/ Should First Ascent news also credit the belayer?

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drconline 27 Nov 2019

Hi folks,

Sorry if this is well-trodden ground, but as someone who has only recently (this year) got back into climbing and reading and watching climbing news, I'm puzzled why nearly all of the reports of first ascents etc. that I've seen never mention who was belaying?

Could UKClimbing set a good example here and at least ask who was belaying, so they can include that info?

I appreciate that this info may not always be available, but if no-one ever asks, then it definitely won't be!

As a relatively old fart I worry about the 'instagrammization' of climbing as being all about the superstars and celebrities when that's not really what 99% of the participants experience. 

Adding a name-check for the belayer on the successful first ascent (unless it's a solo FA of course) would go some way to redress this balance and show climbing as the collaborative sport that it really is.

Am I way off?

Has this been discussed and dismissed in the past?

Someone has to start every trend!

Cheers

Dave

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Neil Williams 27 Nov 2019
In reply to drconline:

Not sure I really care about being credited for belaying, it's not really the hard bit per-se.

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Wiley Coyote2 27 Nov 2019
In reply to drconline:

I quite liked all those  'unsung helper' portraits at the end of the Tribe first ascent video but why stop with the belayer on the redpoint? What about all those who froze their goolies off belaying on the failed RPs? And who drove them to the crag? And who carried the sack up? And who made the butties? The list of credits could get longer than a Hollywood blockbuster. Maybe leave well alone after all

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oldie 27 Nov 2019
In reply to drconline:

Surely in trad both should be mentioned in the guide (IF the belayer climbs it as a second).

Don't really see why a belayer should be mentioned.....in theory it could even be someone who's never actually climbed. I'm not sure that most people who the reports are aimed at would be interested.

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pasbury 27 Nov 2019
In reply to drconline:

No.

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Andy Moles 27 Nov 2019
In reply to drconline:

I'm going to say no.

In some cases it might be of particular interest, or the first ascensionist might choose to emphasise the belayer's role for various reasons, but including the information in reports as a matter of convention would be mostly uninteresting.

I struggle to see it as a symptom of 'instagrammization', which is surely less about the 'superstars and celebrities' anyway and more about everyone promoting themselves.

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J Whittaker 27 Nov 2019
In reply to drconline:

It might be the only way i can get my name next to a 9a, or 7a for that matter.

Post edited at 17:44
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alan moore 27 Nov 2019
In reply to drconline:

No, nor the spotters.

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craig h 27 Nov 2019
In reply to drconline:

Depends on the style of the route. A sports climb may have had multiple belayers over many months, even years who in the end didn't second the route, so no.

Trad routes it's usually a pair and the belayer does second the route, more so on multi-pitch trad routed even if only led by 1 climber, so I'd say as yes for that. But there are many trad routes which are worked over many months / years with different belayers and probably don't get seconded at the time of the 1st ascent, this again would be a no, but nothing wrong with naming the belayer in the historical section.

Post edited at 19:02
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In reply to drconline:

There are many different circumstances which I think involve different treatment.

A many day seige on a sport route with multiple belayers - the FA themselves is all that is required.

A multi-pitch route with swinging leaders - both mentioned.

A new sport route where two people may have been involved in cleaning, working, bolting and conceiving the route and they both climb it one after the other - both should be mentioned. Could apply to a trad route as well without the bolting.

A trad route where the seconder holds the rope and seconds it - I think that only the leader should be recorded but it is a grey area.

A new sport route where one person cleans and bolts it but two or more (up to 5 I have seen) people climb it on the first ascent day - I think only the cleaner/bolter should be recorded.

From UKC's point of view, when we report a hard ascent we rarely get the information about who held the rope and I don't think it is relevant unless it drops into one of the categories above involving joint ascents.

Alan

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AlanLittle 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

There's also the French custom where the bolter, rather than the first ascentionist, names the route. This is self-evidently wrong and should be laughed at whenever anybody suggests it. See Agincourt (8c), Maginot Line.

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Bulls Crack 28 Nov 2019
In reply to drconline:

You used to see:  'Second did not follow' quite a bit which I always thought a bit unnecessary! 

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Mick Ward 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

> A trad route where the seconder holds the rope and seconds it - I think that only the leader should be recorded but it is a grey area.

