/ Did Big Ron really do the F.A. of Strawberries?

Please Register as a New User in order to reply to this topic.
Valkyrie1968 - on 04 Jul 2017
As every British climber knows, the mega-classic Strawberries - a tough-to-onsight E7 at Tremadog - was first climbed by Big Ron in 1980. As everyone also knows, Big Ron's succeessful ascent of Strawberries was a yoyo, with gear that had been placed on abseil clipped up to the high point. So too, according to the UKC article*, were the subsequent ascents of Jerry Moffatt (gear placed on abseil, yoyo) and Johnny Woodward (gear placed on lead, yoyo). The next ascent of the route was by Stefan Glowacz, who onsighted it in 1987 - no gear placed on abseil, no yoyo-ing.
*https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=1117

Does this not, then, mean that the first ascent of Strawberries should be credited to Stefan Glowacz? That all of the guidebooks that give the F.A. details as 'R. Fawcett, March 1980' are, really, essentially, truly, wrong? I'm not some sort of hateful purist in any sense of either word, but it seems rather ethically impure to maintain the myth that Ron did it first, given that if someone were to stop forwards today and claim a first ascent with pre-clipped gear they would surely be lambasted.

The argument, of course, is that by the standards of the day Ron did the first ascent, but I'm not sure that I buy it: yoyo-ing certainly isn't the same as toproping, but it shares the element of climbing some of the route with a rope above one, and no one has ever considered toproping to be a legitimate means of achieving a first ascent, so why the difference with yoyo-ing? Sure, there's a nice big runout on Strawberries after the gear that means that the yoyo-er isn't toproping all of the route by any means, and certainly has to make a long runout above gear that is generally considered to be less than bomber, but surely any use of pre-clipped gear must be grounds for the inadmissability of a claimed F.A. on the grounds that abuse could take place: If one person pre-clips the first piece of gear on the basis that they think that the crux is at the top while another feels that the crux is the first move and so doesn't clip, who has achieved the 'pure' ascent? What if people disagree about where the crux is? The only solution is to consider all forms of yoyo-ing to be entirely unacceptable, then.

This isn't to attack Ron, who is and always will be a model of honesty and integrity in climbing - someone who has always been entirely clear about what they have done and the style in which they have done it. It's more a question of our approach to ethics as a community, and to the ethics of our heroes - as well as, perhaps, the parochialism of British climbing.
Timmd on 04 Jul 2017
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

Does the first on-sight ascent get a mention in relevant guide books?
smally - on 04 Jul 2017
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

It was acceptable in the 80's.
ukb & bmc shark - on 04 Jul 2017
In reply to Valkyrie1968:


Stefan Glowacz's ascent was not the next ascent - there were others - it was a popular testpiece at that time. The article says he took "the style one step further".

Re yo-yoing I am going to beat Mick Ward by saying "O tempora o mores".

You are re-judging the past through the goggles of the present. If the style was accepted at the time as a legitimate (albeit flawed) ascent then the ascent still stands. To do otherwise would be a Stalinesque style revisionism of history. The details of the style were well known at the time and remain so.

People get very hung up about yo-yoing but it is usually scarcely easier than pulling the ropes and reclipping on your way back up having already done the moves on the first or more attempts. The main difficulty is placing gear not whether the ropes are left in place or not.
stp - on 04 Jul 2017
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

In answer to your question yes Ron did do the first ascent. Glowacz made the first onsight. The first onsight is a great achievement but it's a different achievement to the first ascent.

Yo-yoing has nothing to do with pre-clipping gear. When you fall off a route you lower back down to the ground (or a hands off rest), have a rest then try again. The ropes of course are now clipped through all the runners to one's highpoint.

What Ron did on Strawberries I believe was after trying the route one day, stripped it, then on the subsequent day put the gear and ropes back to where they were the previous day. This is the equivalent to leaving one's rope up overnight. Logically if you can leave your ropes up between tries and the tries are spread over several days then what's the difference? I don't think anyone else did it in that style and I think it's frowned upon somewhat but at the time it was cutting edge hard route and it's more a case of stretching the rules rather than breaking them.

I don't think Jerry's ascent counts because he rested on gear. At the time he was fairly naive about climbing ethics and genuinely believed it was OK to do it like that.

There were certainly other ascents of the route before Glowacz. Ben Moon did the route in '84 with just 6 falls (no dogging) in an afternoon. That was the sixth ascent (or fifth discounting Jerry's) and I think was the fastest ascent at that time.

Hope that clarifies things.
stp - on 04 Jul 2017
In reply to Timmd:

Few guidebooks mention the first onsight of routes. I suspect most of the time it's not even known. And guidebooks can't really be expected to be complete volumes of every bit of climbing history.
Timmd on 04 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:
> Few guidebooks mention the first onsight of routes. I suspect most of the time it's not even known. And guidebooks can't really be expected to be complete volumes of every bit of climbing history.

I was going to say that putting the first ascent and first on-sight ascent in where known isn't going as far a writing every bit of climbing history - but I suppose it depends on one's definition of complete?
Post edited at 17:24
baron - on 04 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:
The 1983, 1989 and 2000 Tremadog guides have a history of Strawberries first ascents.
stp - on 04 Jul 2017
In reply to Timmd:

Well I certainly wouldn't be against the idea. Might make interesting reading. The latest Peak Limestone guide didn't even record the first ascent details though for lack of space. Might be hard to verify though, as in 'was it really, a proper onsight'? First flash might be better?
jon on 04 Jul 2017
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

I wonder how many of our old heroes - Brown, Whillans etc etc, would lose their first ascents, if we started applying today's ethics on their routes.
paul__in_sheffield - on 04 Jul 2017
In reply to jon:

> I wonder how many of our old heroes - Brown, Whillans etc etc, would lose their first ascents, if we started applying today's ethics on their routes.

I thought about this, cheeky little tugs on slings, a bit of tight rope, no one much around back in the day, then dismissed it as heresy ;-)
Scotch Bingington - on 04 Jul 2017
In reply to jon:

> I wonder how many of our old heroes - Brown, Whillans etc etc, would lose their first ascents, if we started applying today's ethics on their routes.

