US Bolt Chopper Banned By Judge From Chopping Bolts

“Once I chop a route, it will remain chopped, no matter how many times I have to return to keep it that way. Until the bolting stops, apparently the cliffs will have to be destroyed to save them”

Ken Nichols, Climbing Magazine June/July 1991

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    30 Jul, 2007
    If they hung one or two speeders from lamp posts I think the message would get through
    30 Jul, 2007
    Was he chopping bolts from routes that had previously been climbed without or routes that were first climbed with bolts for pro? If it's the former then it is the bolters who should have been up in court. I remember the name from twenty years ago, but then it was about his unusual protection methods - skyhooks tied down by jumars on ropes fixed between the hook and tree roots; sarcastic notes blutacced to the rock - "pumpy isn't it?" and so on. boB
    30 Jul, 2007
    Poor guy.
    30 Jul, 2007
    I'm kinda wondering why THIS news would concern us Mick?? SLOW news day? P
    30 Jul, 2007
    That's the chap hooks tied down with ropes on routes at Ragged Mountain in Connecticut. He wroote the guidebook to that cliff as well. I think Chris Plant might have belayed him on one occaision. I think most were originally climbed with bolts: Rumney routes certainly were...and the rest, Mormon Hollow etc I remember one Christmas, '94 I think. I climbed at Rose Ledge in Western Mass with Roger ?, Jerry Peel, Mark Radtke and Micky J. Sport routes...and a spot of bouldering. We went back a coupla days later and the routes had all been chopped. Mad as a hatter Ken Nichols. Mick
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