Originally though, it wasn't such a grey area. For over 100 years, with conventional reporting of (what are now termed) trad routes, generally everybody who climbed the route on the first ascent would be named - apart from the pretty rare 'X and party'.

Surely mentioning just one person has come about via the advent of single pitch sport climbing?  And here, I agree, it makes sense. But trad, even single pitch trad, somehow feels much more of a shared experience between two or more people. And because it seems more of a shared experience, I like the idea of everybody being mentioned. Hope this doesn't make me a traditionalist!

On the continent, nowadays often nobody is mentioned - which seems rather characterless. For me, knowing the identity of the first ascentionist is part of the experience. For instance, many Brown and Whillans routes seem to be expressions of their (sharply contrasting) personalities. With a Mick Fowler route, you expect something quite different again!

Mick

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john arran 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Mick Ward:

I agree about the trad party all being part of the ascent, although I suspect the change has come about with such a high proportion of UK trad routes now being done in a single pitch.

As for Euro-sport, with the exception of super hard lines the identity of the first ascentionist is rarely thought to be important and any credit would mostly go to whoever had the vision and put in the effort to establish the line in the first place. There are routes I've bolted in Ariège that I don't know who climbed first!

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Graeme Hammond 28 Nov 2019
In reply to drconline:

For single pitch routes in many guidebooks there are 2 or more people credited on the FA as a user of guides sometimes it is hard to know who actually did the leading and who was seconded (or even dragged up on second) as such information isn't always apparent. Usually I'd assume the first name is the leader but this isn't always correct. Anyhow to give equally weight to both parties is unfair as it doesn't account for the extra difficulty of leading compared to seconding with the security of a rope above you. Historical who belayed may be important for some reason but I don't think it needs to go in guidebooks.

Ultimately for any single pitch route sport or trad there can only be one first accentionist. Guide books may credit something like "FA climber A, climber B, (both led) 2009" but the reality is that one is a FA and the other is the first repeat. Where joint effort has gone into bolting/ cleaning of a route this seems to be fairly common and people may report the routes this way without saying who actually led first to share the credit.

Post edited at 13:03
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HeMa 28 Nov 2019
In reply to drconline:

IMHO no...

As then we would start to also write doen the supporting wife/hubby, inspiring grandad etc.

Strictly speaking there are persons that perhaps should be credited, in the timeline (not necessary priority) order:
- Who visioned the line

- Who equipped/cleaned the line

- Why ever did the FA (team effort for alt. leads so both/all would be credited. But if someone only belays & seconds they don't really count).

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Gordon Stainforth 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Bulls Crack:

> You used to see:  'Second did not follow' quite a bit which I always thought a bit unnecessary! 

It was historically interesting, because it invariably meant that the second failed to follow (because it was two hard for him/her) or declined to follow because it looked so desperate. Which implied that the route was unusually hard for the grade, at the date it was done.

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Mick Ward 28 Nov 2019
In reply to john arran:

> As for Euro-sport, with the exception of super hard lines the identity of the first ascentionist is rarely thought to be important and any credit would mostly go to whoever had the vision and put in the effort to establish the line in the first place. There are routes I've bolted in Ariège that I don't know who climbed first!

I accept it's not really important and I agree the vision/cleaning/hard work may well outweigh the effort of the FA. But I still like to know who made the FA. (Eek, horrors, maybe I am a traditionalist, after all! What was it Patey said, something like "Grumpy old man.")

Re your routes in Ariège, wouldn't it be nice to know who climbed them first? And even nicer for them to thank you?  I've bolted about 22 routes this year, done 14 myself and given away the other eight. The ones I gave away were only little but I think (well, hope!) the recipients enjoyed them.

Mick

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Michael Gordon 28 Nov 2019
In reply to drconline:

I would always think that leader and second make a first ascent of a line, not just the leader. But not the belayer since they didn't climb it. I agree with some of what has been said above about knowing the FA of a lot of sport routes being unnecessary.

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john arran 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Mick Ward:

> Re your routes in Ariège, wouldn't it be nice to know who climbed them first? And even nicer for them to thank you?

Strangely enough I'm really not bothered. Maybe I've been converted to Euro ways, but the point of my equipping routes is for people to enjoy them, and the order in which people climb them once they're bolted is largely irrelevant. I might make an occasional exception for a cracking line that's close to my limit but that's pretty rare.