I wonder how many of our current heroes would lose their first ascents, if we started applying the ethics of the Brown and Whillans era to today.

Michael Hood - on 04 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:

Didn't Jerry do it again some time later in better style?
john arran - on 04 Jul 2017
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

Ron did the FA free according to the norms of the day. The styles we have today are better in some ways, such as the bottom-to-top, clip-as-you-go ascent with no weighting of gear, but not as good in others, such as the acceptance of pre-practice.

The main difference the changes have made is that it's easier to be honest about how we climb, and easier to verify the ascent when it ultimately happens. Difficulty-wise, I'm not convinced doing routes in modern style is harder nowadays at all. There's certainly no credible case for rewriting history.
Big Ger - on 04 Jul 2017
In reply to john arran:

> Ron did the FA free according to the norms of the day.

And using the gear of the day.
Phil Kelly - on 04 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:
> There were certainly other ascents of the route before Glowacz. Ben Moon did the route in '84 with just 6 falls (no dogging) in an afternoon. That was the sixth ascent (or fifth discounting Jerry's) and I think was the fastest ascent at that time.

Plus Basher and Gore at least Steve.

stp - on 05 Jul 2017
In reply to john arran:

> The styles we have today are better in some ways, such as the bottom-to-top, clip-as-you-go ascent with no weighting of gear, but not as good in others, such as the acceptance of pre-practice.

But Strawberries is a trad route and as far as I'm aware there don't seem to be any established 'correct' ways of doing trad routes these days. I raised the question a while back about current ethics for trad after you fall off and got a load of different answers. This is very different to sport climbing or headpointing where the rules are clearly defined.

Back then the ethics were clearer. Unlike today the ground up ethic was paramount, the exception being on new routes when abseil inspection was considered fair for cleaning and checking out the line - but NOT practising the moves. (In fact some, notably Pat Littlejohn, even considered that unethical and did all his new routes ground up, ie. no pre-inspection.)

If you fell off you either lowered back down and tried again (yo-yo-ed), or hung on the rope and tried the moves above the last piece of gear before jumping off and lowering back down (dogging). A dogged ascent was obviously inferior to mere yo-yo-ing. It's worth noting that both of these styles are considerably harder than fully working a route and then redpointing/headpointing after as you are still forced to do at least some of the climbing onsight.
stp - on 05 Jul 2017
In reply to Michael Hood:

I'm not sure. He mentions his flawed ascent in a recent interview. Don't think he said he reclimbed it - but I could be wrong.
stp - on 05 Jul 2017
In reply to Phil Kelly:

Yeah I'm not sure how many ascents it had before Glowacz but by the mid 80's it wasn't really such hard route. I can't see how it can be 7c+ (E7 6b) as some claim. Basher said his variation, Dream Topping, was 7c+ and that was evidently considerably harder than Strawberries which is why it deserved E7.

I think Strawberries is perhaps just difficult to onsight because on the face after the crack runs out there's a long lock off to a fingerhold that's really hard to see. It's the kind of route where chalk would make a big difference.

Ron graded the route E5 7a (because it was hard yet safe), but the general consensus soon settled at E6 6b.
john arran - on 05 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:

> But Strawberries is a trad route and as far as I'm aware there don't seem to be any established 'correct' ways of doing trad routes these days. I raised the question a while back about current ethics for trad after you fall off and got a load of different answers. This is very different to sport climbing or headpointing where the rules are clearly defined.

It's true that nowadays we have pretty well defined onsight, flash and headpoint, but little in between except a jumble of ground-up variations. This has certainly come over from sport climbing, but it also makes sense when you consider the often arbitrary lines that used to be drawn - and abused - in days gone by ...

> Back then the ethics were clearer. Unlike today the ground up ethic was paramount, the exception being on new routes when abseil inspection was considered fair for cleaning and checking out the line - but NOT practising the moves. (In fact some, notably Pat Littlejohn, even considered that unethical and did all his new routes ground up, ie. no pre-inspection.)

I'd say Pat had the right idea in principle, but given the amount of loose rock and vegetation that needed to be cleaned off routes in some areas, it's hardly surprising this wasn't adhered to more widely. Also, climbers are people, often competitive, and it's going to be pretty hard to draw the line between cleaning, 'inspecting', and trying moves. For example, where would 'seeing if you could reach between holds, while still hanging on the ab rope' fit within this cleaning/inspection/pre-practice continuum?

> If you fell off you either lowered back down and tried again (yo-yo-ed), or hung on the rope and tried the moves above the last piece of gear before jumping off and lowering back down (dogging).

But how many moves above the last piece? And what about sneakily backing up the last piece while you're there? Or dogging high enough you need to put something else in? It quickly becomes a minefield of nuance.

> A dogged ascent was obviously inferior to mere yo-yo-ing. It's worth noting that both of these styles are considerably harder than fully working a route and then redpointing/headpointing after as you are still forced to do at least some of the climbing onsight.

I agree with that, but there's the big advantage nowadays of clarity, knowing more precisely the 'rules of the game' we're playing. Another example of a well-intended but ultimately unworkable practice is that of lowering only as far as the last hands-off rest, which at one point was very common in the days of yoyoing. Makes sense when it's a big ledge you can fully recover on, but I distinctly remember working really hard to find strenuous 'rest' positions that just about didn't need hands for a few seconds, so qualified. Pretty silly really; climbing is one of the least contrived expressions of sporting objective, so it's a shame to sully it with murky and arbitrary grey areas.

In reply to stp:

> Yeah I'm not sure how many ascents it had before Glowacz but by the mid 80's it wasn't really such hard route. I can't see how it can be 7c+ (E7 6b) as some claim. Basher said his variation, Dream Topping, was 7c+ and that was evidently considerably harder than Strawberries which is why it deserved E7.

> I think Strawberries is perhaps just difficult to onsight because on the face after the crack runs out there's a long lock off to a fingerhold that's really hard to see. It's the kind of route where chalk would make a big difference.

