by Font 8a.
xyz31 Jul 2009
> While im on a rant i think Gary Gibson should be given a knighthood his contribution to UK sport climbing is legendary.
GG has probably done more for my climbing over the last twenty plus years both trad and sport than any other single individual. So I whole heartedly agree with JD's assessment.
> (In reply to Mick Ward)
> Not just sport climbing actually......
Again agreed. (Was very pressed for time this morning.) Gary's contribution has been gargantuan. People quibble about 5% and somehow forget about the other 95%. (Not saying that about this thread, though.) I think Nick remarked at the outset that he wasn't having a pop at Gary.
People have had tens of thousands of great days out on Gary's routes. What a wonderful legacy...
The other obvious person who conveniently gets forgotten is Pete Oxley. Again his routes, both trad and sport, easy to awesome, have given so many people so much pleasure.
Hard for the rest of us to appreciate their lonely dedication. And new routing can be bloody scary...
In reply to Hugh Cottam: maybe im too harsh in my assessment of the state of things and your suggestion is much closer to the mark. Lower Pen Trwyn is certainly very active at the moment with some impressive stuff being done on a regular basis (i reckon the UK might have a fair few more of the sport climbing elite if we had better weather and Siurana / Santa Linya / Ceuse etc in our back garden).
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