Getting thanks for it is a different issue from who climbs it first. Yes, I do get a kick out of seeing people climbing on 'my' routes, and it's always nice to be thanked occasionally. But just seeing people write positive comments and give plenty of stars on websites such as here and 8a.nu is satisfaction aplenty. The biggest reward is already past by then; that's the enjoyment I get when I'm actually equipping them. I find it's a great combination of creative vision and practical know-how to end up with routes that climb well, don't get in one another's way and have bolts in all the right places.

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Andy Say 28 Nov 2019
In reply to drconline:

No.

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hang_about 28 Nov 2019
In reply to drconline:

If the belayer is really poor then it raises the subjective grade. If this is taken into account by the FA when grading then the belayer's name is relevant.

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Blue Straggler 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

> I quite liked all those  'unsung helper' portraits at the end of the Tribe first ascent video but why stop with the belayer on the redpoint? What about all those who froze their goolies off belaying on the failed RPs? And who drove them to the crag? And who carried the sack up? And who made the butties? The list of credits could get longer than a Hollywood blockbuster. Maybe leave well alone after all

My report of an attempt to lead all the Curbar VS routes ended with credits including soundtrack and flapjack recipe provider  

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gooberman-hill 28 Nov 2019
In reply to drconline:

I'm completely agreeing with Mick Ward and John Arran - trad routes have traditionally credited the 1st ascent party (or even multiple ropes - for example 1st winter ascent of Agag's groove by 2 ropes, one led by Hamish McInnes, the other by Chris Bonnington).

I certainly know that for a few of my new single pitch lines on sea cliffs, the presence of a second has been invaluable, and not entirely risk free (let alone the psychological comfort they have provided) - so even if I have led the pitch, it is entirely right and proper that the entire party is recorded for the 1st ascent. Trad climbing is a team effort, even if it is not commonly recognised as such).

Steve

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Bulls Crack 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Yes - very much in the brown and Whillans histories but you see it quite a bit in fist ascent lists. The reason could have been the leader forced me into holding his rope and when ordered to follow I said do-one and left him up there. 

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Toerag 29 Nov 2019
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

>  A trad route where the seconder holds the rope and seconds it - I think that only the leader should be recorded but it is a grey area.

The advantage of recording the seconder is that they can tell you about the route if you ask them, and confirm the grade to an extent. An 'unseconded' route means the grade is only the first ascencionist's opinion.

Post edited at 14:53
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In reply to Toerag:

> The advantage of recording the seconder is that they can tell you about the route if you ask them, and confirm the grade to an extent.

Surely they can do that without being recorded in the FA list.

Alan

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bpmclimb 29 Nov 2019
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

> A trad route where the seconder holds the rope and seconds it - I think that only the leader should be recorded but it is a grey area.

Is it? FWIW I've always named both leader and seconder in FA info, adding "both led" when necessary. I think I'm right in saying that always used to be CC policy, and AFAIK it still is, although admittedly I've not been involved in a CC guidebook for a while. Is it Rockfax policy to name only the leader(s)?

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In reply to bpmclimb:

> Is it Rockfax policy to name only the leader(s)?

No, the Rockfax policy is outlined above in my first post.

Alan

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Michael Gordon 29 Nov 2019
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

> Surely they can do that without being recorded in the FA list.>

Usually it's the leader that records the route. If they record the second in the FA details at the time, then there's no issues with the leader a few / many years later forgetting who it was they climbed the route with.

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Michael Gordon 29 Nov 2019
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

There's also the scenario of a new multipitch route where the leader leads all the pitches. To my mind the second has played an invaluable part in the ascent, particularly since if they are choosing to second every pitch it's likely that the route is quite hard for them and a lot of effort has been given to help support the leader in making their route. 

Someone above mentioned single pitch sea cliffs where sometimes not seconding the route isn't an option, so again it's not just a case of roping in any old sod...

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Toerag 30 Nov 2019
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

How does one contact a seconder if they don't know who it is because their identity isn't recorded in the FA details?

Post edited at 13:46
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jon 30 Nov 2019
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

I think you risk missing out on gems like Light Years (E6 6c) 'P Littlejohn (unseconded). Steve the second, couldn't follow'. 