> Ron graded the route E5 7a (because it was hard yet safe), but the general consensus soon settled at E6 6b.

The difficulty with Strawbs is placing the gear (including the top wires in the right hand crack, and definitely anything in the left hand crack) whilst flowing through the slappy sidepull moves. Also it's very blind to get gear in the left hand crack, v runout if you choose not to bother.

It would be a grade easier to yo-yo or lead with the gear already in place. For the on-sight E7/7c+ is fair. With pre-placed gear it probably feels more like E6/7c.

(my comments based on one ground up attempt with gear in place, having just belayed Sellers on his on-sight attempt).
stp - on 05 Jul 2017
In reply to john arran:

> But how many moves above the last piece?

As many as you want but obviously the higher you go the further you'd fall. So realistically it was usually just a trying a particularly hard move. Then you'd come down and try get past that move from the ground and continue as far as you could, hopefully the top.


> And what about sneakily backing up the last piece while you're there? Or dogging high enough you need to put something else in? It quickly becomes a minefield of nuance.

No, such practice was definitely considered cheating. If you could place gear whilst dogging then logically you could go all the way to the top of route like that, essentially working the whole thing.

ukb & bmc shark - on 05 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:

> (In fact some, notably Pat Littlejohn, even considered that unethical and did all his new routes ground up, ie. no pre-inspection.)

This may have been the case earlier in his career but I am fairly certain that he abseil inspected and cleaned new routes later on.
stp - on 05 Jul 2017
In reply to john arran:

> Another example of a well-intended but ultimately unworkable practice is that of lowering only as far as the last hands-off rest, which at one point was very common in the days of yoyoing. Makes sense when it's a big ledge you can fully recover on, but I distinctly remember working really hard to find strenuous 'rest' positions that just about didn't need hands for a few seconds, so qualified.

Indeed. I believe Ron used that rule on Zoolook when he lowered down to a no hands, head jam rest. I remember that being one of the justifications for us (the UK) adopting the simple and clear rules of redpointing.
stp - on 05 Jul 2017
In reply to Tom Briggs - Jagged Globe:

> For the on-sight E7/7c+ is fair.

Seems a strange thing to say. Surely any route is harder to onsight than to do with falls? You need more strength and stamina than the minimum required by the route. So I'd agree that you probably need to be an E7 climber to onsight the route. But that's true of any route. You need to be an E5/6 climber to onsight E4. Does that mean all E4s should be given E5/6? Generally most climbers onsight 3 to 4 french grades below their redpoint grade.

I'm pretty sure Dream Topping would be considerably harder to onsight than Strawberries - has it ever been done? Does that mean the grade should go up too?
ads.ukclimbing.com
john arran - on 05 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:

> You need to be an E5/6 climber to onsight E4.

Trad grading is usually based on onsight ascents, so to onsight an E4 you need to be ... an E4 climber!

What I presume you're getting at is that E4 climbers may typically be able to climb E5 or E6 routes after practice, but most people wouldn't say that meant they were E5/6 climbers.
webbo - on 05 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:

> But Strawberries is a trad route and as far as I'm aware there don't seem to be any established 'correct' ways of doing trad routes these days. I raised the question a while back about current ethics for trad after you fall off and got a load of different answers. This is very different to sport climbing or headpointing where the rules are clearly defined.

> Back then the ethics were clearer. Unlike today the ground up ethic was paramount, the exception being on new routes when abseil inspection was considered fair for cleaning and checking out the line - but NOT practising the moves. (In fact some, notably Pat Littlejohn, even considered that unethical and did all his new routes ground up, ie. no pre-inspection.)

> If you fell off you either lowered back down and tried again (yo-yo-ed), or hung on the rope and tried the moves above the last piece of gear before jumping off and lowering back down (dogging). A dogged ascent was obviously inferior to mere yo-yo-ing. It's worth noting that both of these styles are considerably harder than fully working a route and then redpointing/headpointing after as you are still forced to do at least some of the climbing onsight.

I think you will find Pat Littlejohn abseil inspected and preplaced pegs on routes like Darkinbad.
In reply to stp:

> Seems a strange thing to say. Surely any route is harder to onsight than to do with falls? You need more strength and stamina than the minimum required by the route. So I'd agree that you probably need to be an E7 climber to onsight the route. But that's true of any route. You need to be an E5/6 climber to onsight E4. Does that mean all E4s should be given E5/6? Generally most climbers onsight 3 to 4 french grades below their redpoint grade.

> I'm pretty sure Dream Topping would be considerably harder to onsight than Strawberries - has it ever been done? Does that mean the grade should go up too?

Trad routes should be (and are) graded for the on-sight. Sport routes for the easiest sequence once worked. I think you're confusing Strawbs with a sport route.
ukb & bmc shark - on 06 Jul 2017
In reply to Tom Briggs - Jagged Globe:
> Trad routes should be (and are) graded for the on-sight. Sport routes for the easiest sequence once worked.


Maybe it is more the case that you would like them to be. I started climbing in 1983 before sport climbing existed and even then I was told that routes are graded for the easiest sequence.


Robert Durran - on 06 Jul 2017
In reply to ukb & bmc shark:
Is it not more accurate to say that trad routes are also graded for the easiest sequence but that the grade takes into account the difficulty and effort and perhaps unlikeliness of finding that sequence on the onsight.
Post edited at 09:41
In reply to ukb & bmc shark:

> Maybe it is more the case that you would like them to be. I started climbing in 1983 before sport climbing existed and even then I was told that routes are graded for the easiest sequence.

This wasn't the case where I grew up, in the Lakes.
Will Hunt - on 06 Jul 2017
In reply to ukb & bmc shark:

That's not what I was told. On sport and bouldering then yes, but on trad the grade is supposed to be for an onsight.

