WARNING : Don’t read this if you are not a nerdy climber!
|Mine is bigger than yours!|
I had a couple of Emails late last from America concerning the ethics of Trad-climbing and crack climbing, mainly from older climbers or people with a strong foundation in climbing on gear. Climbing on gear is very special in that it allows you to protect your route without anything being in place and thus ‘clean’, it is in fact termed clean climbing sometimes, and it also allows you at its best to do new routes anywhere in the world with some gear facility. That’s up to a point! And the point of course varies, from climber to climber and climb to climb, or area to area. In the late 1970s the Verdon Gorge was being developed in southern France and some routes where protected by long bolt ladders. In the Dolomites in Italy some routes where long lines of metal pitons and eventually these so-called permanently protected type of routes became more of the norm and a new ethic of climbing was born where you good basically mess around to your hearts content, pulling on gear, practising, as long as in the end you did a free ascent without falls or aid. Anyway this type of climbing in my early years was anathema to most of my friends and the worldwide elite, it was denigrated and termed cheating. Roll on a few years and most of the world doesn’t understand Trad-climbing and its intricacies, some people would say it has limitations. Some of the limitations are its strictness, the on-sight, is king in this game, and indeed when you fail you have the problem of protection left in place, which then precludes a strict clean ascent. Another limitation is the amount of protection you carry, it can be big! Big racks of expensive gear are maybe what the gear junkie wants and craves, but the free climber detests such constraints against his capacities. Another disadvantage is that gear is fiddly to put in, takes time and experience to use properly, so some routes become an exercise and a nightmare of gear placement and management. For this reason most people take the more amenable road of bolt protected climbing, I say amenable but should use another word, even simpler which is a good word might be misconstrued. I often think to myself that bolt climbing allows me more freedom of movement, and I can come much closer to fearless and less encumbered enjoyment. I hope you understand all of this, because most people don’t, and there is no best way, they are just different. Now there arises around the world problems of local ethics or even personal between different climbers. The polemic about Century Crack is interesting on a number of counts, primarily on whether you try to do it by Local (stringent) ethics, or a more modern and quicker way. In conversations I had with Americans over the years about Century Crack it was always very clear what they thought was correct. I have noticed over the years what you think of as correct is a best case scenario or what you would aspire to. I myself have taken great liberties with ethics, morals, and laws, bending, breaking, and simply not noticing over the years. Some of my climbs have been done in impeccable style while others have been a bit sloppy, some times I have been greedy while other times noble. Century crack posed many problems for me over the years, the main problem was ethics with gear. The climb for me, cracks (being very morpho) is hardest where your equipment burden is greatest, and thus it is here I wanted (but never did) bend the rules. Century Crack may well be flashed one day which would be the only real traditional correct way, but until then there will be easier options available to its suitors. I hope this helps people understand a bit more. A good long article explaining the ins and outs of various ethical stands on climbing is long overdue in the mags, from bouldering to the Himalayas, but of course magazine people take the easy way out.