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pec 30 Nov 2019
In reply to bpmclimb:

> Is it? FWIW I've always named both leader and seconder in FA info, adding "both led" when necessary. I think I'm right in saying that always used to be CC policy, and AFAIK it still is,

A quick glance at the latest CC Llanberis guide which I happen to have next to me right now says  for example "Lord of the Fies -  R Fawcett, C Gibb" and we all know who did what there of course.

Pretty much all the routes right up to the most recent quote 2 names, only a tiny number don't, presumably they were unseconded.

A few have letters after the names to clarify, AL (alternate lead), VL (varied lead) and LL(both lead). In all other cases presumably the first named was the leader.

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jcw 30 Nov 2019
In reply to Michael Gordon:

When I was a relative beginner I seconded Ron James on the FBA of the Girdle of Amphitheatre Buttress on Craig yr Ysfa at Whit 1966. It appeared in the new guide book as Ron James and client!

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Mick Ward 30 Nov 2019
In reply to jcw:

Harsh!

Mick

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Mick Ward 30 Nov 2019
In reply to jon:

Gratuitously harsh! 

Have always imagined you wrote that, Jon. (Or was it Zippy?) Assume you wrote the other comments about those few days of frenetic new routing by Pat Littlejohn and (mostly) you.

Mick

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flaneur 30 Nov 2019
In reply to drconline:

A named second/belayer enables controversial ascents to be verified. 

Violent New Breed (9a+)

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jon 30 Nov 2019
In reply to Mick Ward:

No, not me Mick. I feel it was Pat being mischevous! You're right though about the others. Have you got that old Tremadoc guide there in Spain...?!

Post edited at 20:20
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Mick Ward 01 Dec 2019
In reply to jon:

You're exonerated, Jon - after all these years! 

It seems that certain guidebooks have mysteriously become downloaded in what remains of my brain. A good use of otherwise unused space, in my opinion.

A particular favourite is Paul's Llanberis guide - with a great photo of you on the FA of The Nectarine Run. Is there a story behind the name?

Mick

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Michael Hood 01 Dec 2019
In reply to Graeme Hammond:

For trad, I think the general assumption is that the 1st named has led the route and any others seconded it unless other details (like "both led") are given. If the names are the wrong way round, then I would consider this an error in the guidebook - although of course it's not a serious one.

I think it's interesting to have this in the historical info.

For sport, I can see why you'd only put the leader's name.

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Michael Hood 01 Dec 2019
In reply to jon:

There's also a gem out there with a comment something like "followed by a cast of thousands". Can't remember the route but I'm pretty sure it's in the Peak.

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jon 01 Dec 2019
In reply to Michael Hood:

I thought that was in Vivian Quarry - Solvent Abuse, I think. Maybe there’s more than one?

I did once second a new route somewhere in the quarries - along with several other ‘seconds’, all tied to the same rope a few metres apart and out of site of the leader. His face was a picture as we appeared one by one at the top! I have no idea what route it was now though.

Post edited at 10:29
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Michael Gordon 01 Dec 2019
In reply to jcw:

What's FBA?

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drconline 01 Dec 2019
In reply to drconline:

Thanks everyone for your thoughts - I like that there's a consensus around seconders on multi pitch routes getting a mention - that feels very fair.

Maybe it's too much for FA belayers getting mentioned in news items, but if a few more videos mentioned or showed the belayer at work, that would set a great example too.

Cheers.


Dave

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jcw 02 Dec 2019
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Sorry, should read FA first ascent: it was incidentally a FBA first British ascent also

Post edited at 09:57
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bpmclimb 04 Dec 2019
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

> No, the Rockfax policy is outlined above in my first post.

Now I'm confused .... I thought I must have missed an earlier post of yours then, but I've just been back to check, and the only relevant post I can see is the one I quoted you from ......

"A trad route where the seconder holds the rope and seconds it - think that only the leader should be recorded but it is a grey area"

Whether your post as a whole is describing RF policy or your personal opinion (or a mixture of the two) is unclear. The quote above, specifically about seconders of trad routes in FA info, is surely too vague to represent a code of practice for guidebooks; it sounds much more like a personal opinion. I was seeking clarification about RF guidebook policy (if any) - but I'm still somewhat in the dark

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