I had an interesting conversation with a Lakes local recently (and it's an opinion I've heard echoed by a number of others) who is of the opinion that hard trad climbing in the Lakes has been completely killed by the crap grading and the lack of grading for an onsight. On many routes of around E4/E5 and above, to get on them without pre-inspection is to roll the dice with your life at stake. You have no idea what you might be getting into. Nobody can be bothered to headpoint them because for that amount of effort you want to walk away with an E7 or more.

"Plenty of E5s going up at the moment by people that I know aren't currently onsighting E5"
Will Hunt - on 06 Jul 2017
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

One that's always stuck out in my mind is something like Tapestry on Pillar. E4 6a, to me (and maybe I'm wrong), is going to be something where there might be a bit of a lob from the 6a bit, but you're going to be OK. Or perhaps there's only one dodgy 6a move but perhaps it's not completely committing (you can downclimb to a rest, figure it out slowly, before going for it). The crux pitch of Tapestry has got 6a moves on it and I gather the gear is a cluster of crap RPs. Sounds more like E5 6a to me. FAKE NEWS!

I know the occasional sandbag is part and parcel of British climbing tradition, but they shouldn't put people in grave danger and, in the words of one editor of numerous guidebooks, "crap grading kills whole areas".
ukb & bmc shark - on 06 Jul 2017
In reply to Tom Briggs - Jagged Globe:

> This wasn't the case where I grew up, in the Lakes.


Well that settles it. I was told in the Peak, the centre of British Climbing....

Rick Graham on 06 Jul 2017
In reply to Will Hunt:

To be fair to Lakes grading, it was Pete Botterill who first proposed E grades in the mid 70's.

As Pete lived in Carlisle at the time and was a prolific creator of modern Lakes classic routes, perhaps it is the rest of the UK that has got out of sync with grades.

The grade lists formulated then were of extremes from all over the UK and IIRC fairly consistent at the time.
Michael Gordon - on 06 Jul 2017
In reply to Will Hunt:

>
> "Plenty of E5s going up at the moment by people that I know aren't currently onsighting E5"

Not in itself a problem surely? Folk are entitled to headpoint a new line if they wish, rather than risking their life on a potentially gearless and hard (for them) onsight FA.

But yes, they need to think carefully about the onsighter and if a serious route, then if in doubt err on the side of caution. That and make clear in the description that the route was pre-practiced, which should help to warn those who aren't climbing with a grade or two in hand.
Alan Rubin - on 06 Jul 2017
In reply to Valkyrie1968:
As a Yank I realize that I'm somewhat 'at risk' by responding to the original question, but we have similar issues with certain climbs over here as well. I agree with those who say that you have go along what was 'accepted' for the era in which a climb was first done not look at that ascent in light of currently approved 'ethics'--particularly on 'cutting-edge' climbs.

If first ascents are only acknowledged in retrospect to the extent that they 'stand up' to the accepted standards of some future era, this would effectively eliminate many of climbing's most well-established landmark ascents. We'd effectively be constantly rewriting history to adapt to current attitudes, which would no longer really be history at all. By this standard should Herford be now credited with the first ascent of CB (aid used on the chockstone) or Dolphin with Kipling Groove (prior top-rope ascent)to cite just 2 of many possible examples? Both these climbs were subsequently climbed (and in the case of Kipling not that long after the FA) in what we today consider to be better style and have regularly been so climbed since, but that has not--and should not--take away the credit from those who made the actual first ascents. So Fawcett's ascent of Strawberries still should be acknowledged as the first, with the acknowledgment that it was done in yo-yo style.
Post edited at 21:00
Will Hunt - on 07 Jul 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:

I think his point was that the ascents were pre practiced, as is common for FAs, but are likely to have been given grades that don't reflect the difficulties of onsighting the route.
rocksol - on 07 Jul 2017
In reply to Valkyrie1968:
Nowadays it would be top rope practiced until it was a red point with pre placed gear. I was actually talking with Ron about this very topic today. Yo yoing was the accepted style of the day as people didn't spend days practicing. This meant that often you might set off on a first ascent of a hard route on sight. What it also meant was that even though we were less fit than today, in the 70,s and80,s more people could on site E5 and above then now!
Robert Durran - on 07 Jul 2017
In reply to Will Hunt:

> "Plenty of E5s going up at the moment by people that I know aren't currently onsighting E5"

I've always assumed, in the absence of information to the contrary, that if an E5 is not popular or an established classic then the grade should be taken with a big pinch of salt because the first ascentionist may well have used dubious tactics (or at least not have onsighted it) and/or not actually been an E5 climber and so not have been in a position to give it a reliable grade. As a friend put it: "there are E5's people do and there are E5's people don't do".

jon on 07 Jul 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

Or to put it another way, 'it's E5 for an E4 leader or E4 for an E5 leader.'
Offwidth - on 07 Jul 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:
That's probably a wise idea but I suspect there are plenty of soft newer E5s out there as well from those inexperienced about what constitutes onsighting at the grade. I'm sure editors can change most of these, for the next version of the guides. What's really depressing is that as climbers have got stronger and better technically the number of hard onsights has seriously declined (as rocksol rightly points out above). The number of marginal hard headpoints also seems down to me and more recently ground up highballing also seems to be declining. Ego will always drive efforts for getting new routes done but where are the new generation of keen trad climbers working onsight up the mid extreme grades. I talk to young climbers cruising F7s and they are wide eyed with amazement that I've onsighted some classic bold easier extremes (with hardly any margin in my technical ability). that are on their lifetime bucket list ...such low expectations and such wasted talent.
Post edited at 14:56
paul mitchell - on 07 Jul 2017
In reply to Valkyrie1968:

Many highballs that are done with mats could be done without,and have been. Some people might claim that was a better style and claim a new first ascent.

The thing about flashed ascents is that he ''improver'' knows the route is possible in a oner . Also,as technology improves, boots get stickier and gear easier to place,with more previously unusable placements becoming bomber.
Ron didn't have sticky boots.

Some people think that a solo is better than a lead.So,does the first solo of Strawberries entitle the soloist to rename?

The best way to name and claim a newie is to do a route not previously claimed in any style.

1poundSOCKS - on 07 Jul 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> What's really depressing is that as climbers have got stronger and better technically the number of hard onsights has seriously declined (as rocksol rightly points out above).

Is it really depressing though? It's great to see people achieving things, things that are important to them, but I don't see why that has to be hard trad onsights.

> I talk to young climbers cruising F7s and they are wide eyed with amazement that I've onsighted some classic bold easier extremes (with hardly any margin in my technical ability). that are on their lifetime bucket list ...such low expectations and such wasted talent.

Is it really any worse than somebody with a good head for trad, I won't mention any names , not getting themselves fitter and stronger and climbing some harder trad routes?
TobyA on 07 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:

A slightly older and slightly harder (at least going by the grades, not that I know anything about such grades!) is Requiem. I'm pretty certain Cubby yo-yoed that as well which certainly suggests that was very much the norm at the time even in quite different parts of the UK.

Has Requiem even been onsighted yet? Like Strawberries, quite a mind blowing effort for 83.
Offwidth - on 07 Jul 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

I'd say yes in answer to that first question. Trad climbing has a strong tradition in a few countries for good reasons: the application of skill in a position where great care is required, is special. I think too many able young climbers are missing out on that through false concerns about percieved risk (how many serious accidents do we see from climbing hard trad?). If they have tried it properly and its not for them that's fine by me, but many haven't and the awe they regard it from the outside is based on false premises.

As for the second question you are comparing apples and fish but yes getting fitter and stronger is normally desirable but sometimes life gets in the way. Luckily climbers can cruise along for decades enjoying the fullfilling challenges on offer in whatever their preferred game is, almost irrespective of ability....providing a welcome break from life's pressures.
1poundSOCKS - on 07 Jul 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> Luckily climbers can cruise along for decades enjoying the fullfilling challenges on offer in whatever their preferred game is, almost irrespective of ability....providing a welcome break from life's pressures.

Exactly, I totally get this. So if more choose do that, why get depressed when the number of hard trad onsights drops?
Offwidth - on 07 Jul 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:
Because many have the opprotunity to improve and are not taking this up in anything like as large numbers as they once did. Many of these seem interested in trad but are doing other things; not out of obsessive desire I some other game but seemingly because they think trad is too dangerous or too hard. That's something we can resolve with education. I'm old school in my views no-one should be forced into climbing participation but I think help should be provided (via the BMC, clubs, instructors, climbing media etc) where interest is clear.
Post edited at 18:50
John2 - on 07 Jul 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

I disagree with that. When I started climbing, everyone played a similar game - trad climbing in the UK for most of the year, with maybe a couple of weeks in the Alps or the Dolomites in the summer. These days, many of the people who would have been climbing hard trad routes thirty years ago are either exclusively sport climbers or exclusively boulderers. Or they have a massive disparity between their trad and sport grades - able to redpoint 8a but only to lead E2.
Offwidth - on 07 Jul 2017
In reply to John2:

Yes thats true as wekl but those climbers are driven by their desire in their games having tried most. My concern is the new generation of indoor climbers often seem fearful of trad.... the possible future stars are not even seriously considering the game usually based on misinformation.
Mick Ward - on 07 Jul 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

It seems to me that there's been a highly significant structural change in climbing. When I started (and perhaps for about a decade afterwards) pretty much everyone came into climbing (trad obviously) via hillwalking and scrambling. Now while hillwalking and scrambling may seem lowly pursuits, back then certainly, with no mobile phones, GPS etc, you could easily have your share of excitement. Early on, I learned to be wet, cold, tired and hungry in the hills. I also knew that if I got into trouble (and I did) there was nobody else to get me out of it.

Undoubtedly this mindset and an experience of getting out of sticky situations helped me in climbing. Back then, when pretty much every route was a death lead, you absolutely had to be steady under pressure. It was a combat mentality.

Nowadays most climbers start indoors. They get physically strong through bouldering (with mats) and leading (bolts every few feet). But when it comes to trad, the game changes.

Quite how much it changes was brought home to me last night when I accompanied someone up their first trad lead. Little of what was obvious to me was obvious to them. (Fair enough, we've all got to start somewhere.) I had to stop when I realised I was deluging them not with beta but with stuff about staying alive, stuff that's more of a 'shadow game' than say the technicalities of sorting out a belay.

I can absolutely understand why so many are fearful of trad. And I sympathise. It's a very different game indeed - maybe akin to going from martial arts to streetfighting.

Mick
keith-ratcliffe on 07 Jul 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:
On my first climb I followed a 3 pitch trad climb in the Lakes - my partner led all 3 pitches. On my second climb I led through on a four pitch climb in Wales. Trad was all we knew so I grew up with it. As I pushed my limits I discovered fear and began to realise that although I enjoyed the movement on rock I didn't enjoy being scared.
Two things that modified this was being introduced to occasional top-roping on grit and then soloing climbs at several grades below my technical limit. With the fear factor reduced I loved the athleticism of climbing. I became a solid second but a reluctant leader on harder climbs.
So many years later when I got back into climbing on walls it was that joy of movement that I loved and it took a while to warm again to leading trad climbs but this time I recognised my limits and kept within them to avoid that fear that I experienced previously. I have now settled into a good balance between challenging myself on the sharp end albeit at a different level than I lead or top-rope on the wall. I get enjoyment out of all the climbing games that I play.
deacondeacon - on 07 Jul 2017
In reply to Offwidth, Mick etc:
Out of about 10 regular climbing partners and many, many other 'one night stand' or irregular partners I honestly don't see this trend that you guys are pointing at.
Very rarely there'll be someone who only really sport climbs, but it's quite often the other way with people who much prefer Trad.
And as for massive grade discrepancies between sport and trad grades I rarely see this either. I'm not going to trawl through logbooks but here are some examples of grades my climbing partners would expect to onsight/flash on a good day:
Power-HVS/f6b
Neil, Neil, Orangepeel-E1/f6c
The Orc-E4/f7a
Me-E4/f7a
Theo-E5/f7b
Would they not be similar grade comparisons to 'the good old days'?

if you go to Stanage Popular or Birchen on a sunny Mayday bank holiday yes you'll see climbers gibbering up a VS who can climb 7b indoors but go to Chee Tor, High Tor or Stoney in the summer or any of the grit crags in winter and you'll see people climbing the harder trad routes often.

Tl;dr: people are still getting out there and climbing hard trad, even if you don't see them.
Post edited at 20:45
Offwidth - on 07 Jul 2017
In reply to deacondeacon:
Maybe our narratives distort the sample we see but I'll be amazed if I'm wrong. Many more people are climbing (mostly indoors) and Ive never seen as many strong climbers indoors as I see today. In the mountains things seem much quieter than when I started going in the early 90s. Certainly less people are on my local harder grit classics at the right time to climb them. I climb year round in the right places for the conditions and mostly away from summer honeypots. Those I do see on hard routes are much less likely to be young than they used to be.
Post edited at 21:13
Mick Ward - on 07 Jul 2017
In reply to deacondeacon:

> if you go to Stanage Popular or Birchen on a sunny Mayday bank holiday yes you'll see climbers gibbering up a VS who can climb 7b indoors but go to Chee Tor, High Tor or Stoney in the summer or any of the grit crags in winter and you'll see people climbing the harder trad routes often.

I'm glad that's the case. When I left Sheffield (2001) it was very rare indeed to see more than one party on Chee Tor, High Tor or Stoney. Often all three seemed empty.

I can remember going to Chee Tor in 1980 and counting over forty people (if I remember correctly) - although most had gone there because of a new guidebook. The Cornice would have been deserted. Conversely, back in 2001, The Cornice would have seen maybe twenty on a summer afternoon while Chee Tor was deserted (and getting sadly overgrown). If this situation has become more balanced, then great!

However if I think of a cohort group of maybe thirty to forty who have come off a local climbing wall, as far as I know, only one is a full-on trad climber (although he does sport too). There's a huge disparity. Many are leery of running it out even above bolts and some are much happier top-roping. All of which is fine as long as they're enjoying themselves and not damaging the rock. Conversely if I plucked forty climbing names at random from forty years ago, most would have climbed Extreme. And steadiness would have been an essential part of their climbing DNA.

But hey, who knows? Certainly not me!

Mick

deacondeacon - on 07 Jul 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:
Don't get me wrong, limestone trad is still out of fashion and I'd like to see it more popular (if only to clean the routes up a bit more), but the people who are climbing it tend to be climbing up to mid E's.
Perhaps I'm in a bit of a bubble as I tend to climb with people who are mainly into trad, but conversely perhaps you were back then too.
Anyway sorry for derailing the thread

Goucho on 08 Jul 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:
> It seems to me that there's been a highly significant structural change in climbing. When I started (and perhaps for about a decade afterwards) pretty much everyone came into climbing (trad obviously) via hillwalking and scrambling. Now while hillwalking and scrambling may seem lowly pursuits, back then certainly, with no mobile phones, GPS etc, you could easily have your share of excitement. Early on, I learned to be wet, cold, tired and hungry in the hills. I also knew that if I got into trouble (and I did) there was nobody else to get me out of it.

> Undoubtedly this mindset and an experience of getting out of sticky situations helped me in climbing. Back then, when pretty much every route was a death lead, you absolutely had to be steady under pressure. It was a combat mentality.

> Nowadays most climbers start indoors. They get physically strong through bouldering (with mats) and leading (bolts every few feet). But when it comes to trad, the game changes.

> Quite how much it changes was brought home to me last night when I accompanied someone up their first trad lead. Little of what was obvious to me was obvious to them. (Fair enough, we've all got to start somewhere.) I had to stop when I realised I was deluging them not with beta but with stuff about staying alive, stuff that's more of a 'shadow game' than say the technicalities of sorting out a belay.

> I can absolutely understand why so many are fearful of trad. And I sympathise. It's a very different game indeed - maybe akin to going from martial arts to streetfighting.

> Mick

I've always maintained (rightly or wrongly?) that trad is a 'head game'. And when it comes to hard trad (which I'd class as anything above E3) the 'head game' is probably the most crucial aspect.

Of course you need a certain level of technical and physical prowess, but the 'head' is where it all centres.

It's the 'head' that keeps it all together when the gear is a bit sketchy. It's the 'head' that pulls out that extra gear when you're getting pumped and anxious. It's the head that pushes the fear down in serious situations. It's the 'head' that manages the risk, and it's the 'head' that provides the confidence that you CAN get up it.

I'm sure we've all climbed with far more naturally gifted and physically stronger people, yet still been the ones on the sharp end, simply because we had better 'heads'.

Despite all the coaching books and plethora of climbing advice out there these days, I think the only way to get better and more confident on trad, is to climb as much and as wide a variety (variety being the key here) of trad as you can.

People moving across from indoor/sport to trad may have the physical prowess, but if that isn't matched by equal prowess in the 'head game', then it's probably going to be both intimidating and frustrating in equal measures.
Post edited at 08:01
stp - on 08 Jul 2017
In reply to Tom Briggs - Jagged Globe:

> Trad routes should be (and are) graded for the on-sight. Sport routes for the easiest sequence once worked.

I'm not sure there's any official policy on such things. In some unconscious, unplanned way it's likely that routes are graded in the style they're most often done. So routes that are onsighted by most people most of the time are graded for onsight. Strawberries doesn't fall into that category, it was sieged from the beginning. And if we were to grade for the onsight how do we grade routes that have never been onsighted, like Dream Topping for instance. Giving both routes the same grade when one is clearly much harder than the other seems plain wrong to me.

stp - on 08 Jul 2017
In reply to Tom Briggs - Jagged Globe:

> This wasn't the case where I grew up, in the Lakes.

Maybe there's some confusion linked to change of meaning of 'onsight'. Before the influence of continental redpoint ethics onsight in this country was basically synonymous with 'ground up'. It meant without pre-inspection on abseil or having top roped or seconded the route previously. Doing the route first try, a flash, wasn't part of it.

I think serious headpoint routes are (or perhaps were) graded for ground up ascents (old meaning of onsight) to keep them consistent with the rest of the grading scale. I think that idea has obvious problems and some have suggested using a different grading scale for headpoint routes, the H scale.
stp - on 08 Jul 2017
In reply to Alan Rubin:
> So Fawcett's ascent of Strawberries still should be acknowledged as the first, with the acknowledgment that it was done in yo-yo style.

Yo-yo style (with or without dogging) was the standard style for doing 'hard' routes back then. By 'hard' I simply routes that take more than one go.

But your comment raises the question as to what style routes today are done in. If someone puts up a new trad route and doesn't flash it does that really mean they can't claim the first ascent? I don't think so. Many first ascents of trad routes here are done headpoint style, which is a considerably easier way of climbing a route than simply yo-yoing it (which is the main reason people climb that way). There's absolutely no reason to think that such is a superior or better ascent.
Post edited at 09:00
john arran - on 08 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:

There's a widespread consensus that what is being graded by the E grade is the overall difficulty of an onsight ascent. I don't think that is much in doubt. However, there are plenty of occasions where human psychology gets in the way, leading to grading that no longer conforms to that model. One is well-protected, bouldery cruxes. There are plenty of examples of grades such as E3 6c, when it is clear that a leader only just onsighting most E3s would have little or no chance of onsighting 6c moves. The abuse of the grading system works simply because people quickly learn that such grades can't mean what they purport to mean, with the advantage that people don't flatter themselves with high E grades simply for dogging hard moves out on a rope. The other obvious example is historical precedent, and Strawberries is a very good example. Ron suggested E5, it was E6 for many years, yet during this time hundreds of E6 climbers must have tried it and not succeeded in onsighting it. By rights it should get E7 or maybe even E8. Effectively it was climbed in a style comparable to today's headpointing - i.e. with as many goes and as many falls as required for eventual success - but was graded similarly to other routes of the age (e.g. Lord) which were climbed first go. We've since sorted out quite a few of these grading anomalies but there's still an understandable reluctance to change the original grades too much.
Offwidth - on 08 Jul 2017
In reply to john arran:
E3 6c is usually for ground up, not a flash onsight and being bouldery will often be graded for good conditions. Obsessions with flash onsights and trying things in bad conditions distorts trad grading.

I think from the 80s we had a lot of hard climbers about capable of pushing close to their technical limits onsight on boldish routes (as per Gouchos description). You could argue that was unusual in climbing history and a bit of a distortion: having a few bouldering grades in hand on a boldish crux maybe should be more typical.
Post edited at 10:03
stp - on 08 Jul 2017
In reply to TobyA:

> A slightly older and slightly harder (at least going by the grades, not that I know anything about such grades!) is Requiem.

Definitely harder, by quite a bit from what I've heard, but Strawberries was done in 1980 so not older.

I'm not sure what style Requiem was done in. In the public logbooks someone reports doing what they think is the first ground up ascent in 2011 which is surprising.

But in general terms you are right. Yo-yoing was the norm for all routes not flashed at that time. Before redpointing came in for sport routes in the mid eighties pulling the ropes for each try would have seemed a completely pointless thing to do. After all, all the moves are climbed together, completely free and all the gear is placed or clipped by free climbing from the ground (or last hands off rest) so what would the point of pulling the ropes down achieve?

In a recent video Jerry Moffatt also talks about using this style for his route, The Face in Germany (world's first 8a+?), and specifically notes how much harder it was compared to modern redpoint style.

john arran - on 08 Jul 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> E3 6c is usually for ground up, not a flash onsight

Exactly. It works, sort of, because people see it's a silly grade for onsight. But it does bring with it a lot of grey areas, like E4 6b, where it's left to the climber to work out what style the grade reflects - if any!
TobyA on 08 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:

Sorry - got my dates mixed up on which route came first. I'm pretty certain I read in guidebook or a magazine article about Cubby doing it yo-yo style back when I lived in Glasgow and used to go to Dumby reasonably often. I think I remember hear that Requiem was not only the UK's first route of 8a, but actually it's 8a+ so it was Britain's first one of them too!
baron - on 08 Jul 2017
In reply to Valkyrie1968:
Extract from 1983 Tremadog guide -

'A certain amount of debate has gone on as to who should be credited with the first ascent of this route and at one stage it was even proposed that it should be left out of the guide.Time will tell.'

Or maybe it won't.
stp - on 08 Jul 2017
In reply to john arran:

> There's a widespread consensus that what is being graded by the E grade is the overall difficulty of an onsight ascent

I don't agree with that and nor do several other people on here so definitely no consensus.

I agree with Offwidth that the grade is for a ground up ascent.


> Ron suggested E5, it was E6 for many years, yet during this time hundreds of E6 climbers must have tried it and not succeeded in onsighting it. By rights it should get E7 or maybe even E8.

What counts as an 'E6 climber'? Someone who has onsighted an E6 or two? Some E6s you can't really fall off anyway, like Midsummer Night's Dream, so you have to onsight them. Others represent the bottom end of a very wide grade. Onsighting Cave Route RH or Indecent Exposure for instance, is a world away from onsighting harder E6s like Cave Route LH or The Prow. In climbing terms E6 can encompass anything from 7a+ to 7c+ and the climber that can regularly onsight 7c+ is in a totally different league from someone who only onsights pumpy 7a+ or 7b. I think as an onsight Strawberries would not be out of place with some of the harder E6s.

How do we grade routes that have never been onsighted? What grade should Requiem be? E9, E10 or even E11? How can we possibly tell until someone onsights it? All of the current hardest routes have never been onsighted which implies we cannot give them an accurate onsight grade.


john arran - on 08 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:

> I don't agree with that and nor do several other people on here so definitely no consensus.

> I agree with Offwidth that the grade is for a ground up ascent.

In practice, as I explained earlier, that's often the way it ends up, with exceptions to the onsight norm most commonly being for particularly well-protected, or at least very safe, routes. But I'm not aware of anyone who's ever thought it was ever intended to be that way.

Jack Geldard and others discuss this in an article here: https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=1191

> What counts as an 'E6 climber'? Someone who has onsighted an E6 or two? Some E6s you can't really fall off anyway, like Midsummer Night's Dream, so you have to onsight them. Others represent the bottom end of a very wide grade. Onsighting Cave Route RH or Indecent Exposure for instance, is a world away from onsighting harder E6s like Cave Route LH or The Prow. In climbing terms E6 can encompass anything from 7a+ to 7c+ and the climber that can regularly onsight 7c+ is in a totally different league from someone who only onsights pumpy 7a+ or 7b. I think as an onsight Strawberries would not be out of place with some of the harder E6s.

I agree in general with that, except to point out that many of the "harder E6s", if the onsight priciple was applied more consistently, wouldn't be E6 at all! So what we're really talking about is that an E6 climber is someone who ought to have a pretty good chance of onsighting routes that have been given E6 based on an onsight ascent. That pretty much excludes everything with 7c+ or 7B climbing, as well as plenty more besides. That means not just the off one or two but approaching a majority of routes attempted (possibly also including those coveted but not attempted due to fear!) In short, given a random E6 that has been graded with onsight ascents in mind, if you would expect to have a fair to good chance of getting up it, you're an E6 climber. It isn't an exact science, admittedly. Far from it.

> How do we grade routes that have never been onsighted? What grade should Requiem be? E9, E10 or even E11? How can we possibly tell until someone onsights it? All of the current hardest routes have never been onsighted which implies we cannot give them an accurate onsight grade.

That point was explored in detail during the H-grade debates a few years ago. It's a thorny problem that doesn't have a simple solution. What we have now is a kind of fudge that works fine for many/most routes but definitely has issues around the fuzzy edges!
rocksol - on 08 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:

Perfect example of head over neck is the legendary combo of Pete Livesey and John Sheard. John was still flashing Kaly 7b right into his 70,s but in all the years I've known and climbed with him I've never seen him lead above E3 even though technically he was better than both Pete and myself
Offwidth - on 09 Jul 2017
In reply to john arran:
"But it does bring with it a lot of grey areas, like E4 6b, where it's left to the climber to work out what style the grade reflects - if any!
Like"

Maybe thats a 'first world problem' that good climbers need to deal with. Having climbed the vast majority of lower grade climbs on Peak grit (most of those remaining on my ticklist hardly get any traffic), I've outed countless sandbags (probably a quarter of no star routes); grades that are climbed by the inexperienced who might easily get hurt by such bad grading. My time and ability limit extending my actions into all the grit low extremes but really badly graded obscurities exist (as an editor I've upgraded HVS 5b climbs to E2 5b) and from the small proportion I have checked they seem to vastly outnumber the problem of assessing boulder problem start routes. As far as I'm concerned all UK grades are ground up, what's more important than worrying about bouldery starts is to consistently grade for the risk of hitting the ground from higher up (and the quality of that landing). Your E4 6b is wrongly graded if its really E5 5c near the top (something a technically skilled headpointing FA might miss).

As for H grades on hard risky lines with fiddly or blind pro or hard to spot sequencies ... great as far as I'm concerned (DD epitomises this). However the real problem with the top end of the E grades is we need to dump UK tech grades and replace them with bouldering grades as currently the E bit works but the tech grades are so wide they add nothing useful.
Post edited at 09:32
Michael Gordon - on 09 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:

>
> I'm not sure what style Requiem was done in. In the public logbooks someone reports doing what they think is the first ground up ascent in 2011 which is surprising.
>

Toby is correct that the FA was in yo-yo style. Pretty sure the first clean headpoint ascent (in modern terms) was around 2000, with all previous ascents being yo-yos or utilising pre-placed gear. So in those terms the first ground-up being 2011 is not that surprising, particularly considering the route is nowadays considered E8. Think that must mean the onsight prize still awaits?
redjerry - on 11 Jul 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:

I'm pretty sure Cubby briefly practiced the last move or two on an ab rope.
Nevertheless, it was an amazing achievement. I think modern climbers generally don't appreciate how much easier dogging & subsequent headpointing is compared with yo-yoing.
I know I went from mid-12's to mid 13's when I started head/redpointing.

Also, if you don't call Fawcetts ascent of Strawberries the fa, then you're going to have to rewrite the history of just about every hard route done between the early 70's and the late 80's. No point really, as already mentioned yo-yoing was the accepted practice of the time.
Michael Gordon - on 11 Jul 2017
In reply to redjerry:

I think a main advantage nowadays in climbing style is clarity in ascents, with onsight and headpoint both being pretty cut and dried (yes, there can be grey areas re onsight in terms of amount of chalked up holds etc). That and the final ascent being at least pure in terms of no rope from above and placing gear on lead.

Michael Gordon - on 11 Jul 2017
In reply to redjerry:

Also, I do wonder if headpointing could occasionally be more difficult than yo-yoing? For example, a well protected crack-line of basic but monstrously strenuous moves. A yo-yo over several days leaving the rope in place could be less physially draining than having to lead and place gear in a one-er, even with pre-practice.
In reply to stp:

> I'm not sure there's any official policy on such things. In some unconscious, unplanned way it's likely that routes are graded in the style they're most often done. So routes that are onsighted by most people most of the time are graded for onsight. Strawberries doesn't fall into that category, it was sieged from the beginning. And if we were to grade for the onsight how do we grade routes that have never been onsighted, like Dream Topping for instance. Giving both routes the same grade when one is clearly much harder than the other seems plain wrong to me.

Fair comment wrt Strawbs being sieged from the beginning. But over time grades settle down and ironically, Strawberries was being 'saved' for the on-sight by a lot of the best trad on-sighters i.e. it was/is an E7 that people aspire to on-sight nowadays.

Wrt to Dream Topping if it's F8a climbing then it's probably E8. It would be E8 in Pembroke that's for sure!
ads.ukclimbing.com

Please Register as a New User in order to reply to this topic.